Relationships are like an Onion.
By Lorelei Hoyt
Onions have lots of layers, both tough and tender, they are full of flavour, and sometimes makes you cry. Relationships are much the same. In the last decade, growing access to virtual connection on social media has blurred the lines of how we define relationships. People have hundreds of “friends” on their social media pages. But are these really friends? Or are they something else entirely.
The Oxford dictionary defines a friend as a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.
So how can you know and have a bond of mutual affection with hundreds of individuals? The effort and time required to maintain that many close affectionate relationships would be all consuming. So if these long lists of people are not ‘friends’ by that definition what are they? Might these people actually be what we used to refer to as acquaintances?
An acquaintance is a person one knows slightly, but who is not a close friend. This seems to fit the definition of those long lists of people on social media, with only a small handful of them being close enough to fall into the category of true ‘friends’. Some of these individuals we may barely know. Perhaps we sat in a class with them long ago. Maybe we ran a marathon with them once upon a time. Or maybe they are just a friend of a friend that we met at an event. These are acquaintances.
Friends are the people with whom we share closer, more intimate relationships. We care about them and their lives. Similarly, they feel the same about our lives and feelings. This mutual affection entails a closer more intimate level of relationship and has a greater impact on us when we interact.
Finally, there is family. These are our closest relationships. We not only reciprocally care about these individuals happiness, success, and overall well-being we actively contribute to it in many ways. These relationships may be genetically linked like our family of origin, non-genetically related chosen family, intimate partner relationships, relationships with children and other relatives, and very close friendships. These interactions impact us the most deeply both positively and negatively. They can add richness and depth to our lives when they entail positive interactions and they can make us cry when they go poorly.
Now back to that onion.
The outer dry, darker layers of the onion that you peel away and discard in the compost are like our acquaintances. Every onion has them just like every life is full of acquaintances. However, we don’t really spend much time or effort on those layers of the onion as they aren’t particularly useful to us.
Then there are the next thick white, and colorful, layers of the onion that we add to our
cooking for flavour. Treated appropriately they can be delicious additions in so many ways; caramelized, grated, stewed, or diced they add depth to our meals. These are like friends. They add depth and flavour to our lives.
Finally, there are the layers that form the little nugget at the center of our onion. These are tender, almost transparent, delicate, and delicious. These are like family. They are at the center or heart or our emotional world and there is a limited amount. We value these the highest of all the layers of relationship, and much like the onion they are the most flavourful can also bring us to tears. This is also where, like the onion, we develop new growth.
So why is this important?
Because like the onion we must remember to spend our time and attention appropriately based on which layer of our relationship onion the person we are dealing with belongs to.
Make sure you are giving the best of your time and energy to the most precious inner layers of your relationship onion.
Don’t spend your finite emotional resources on the dry flaky outer layers of acquaintances that you would normally discard in the end.
And never ignore the little nugget of rare, innermost layers, that hold the most precious, and enriching people in your world from which you grow.