My first friend was from my first day at school - we went through to college together. We raised families in different areas but still keep in touch - if too irregularly. Even today, though our lives have followed different paths, our friendship perseveres. Along the way through life, other friendships survive, despite being often sadly neglected. Who can say what creates friendship, but it certainly does not require agreement on everything. It does require respect.
As an accountant, my first (three-partner) firm didn't survive long. We lost a lot of money, we very nearly lost our house, and I had my only bout (six months) of depression. Two of us started again together and eventually cleared our debts. I didn't understand it at the time, but more than two decades on, I can see there was no bad intent or dishonesty - it was simply personality differences. That was my first business partnership.
My best friend died far too young (his four daughters were all still at school). It wasn't just because he helped fund what turned out to be my last motorbike I rate him so highly. He made me think (hard) about many things. We didn't get to talk enough while we raised families in separate cities, and suddenly he was dying. (Tomorrow is promised to no-one - value relationships today.) Even in that, he left me wondering. Obviously, friendship is a different relationship from a business partnership.
My friend's death was followed by my stroke. I then had 2.5 years when I had to re-learn so much. I could still read but when my wife got me home and sat me in front of my computer, loaded and ready, I read the first email and asked her how to get to the next - and the next. This went on for some days and is just a small example of how much I had to re-learn (and she had to teach).
During this time I came to see how much my wife had put up with during our life together - not physically but mentally / emotionally. I hadn't meant to do the wrong thing - but had totally misread things. I apologised - although words can never completely undo the damage - they're just the start of a long journey.
The night my mind returned, I was so excited. Within a week we were driving back from Featherston where my Mum had just died (3 months after being diagnosed with cancer). I had to re-apologise to my wife when I realised that with my mind, my "normal" ways had returned - including the ones I'd apologised for. All these years later it's still very much a work in progress.
Marriage is not a partnership or even a friendship, although it has many of the same features. It is a covenant. Thinking of it as a partnership sells it short. As I experienced in my business partnership, when it failed we walked away. A covenant isn't like that. Because covenant is not commonly understood, I've posted an explanation from a legal site of the differences between a covenant and a partnership. Covenants can cover all sorts of issues, such as setting aside land for a reserve, but in our context, marriage is a covenant in which two people give 100% of themselves to each other. Ideally, they do this before witnesses who commit to supporting the marriage.
At least it is for those who choose not to see it simply as a partnership. It's hard to tell - it has nothing to do with a wedding ceremony (even when it does mention covenant the couple may just see it as old-fashioned words) or legal versus de facto marriage. I'm not sure you can have a covenant "by accident", but it may not have been expressed in those words, or even contemplated at the start. Yet after many years (and relationships still can self-destruct at that stage), I suspect some people realise at some stage their relationship is more than just a partnership.
I've heard, but not really understood, that Maori tend to be quiet in the presence of we pakeha. That's not universal of course, and if the boot was on the other foot, I suspect (understatement) I'd not be quiet. But it's exactly what my behaviour was before my stroke. My wife would not say something, so I'd assume that what I'd said was accepted. (Her silence was not helped by her battle with depression.)
Having recently come to see the parallels between the covenants of marriage and the Treaty, I have realised that even with the best of intentions, even our way of talking when we're willing - our very eagerness - can create a far from level field to hear what has to be said. I know that when my wife does speak it's well worth listening. The same applies when Maori speak. Too often we haven't earned their respect by first offering them ours. That includes listening - really listening - and talking without being condescending. That did not come naturally with my wife and does not come easy with people with a different culture. But even in the early stages of this journey, I've come to learn some aspects of Maori culture are far superior to ours.
I'd no sooner than got for a rest after publishing this article when I realised I'd omitted my first relationship - family. It's just there - so natural I didn't even think to include it at first. These come in an extremely wide variety, magnified by cultural differences. But our mums and dads, along with extended family if we're lucky, are our primary role models as we grow. Our siblings are our primary peers.
These relationships are all different - but also have some things in common. There is one which, while still having some things in common, is totally different - children and parents. Children have been created by us and from us, but not for us. (Traditional weddings talk about leaving our family and cleaving to our spouse as a new family.)
The depth of love for children is like nothing else - it's often on display in literature and movies, which may stretch credulity at times - especially among childless people. None of us always act as perfect parents, and even sadder some of us are bad parents. Children are remarkably resilient - fortunately. Usually, the power of forgiveness allows both parent and child to move forward.
There is one other type of relationship - people and God. For many years I was satisfied with religion - but that is not a relationship. Occasionally God breaks through and "speaks" to us. I've had about a dozen times when that has happened. For example, he told me to sell my motorbike (you won't find a Bible verse saying that - even the roar of David's triumph was heard throughout the land).
I was nearly 60 when I discovered God had not changed. I'd been led astray by the "Greek" rather than Hebrew mindset which distorts so much of what was actually written in the Bible. God wants so much to have a relationship with each person. Even when Cain killed his brother, God still spoke with him. Talking with God since then has been exciting yet often underwhelming at the same time. Even though I now know God much better (I liken it to being in pre-school until then - I've now graduated from both primary and secondary school), I still find often life is so busy I fail to stop, slow down and listen. If you want to know more about how this can work, I've written a bit about the things that help me. I promise if you overcome your preconceptions (from religious to atheistic), you will be pleasantly surprised. This is the ultimate relationship.