Superficial relationships are all about looking good on the surface. But if we only look at the surface, we will miss out on some valuable relationship information. It is easy to look good on the surface, but it is important to know what character issues might be present below the surface.
In early October, residents and visitors in Minnesota were able to get a rare look at the bottom of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers drew down the water temporarily between the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and the Lower St. Anthony Falls Lock as part of a routine inspection. The locks are typically inspected every 5-10 years but as of 2020, the water levels had not been lowered since 2008. It is important for the City of Minneapolis’ water supply and also for Xcel Energy’s hydropower operations for the locks to be in good repair and properly maintained. Without lowering the water level, it is not possible to assess what repairs might be needed and be able to perform the needed repairs.
Besides the trash items found, including a bicycle, interesting things from the past were also found when water levels were drawn down. Footings from the 10th Avenue Wagon Bridge and portions of the 1879 dam foundation could be seen. The famous Stone Arch Bridge was revealed as much taller than can now be seen due to the higher water level.
When we are able to get past the surface in relationships, we often encounter hidden issues and problems that need to be addressed. We also have the opportunity to see people in the context of their history. We all have a history, so it is necessary to listen and care about each other’s personal story. Our ability to share information about ourselves depends upon how comfortable and confident we feel with the other person. When we care about others, they will sense our compassion and empathy.
The process begins when we meet someone for the first time. A warm hello, friendly smile, and caring approach will go a long way. But is it best to be cautious at first. Be alert to those who over talk and share too much too soon and also to those who only want to listen without talking or sharing much about themselves. We need to be cautious and self protective in relationships when we are in the early stages of getting to know someone. The “love at first sight” notion rarely happens in real life and is often used by predators and con artists. There might be a flickering feeling at first, but we must engage our head and put our heart on hold for awhile.
In his book, How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk, Dr. John Van Epp recommends his Relationship Attachment Model (RAM) for getting to know someone. The five stages of RAM are: knowledge, trust, rely, commit, and touch. These five areas need to progress slowly together and in balance with each other. In other words, don’t trust someone too soon. Don’t trust and commit to someone before you know a lot about them. Remember, you need to see what is below their surface. Proceed with caution!
Be aware of those who either don’t care about your history or want to erase it and remake you into something else. Their goal is to manipulate and control you. We must know our own identity – e.g. who we are, what we believe, and what we stand for. We need to remember who we are and Whose we are.
Some relationships will grow closer as we discover more about each other. It is important to be a good listener and ask caring and thoughtful questions. In healthy relationships, deeper issues, the things below the surface, are revealed as people feel safe and comfortable with each other.
As it is important for our guarded relationships to not be intimate, it is equally important for our intimate relationships to be open. Healthy intimate relationships need to be mutual and honestly transparent. We need to know what history and “baggage” are below the surface, and we need to be able to talk about it.