Sex and Intimacy and Hierarchy in Relationships

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Photo by Min An on

A boring introduction…(feel free to skip to the end of the intro)

I’ve been learning in my business course about Chambers of Commerce; how to organize, start and run one.

I learned about the importance of respect – not love. The author I am reading said that you should aim – as a chamber – to do your best to serve the people in the organization – to earn their respect; love should be a bonus.

(Interesting part begins…)

I thought, “Does it apply to relationships outside of business?”

And the answer I came to was: Yes.

I assembled a system of categories with which to describe the depth of a relationship:

Step #1. Agape love

This has to do with love for mankind; the sort of love that makes you hold the door open for the person coming in behind you or help the old lady with her groceries – even though you don’t know them.

Step #2. Acquaintanceship

To be honest, a larger percentage of your and my relationships are acquaintanceships. I would consider an acquaintanceship to be born when a person introduces their name to you – when they share their identity with you. It’s a very superfluous relationship, where you still may not know much about them, but you know – generally speaking – who they are.

Of course, there are varying degrees of depth in an acquaintanceship. A store clerk may be a good example of a superfluous acquaintanceship; you recognize them from your repeated calls on that store and only know them for business purposes. In contrast, the person you see occasionally at parties or the little-town store owner with whom you occasionally chat may be good examples of deeper acquaintanceships.

Step 2 ½. Respect

Here’s where a relationship starts to deepen: when you begin to develop a level of respect for the other person.

I categorize this as half-a-step, because it’s not really a step in all relationships. You may never have respect for a certain person, or you may completely subconsciously develop respect for another person. But it is a fundamental step in the hierarchy of relationships.

Step 3. Friendship

A friendship begins when the parties in an acquaintanceship begin to develop respect for each other. Like in all of the relationships I mention today, there are varying degrees of depth. Most people distinguish between friendship relationships by saying that a person is their “friend,” “best friend,” or “BFF;” this is especially true if said people are young.

The boundaries in this type of relationship can be hard to determine, as one person’s “best friend” could hypothetically be the equivalent of another’s worst friend; however, regardless of the depth or “friendliness” of a friend, to be able to qualify as a friendship, there needs to be a level of respect.

Step 4. “True” Love

Most of us know what this is; after all, we’ve been reading/watching/talking about “love” since the age of 5! In simple terms, I’d say that “love” is a cognitive chemical reaction that takes place in the brain of a person in such a manner that makes him/her perceive a binding effect to another party. Love between a mother and a child does fall into this category, as does love between two parties in a romantic sense.

Like friendship, the boundaries of this type of relationship can be difficult to determine, but basic to a ‘True’ Love” relationship is the chemical bond.

Step 5. Active Relationship

This has to do with the action that a person takes to demonstrate their love for the other party (proof of emotion).

It shows the truth or validity of a person’s words. For example, if a person were to say, “I believe it’s going to be sunny and warm today,” and then turned around and walked out bundled up like an Eskimo, you would question the truth of that person’s declaration of belief. Likewise, if a person says, “I love you” but their actions demonstrate otherwise, we should also question the validity of such a person’s words.

In a romantic relationship, this may manifest as the fullest physically involved that a man and a woman can be; that is, sex.

Something to think about with this system of categorizing relationships is the level of involvement (particularly mutual involvement) required for each relationship to reach its maximal potential.

For instance, with the Agape Love step requires no return in order for one party to function in that role. An acquaintanceship requires very little mutual involvement, only the other person to tell you their name. A friendship has much more mutual involvement because it involves mutual respect. And so on you can go through the steps until you reach the last step and climax: Action. I like to use sex as an example because in that action two beings literally become united into one form, and that is the most mutually involved two bodies can become.

Interestingly, it has become increasingly predominant in our modern cultures around the world to put the cart before the horse with respect to relationships and sex. Many people today – only acquaintances – have sex and then try to become friends and the relationship just doesn’t work. The relationship fails because it wasn’t founded on respect.

Dr. Ray E. Short, a professor of sociology, has found that – statistically speaking, premarital sex tends to break apart marriages, and those short marriages claim to be less happy than marriages that abstain from premarital sex.

Just like we don’t build a house and then lay a foundation, we shouldn’t try to jump to the final step of a relationship without laying the foundation of that relationship.

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