When it comes to developing characters in a novel, we writers need to think about how relationships work and how they don’t work. Otherwise, our characters come across as flat, cardboard, stick-like figures. I was thinking about relationships and wanted to write down some thoughts on paper.

Nurturing a relationship is a nested process — a nurturing process of giving and receiving that includes effort on a daily, hourly, monthy, weekly, yearly, long-term and short-term basis. Sound like a lot of work? It is so worth it.

A relationship is one of those mysteries in life. The coming together of two individuals for the very first time is an incredible phenomenon, chock full of significance and possibility, and we need to pay attention. When was the last time, you or someone you know, met someone for the first time and consciously sat down and said, “I just met the coolest person. This is such a great chance to build something spectacular here. What can I do to nurture and protect this opportunity?” I’m willing to bet most of us don’t think that at all, much less say that. Maybe we should.

When two people meet, a brand new world opens up – an original and fresh starting point for each individual involved. This original meeting point is a significant juncture. It is unique, unlike any other relationship you have had in the past and unlike any relationship you will have in the future. The unfoldment is still unknown. It is alchemical and can go in many unforeseeable directions.

Each person brings their fabric to a new relationship — their hopes, their hurts, their beliefs, their desires, their feelings, their ideas, their laughter, their stories, their talents, their wishes, their demands, their emotions, their memories, their experiences, their philosophies, their sensuality, their sexuality, and so much more. The impact of the collision of two people coming together for the very first time is huge. Together, these two individuals can weave a beautiful and intricate tapestry.

One of the reasons so many relationships fail at this juncture is because of long-standing fear in one or both partners — fear of exposure, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of getting found out, fear of not being enough. Fear creates the immediate erection of walls with no doors and no windows. This lockdown leads to distorted giving to the partners in our lives. Lots of ideas for plot and characters there.

If you are lucky and have a healthy self-worth, you feel worthy of love and respect from a partner and give freely with no expectations. If you have an unheaIthy self-worth, you feel wrong — undeserving of love and respect, and you may practice wrongful giving. You give more to the partners in your life, but for all the wrong reasons. Confused yet? Stay with me. This is the stuff novels are made of.

Because you feel wrong, you give more to get more. To give for the right reason means to give with no thought of return. If a return shows up, that is wonderful, but the initial intent behind your giving was not to get something back. When we come from fear, we may start to practice wrongful giving because we need something to fill us up. You know, that empty spot. When a woman gives herself in a sexual way to try to fill up her empty spot, a man can sense this. We had a lively discussion about this topic in one of my writing classes. The following explanation was written by a man in that class, and I think he hit the nail on the head.

“Some women don’t give sex freely. It feels like they think they are losing a piece of themselves. It’s like they are doing me a favor or something, and it’s really confusing when that happens. It’s like a woman wants sex, but in the middle of the act, she holds something back. I feel like I am taking sex when that happens. I feel used, and I don’t feel like I received anything. It doesn’t feel fun or loving. It’s so messed up.”

Now, there is no better giver than a woman, whatever her motive may be. A woman’s capacity to give is vast. So she gives. A LOT. Why a woman gives isn’t always clear to a man, so when this happens the man thinks he deserves all of this giving or he wouldn’t be getting it. The man relaxes and tries to enjoy the giving, but if his partner is waiting for something in return and he doesn’t deliver, all hell breaks loose and catches the man off guard. This is a tough one for men because women always keep score. This could become one of my devious characters.

When giving and receiving are working to capacity, each partner gives freely with no expectation of getting anything back from the other. The irony is, they get everything back from the other. Each partner feels happy and full, almost burdened with happiness, and all of that happiness needs a place to go. This is where healthy giving and receiving kicks in. Think of it as a pendulum. It is something to strive for, and it is so natural once we get into the swing of it. Giving and receiving is a reciprocal process but only in its purest form.

Here’s what I’m taking away from all of this. Lose the fear. Unlock the doors. Throw open the windows. Tear down the walls. The momentum of giving and receiving continues as long as we remember to give without expecting something in return. That is what ends it. Every time. It is not what we get from a relationship, but what we give to a relationship that keeps us in the zone. No exceptions!

Remember ladies. When it comes to giving to the men in our lives, they don’t require very much. Here’s some good advice I found, and I’m passing it on to you.

“How to please a woman…love her, die for her, take her to dinner, miss the Super Bowl for her, buy her jewelry, pretend you are interested in what she has to say. How to please a man…show up naked, bring beer.”    –     Unknown, In Humor/Dark Humor-

It’s time to get back to my writing. I’m hoping to be able to flesh out my characters a little better now that I have given this matter some thought.

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