One Sided Relationships

January 27, 2016

I think quite a few of life’s problems are the result of one sided relationships.  As we travel the country working with people and horses, the one sided relationship seems all too prevalent.  We see people who do everything they can to meet the needs of their horse but never ask the horse to meet any of their needs.  I guess the people are getting some need met at some level but the horse is not having to do anything except be present.  They feed it, they groom it, and they worm it, provide it with fresh water, and trim its feet all the while asking it to contribute very little to the relationship.  When they do actually ask the horse to do something they are met with resistance or the request is ignored.  They then seem disappointed that their loving horse is treating them so rudely.  They shouldn’t be surprised because that is the way they set up the relationship to begin with. They are often afraid to ask anything of the horse because they are afraid the horse might blow up.  So they go about their relationship not asking for anything that might cause a blow up.  They somehow justify it by saying things like “It is my responsibility to provide for this horse’s needs because it can’t do these things for itself.”  That may be true but it is capable of meeting some of the humans needs also.  We believe that a relationship that is not good for one is eventually not good for either.  Any time a relationship is one sided it is eventually going to cause some problems.

As we work with kids and parents we see a lot of these same problems.   Having worked in residential settings with kids for over 20 years I got to see some major shifts in philosophies.  When I first started working with kids it seemed that the relationships were built to be mostly for the ease of the “parents”.  The kids were expected to be obedient and any method used to gain that obedience was deemed appropriate as long as it wasn’t “abusive”.  Over the years “abusive” changed quite a bit but things were set up to get the “parents” need for obedience met without a lot of concern for the needs of the kids.  I think the theory behind that was the kids, by learning obedience, would learn to do the right things.  When we started to figure out that the kids had needs that weren’t being met we did a complete shift to trying to meet the needs of the kids without a lot of concern for the needs of the “parents”.  We are now dealing with the problems of that too far shift.  We work with a lot of parents who are trying their best to meet the needs of their kids while ignoring their needs in that relationship.  Many of them are adoptive parents who have been through several programs designed to teach them how to meet the needs of their adopted kids.  They are basically teaching their kids how to build one sided relationships where the kid gets their needs met but does nothing to meet the needs of their parents.  As the kids get older this really starts to cause the parents a lot of problems. The kids learn that the relationship exists solely for their benefit and they have to contribute little or nothing. They begin to demand that not only their needs are met but also that their wants are met.  Anyone asking them for what they need from the relationship is met with resistance or ignoring.  If they are asked to contribute anything to the relationship they blow up just like the horse.  Sometimes the parents avoid asking to have any of their needs met in fear of a blow up.  The kids learn to blow up to keep expectations away.  This eventually starts to cause the kids lots of problems.  Relationships they build are short lived and contentious.  This also sets in motion a pattern of building relationships that meet their needs without concern for meeting the needs of others.  If this pattern is not interrupted they spend their lifetime in short time relationships that usually end badly.

This applies to lots of other relationships as well.  A one sided relationship will cause problems where ever it exists.  If we do not try to meet the needs of our earth as well as our own, our relationship with the earth will suffer.  In a work relationship, if either the employer or the employee is not getting their needs appropriately met, the relationship will not last and will be very unpleasant until it ends.   In my spirituality, God and I try to meet each other’s needs.  That is the only way we can have a truly intimate relationship.  The same is true in my relationship with my wife, Bettina.  In our Natural Lifemanship Model of therapy we believe it is very important to teach relationships that are good for both.  If it is not good for both it isn’t really good for either.

Tim Jobe