While finger painting with my toddler granddaughter, I saw
that she dipped her finger which was covered in blue paint into the pot of yellow. My initial thought was she’s going to mess up the colorsbecause yellow doesn’t stay yellow when you add blue – it becomes green. But then I became fascinated by the idea that when you add a new dimension to the color it becomes something new and equally vibrant which made me think of relationships.

Let’s look at the primary colors:blue, red, and yellow. They stand on their own,meaning that they cannot be created by mixing colors together – they just are. Now when you mix blue with yellow you get green. But if you mix blue with red, you get purple. On their own they are strong and self-sufficient; mixed with another they become something else – equally strong but changed.

Relationships, like colors, are created by the unique combination of two individuals. We each come into a relationship as products of our own personality traits, past experiences, and the inevitable baggage we have accumulated. We stand alone, unique and independent – primary colors if you will. Whencreating relationships with others, though, different aspects of our selves willemerge. We may start out blue, but in a relationship with yellow we become green – earthy, natural, and peaceful. With a red we become purple – passionate, courageous, and heady. Have we changed fundamentally? Not really – we are still the blue part of the mix, but different parts of our personality become pronounced. Different strengthsand vulnerabilities emerge. How two people navigate that collaborative mix is the essential difference between a positive, enduring, relationship and a frustrating, unhappy one.

When designing your relationship the blueprint is always the same. The details, the nuances are predicated upon the two unique individuals who make up the relationship. You’ve heard the expressions “he brings out the best in me” and “she brings out the worst in me.” Are we so malleable that others can have such a profound effect on us and our behavior? Absolutely! We are not having an identity crisis if we are profoundly affected by others. Rather, we find that as a result of being in a relationship with someone else, more of the subtle, variable parts of our individual personalities emerge.

Mozelle Forman is a clinical social worker in private practice for 20 years. She welcomes your comments at: mozelle.relationshipsbydesign@gmail.com