We’ve been taught and brought up in a society that chants the mantra of conditions and transactions. But not everything in life needs to look like that. Vanessa discovers how our partnerships with the people closest to us can be relational, instead of transactional.
The word “partnership” is always associated with business. Just imagine: two companies establishing a connection, negotiating, making a deal, ending off with a handshake (and of course, ideally, profits). And that was that.
Having studied abroad for a couple of months, the word “partnership” and has since expanded. I’ve come to realise that more than the profits of a partnership and what each party gets out of it in the end, it is the journey that matters. Partnership is not merely transactional. It is relational.
“Partnership is not merely transactional. It is relational.”
I’d say that I was a rather independent person growing up. And so, sharing my burdens or struggles with others was not something that came naturally to me most of the time. Instead, I would only share things after they were resolved. It wasn’t that my family and friends didn’t make time for me; I just didn’t approach them. When I first flew over to Scotland for my studies at the beginning of this year, I struggled with loneliness. I felt like a Singaporean alien who’d invaded the UK – I didn’t know anyone other than two of my seniors whom I wasn’t close to in the beginning. I felt lonely and isolated. Yet, for a good two weeks, I could not bring myself to share my feelings with my family and friends back home.
I’d kept this to myself because:
I feared to bother others. I didn’t want to trouble anyone with my worries. I didn’t want anyone back home to worry. Everyone has their own issues to deal with anyway, right?
I feared judgement. If I were to share this with them, will they then think that I am attention-seeking or clingy? At this age, surely there are other bigger things to worry about. It seems lame to be struggling with loneliness of any sort at this point of my life.
I feared being forsaken. I didn’t want people to leave me. After seeing the “ugly sides” of me, would anyone still want to associate themselves with me? Would they still want to be my friend? It didn’t help that the time difference made communication a lot harder. Will anyone still continue to put in the effort to catch up with me if they’d found out how clingy or emotional I was?
While some of these reasons might seem extreme, they were real questions I grappled with a lot during that time. I thought a lot about the different connections I had back in Singapore, and the new connections I was making with people in Scotland. And strangely, the word ‘partnership’ kept coming to mind.
“… they were real questions I grappled with a lot during that time.”
It was only then that I realised that these three fears I was battling with had actually stemmed out from my past experiences. I’ve had negative experiences with my friends and community in the past that I’d not come to terms with. And these feelings have inevitably come back.
These fears from the past had made me afraid of investing emotionally into my friendships up till now. I am unable to open up to others as I’m afraid of letting them into the vulnerable bits of me. I denied myself and the people around me the chance to journey together through life. I know how it feels to be bothered by someone or to judge someone else, and I did not want others to do that to me. I did not want to be on the receiving end. The accumulation of these thoughts led me to see my relationships with the people around me as transactional – only opening some parts of me, but hiding the others away. I am happy to spend time with people and do activities with them, but once it came to an emotional investment, I’d think twice.
But, of course, I know that humans are not designed this way. We are designed to be relational beings. We are made to connect with others heart to heart, and hand to hand. As business-y as I thought the word “partnership” was, it also captures how we do relationships too. We need to walk alongside together, we need to be driven by the same end goal. We need to journey together through the highs and the lows, however difficult or uncomfortable that may be.
Partnerships require not only the hard work, but also heart work. And, if anything, the latter is more needed and more important than the former.
“Partnerships require not only the hard work, but also heart work.”
I have to dare to be authentic. To be real enough to speak about the struggles I go through.
I have to dare to be humble. To be willing to receive correction and rebuke from wise counsel around me, especially if these struggles I go through are due to my own faults and mistakes.
I have to dare to be loved. To trust that despite it all, the people I hold close to my heart will be with me till the very end.
My prayer is that in the partnerships that I have with the people I meet, we will be able to walk alongside each other through both the highs and the lows. No human can love perfectly, and there will be times when I may get hurt, or hurt another. Yet, I choose to trust God with these partnerships because it is He who had placed them in my way ever so graciously and divinely. It’s with His faithfulness and grace through the seasons that I can emotionally invest myself in my relationships again.