Relationships (capital R) versus relationships (small r)

Relationships (capital R) are full of evolutionary history and cutural expectation.  Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

Many people talk about Relationships, as though certain interactions were in a special category.  What they usually mean is that they have decided that one particular being is going to be a friend of a particular kind.

What we mean, when we say Relationship (with a capital R), is more complex than we often realise.  Influences on the modern concept of Relationship include:

  • Sexual evolution – many species have developed via sex differentiation.  In some species, states have evolved where there emerges a pairing between one member of each sex.  Many humans, arguably, are subject to that emergent evolutionary state.
  • Cultural development – within humankind, different cultures have emerged.  Many involve a traditional partnership which builds on the two-sex pairing which has evolved in our species anyway.  This has been built on ceremonially, including marital rituals, and social behavioural expectations.
  • Religious support – within cultures, religions have developed which formalise, and ritualise further, the two-sex pairing.  The name of a god or gods is often invoked as a supreme authority overseeing such pairings.
  • Art, music and literature – artists within cultures and religions have developed the concepts of these pairings.  In particular, a substantial romantic element has been added, which elevates the pairing in terms of mutual admiration and interdependence.
You were born, probably, into a society which focuses on some particular variant of this idealised pairing.  You are sitting at the top of a pyramid, built on millions of years of evolved sexual practice, thousands of years of cultural and social expectation, a religious rulebook, and thousands of supporting works of art, which flesh out what this pairing is supposed to mean to you.


However, there is a different kind of relationship, with a small r, which pervades everything you say and do.  All day, you are interacting with other beings.  In front of you is a whole wide world of sight and sound, which, like a dream, will respond to how you are, by changing its nature.

Just as inner disturbance can cause bad dreams, inner turmoil can cause bad experiences.  And just as inner peace can cause good dreams, so inner peace can cause the world to be more peaceful.  These relationships have many ups and downs, and yet they do tend to have a correlation with how you are in your inner world.

What I mean when I say relationship (with a small r), involves, for instance:

  • Peace and lack of peace – whomever you relate to today, you will have a choice to increase peace, or increase turmoil.
  • Kindness and unkindness – whomever you relate to, you will have a choice to be kind or unkind.
  • Help and hindrance – whomever you meet, you can help or hinder them.
  • Harmony and disharmony – whomever you meet, you can create harmony, or disharmony, between you.


When I talk about a particular Relationship (capital R), do I know what I mean?

I am the result of millions of years of sexual evolution, thousands of years of culture, religious rules, and influential stories and art.

I probably do not realise what I am doing, when I invoke this concept of the Relationship.  All these different influences are not always consistent.  There can be enormous confusion and disagreement, even within societies, about about what these Relationships are supposed to be.  Some people even try to ban certain Relationships, if sexual and cultural norms are not met.

But perhaps I can still try to keep good relationships (small r).

I can try to be peaceful, and kind, and helpful, and harmonious.

And if I am peaceful in my self, then perhaps my outer world, like a mirror, will reflect back a good inner nature.

Perhaps, like a happy person dreaming, I will then have good dreams.  Perhaps, if I relate happily with all beings, then my world will reward me like an excellent dream.