The Purpose of Relationships

By Bill Cottringer

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.” ~Henry David Thoreau.

Lately, I seem to be more successful at accomplishing what I am trying to do when I remain mindful of my primary purpose in what I am engaged in doing. You have probably seen the beautiful Internet piece that comes around on Friends Day—about the three different kinds of people who come into your life. One person comes for a short period to exchange important clues with you to help both of you in your journeys. Another type of relationship is for a longer time—to teach you an important lesson that can change your life for the better. And the third type relationship involves your forever soul mate or true love to enjoy the rest of your life with.

Of course we all search for this last type of relationship that is always more satisfying and successful. But I have learned the hard way that you can’t get there without learning some lessons via a few bumps and bruises side stepping the minefields of the first two types of relationships. Maybe that is just so you recognize where you are when you finally do get there. After all most great successes usually require you to weather a series of unpleasant failures.

During this relationship journey of my own, I wish I had known the importance of focusing on the purpose of relationships in general. Here are four purposes I have discovered that, when kept in focus, seem to lead to better quality relationships of the third kind.


Relationships that start out with fear and worry that one or both people will have to give up too much to be happy in the relationship are doomed from the beginning. You can in fact have your cake and eat it too by keeping this purpose in mind—to get more together than each of you can get alone. All you have to do is be honest, clear and realistic about what you expect the relationship will give you both and then make honest choices as to who’s needs come first in any doubtful close call—you, your partner or the relationship. Sometimes it is 0-100, sometimes 50-50, or sometimes 100-0, which turns out giving you more together than each can get alone. This flexibility is probably the only way to get the right outcome—having a high quality loving relationship.


In relationships where both people see similar purposes and benefits such as above, trust is easy to build; and this trust leads to the security of acceptance, which in turn encourages willful growth and improvement. Then there is no need to resort to nagging, complaining or futile controlling or dishonest manipulation strategies to impose desired change, which never seem to result in quality relationships. You just trust, grow and improve naturally without the pressure of having to, by not forgetting this benefit of this purpose to the relationship. And you just have to nurture this proper sequence of events—accepting first and then encouraging each other to become your best—by good communication and frequent appreciation. Such relationships help us do the most important thing to grow forward in our individual journeys—to give up the soft safety space in between our thinking and actually living life firsthand.


Life is a constant roller coaster ride of emotions with the continuous highs and the lows that come our way. It is very comforting and assuring to be able to share your lows with another person and be understood and supported rather than criticized or taken advantage of. And the highs are even higher when you have someone to share them with instead of trying to have fun and enjoyment inside your own head or heart. Lessening the negative impact of the lows and increasing the positive impacts of the highs leads to much more satisfaction and contentment in our personal lives and the life of the relationship.


Perhaps the greatest opportunity any relationship can afford us is to allow us to gain a 360-degree vision of life and everything in it, in facilitating our movement to wholeness. The inevitable conflicts alone open our worlds to completely different perspectives of how another person views the world. When we allow ourselves to be open to this particular purpose we start seeing how the other person’s differences can actually complement us on completing our missing parts. And when we are more willing to confront conflicts cooperatively for creative win-win outcomes, then that is exactly what we get instead of the usual lose-lose results that keep the conflicts coming back.

Quality relationships involve people agreeing on their purpose for being together—whether it is for a short time, a long time or forever—and both enjoying the benefits of these purposes.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree), and “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers). Also watch for “Reality Repair Rx” which is coming soon. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or