Monday, June 8, 2015

Bucket Equity

Any homeowner, or better yet, any mortgage holder, understands the concept of equity. Equity essentially amounts to the fraction of your home that you actually own, or said another way, it is the amount of the principle that you have paid off. However, I have also come to apply the term equity to inter-personal relationships. In such a case, the notion of equity amounts to how tight the bond is between the principals in the relationship. The trouble with this type of equity, this relational equity, is that if you do not build upon your investment, your equity decays away. A friend of mine once laid out an analogy involving buckets being filled with water that fully crystallized this notion for me.

The strength of any relationship is linked to how much water there is in its associated bucket. The fact is that all of our relational buckets have one or more holes in them of varying sizes. The more holes there are in the bucket, the quicker the equity diminishes and the more frequently an investment of additional water is required to keep the relationship healthy. It is my observation that the relational buckets between women tend to have very few holes, such that the equity drains away very slowly with time. This is why two girlfriends can get together after a long time apart and spend the night gabbing and sharing their deepest secrets. For men, the holes in their relational buckets tend to be considerably larger and more numerous. Without care and investment, relationships between men can decay quite quickly indeed.

For me, my relational buckets all seem to come with unimaginably large holes. No sooner is water poured into the volume than it is found to be empty. Even a comparatively short break between seeing someone, whether it be a friend or even my own daughter, and I am noticeably uncomfortable. What I have come to understand is that in any relationship there is not one but two buckets. One that I perceive and one that the other person perceives. Folks in whose presence I was once quite comfortable, can very quickly become like strangers to me. What creates awkwardness and stress is that, in their view, as their relational bucket with me has drained out much more slowly, they feel there is a stronger bond between us that I perceive. For me, absence doesn't make anything grow fonder, it just leads to drainage.