When it comes to relationships, we like to know where we are now and where we are going. Ambiguity can drive us crazy, so we ask questions such as, “Are we just friends?” “Is this a date?” “Where is this heading?”
Sometimes we keep the questions to ourselves. Other times, we take a risk and ask the other participant in the relationship. Regardless, it seems we are always analyzing our current position as well as our relational trajectory.
When a relationship begins, the trajectory has typically not yet been determined. As time goes by, we become increasingly interested in identifying it. Once it has been mutually identified and discussed, we continue to monitor the path we are on, and we continue to monitor the other person.
At this point, it isn’t ambiguity that concerns us, but suitability. We wonder things like, “Is this truly going to work out in the long run?” “Is this partnership giving me wings or clipping them?” “Am I seeing a pattern of behavior that is a concern?”
Trajectories are not set in stone. They can be altered or cancelled for a variety of reasons. A relational trajectory can change from friendship to romance, from being casual to being exclusive, or from dating to considering a future together as lifelong marriage partners.
Trajectories can also move in the other direction. They can change from marriage to divorce, from being engaged to breaking it off, or from romantic involvement to being friends who continue to love and support each other.
Even relationships with stable trajectories are not exactly static. Change is always happening inside of us and inside the other person, and these changes affect the relationship as well. When I think about the numerous factors that affect relational trajectories, I wonder how it is we manage to experience connection with anyone at all amidst all these metaphorical rockets flying around out there. And yet, somehow . . . we do. This, to me, is a picture of grace.