Relationships: Survival of the Fittest or Mere Evolution?

Social NetworksRelationships are funny things.  As humans, we’re constantly in the process of evolving every relationship in which we’re involved.  And yet, most of us are almost desperate in our desire and actions to preserve relationships at the most connected level, even if that relationship has evolved to be something else.

Now, I’m not just talking about our personal relationships.  The concept applies equally to professional relationships.  Particularly in an age of social media that drives “the chase” for more and more “friends” or “connections,” even if the value provided by any individual connection is negligible (or worse…detrimental).

And it starts early…from preschool, my kids have struggled (as all of us did) with the evolution of relationships.

Crying Girl“Cassidy’s no longer my best friend,” my youngest would wail, tears streaming down her rosy cheeks.  The pain was real.  She was heartbroken, not because Cassidy had done something wrong.  Nor was their fallout a result of some sort of disagreement or argument (some relationships certainly ended that way, but not all).  No, sometimes it was just that they had each evolved in their own personalities, interests, and social circles.  But, you’d have thought the world was coming to an end.  And in that moment, for her, it was!

Now that my daughters are both high schoolers, I can attest to the fact they haven’t completely outgrown this misunderstanding of relationship evolutions.  They continue to be haunted each and every time they realize their “BFF” of 6 months ago is no longer the “BFF” of today.

I’d posit the same things happens in the adult world, albeit in a slightly different way.  Whether personally or professionally, we’re still evolving our relationships.  They ebb and they flow.  Some connections grow to be powerful forces of enrichment in our careers and our lives.  Others stagnate forever at the level of personal or professional acquaintance.  But either way, they all serve their purposes.  And when a close relationship evolves in the direction of being less influential or deep, it can be a sad realization.  That’s life, though.

Maybe my own acceptance of relational evolution, which may seem overly callous, I’ve been told, is the result of a life filled with “goodbyes.”  After all, at age 14, I left home for prep school, where I lived, laughed, and grew up with an incredibly close-knit “band of brothers.”  At age 16, I transferred schools, and truly on my own (without even my older brother, with whom I’d been classmates those first couple years away from home), I started anew.  Then there was college, followed by years in the military, where duty stations and circles of friends and coworkers changed every several years.

So, maybe I am a bit too relaxed when friends and colleagues “grow apart.” Perhaps I accept it all as a bit “too normal.”  I’m not sure which is a better perspective to have….to be saddened and momentarily distraught by that evolution or to be able to shrug one’s shoulders and simply move on with life.

devolveAfter all, in most cases, there was not a momentous event that “ruined” the relationship.  The pattern is an evolution.  But perhaps my nonchalance is a bit too Darwinian…..

What do you think?  What’s your own experience with or perspectives on the constant evolution (in all directions) of your relationships, personal or professional?

3 thoughts on “Relationships: Survival of the Fittest or Mere Evolution?

  1. I agree, relationships are a constant evolution. Professional can turn personal, personal can turn romantic, romantic can turn friends and so on. But this is one area of life where we do have a choice, an active role as to our own level of participation. True, the connection may fall apart due to no fault of our own – we can’t ‘force someone’ to be actively engaged. We can’t force someone to work with the evolution. But short of that, relationships often grow apart due to lack of effort. To me, that’s not evolution. It’s a choice, whether an active or a passive one.

    1. Your comment seems to imply that evolution (as used here) is always involuntary. Sometimes it’s a very deliberate decision to evolve. The evolution of relationships (personal OR professional) can certainly entail an active or passive choice. I would agree.

  2. Hi Trevor, great topic. I have to agree that it is okay for relationships to grow and change as we do. I have found that when you keep the lines of communication open that the transitions are sometimes easier, as people know where you are at. Have a great Tuesday evening!

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