Understanding Relationship Levels: Being Mentally STRONGer Together

By Dr. Cristi Bundukamara EdD PMHNP

Every day you encounter people, and even if it was only a brief interaction with someone, you can choose to turn it in an opportunity for a positive relationship. It is important to take the time to evaluate your relationships and look for opportunities to grow them in a positive way. Being kind to a cashier or listening to your best friend vent about a problem is a chance to create a relationship. However, understanding the various relationship levels keeps you from becoming too vulnerable and helps the development of healthy boundaries. Dividing relationships into five categories with distinct levels of trust is a simple way to understand your relationships with different people.

Level five is the least personal relationship level. These are people that work at the grocery store or your bank, people that you really don’t know and only share things about yourself that you want everyone to know. However, just because you aren’t necessarily sharing intimate knowledge about yourself to them, doesn’t mean that you can’t be a positive influence on them. In general, a good rule is to be kind and courteous, because you never know what is going on in their lives and facilitating a positive experience can influence people to promote their own positive energy.

Level four relationships are acquaintances that you interact with every day on a first name basis. A good example of level four people are co-workers, people you are friendly with, but might not trust with personal details. It is important to keep boundaries with relationship level four people to prevent a judgmental atmosphere Keeping a positive energy around these people is a good way to create a shared space where everyone feels respected.

Level three relationships are considered friends. You can trust them with some personal information and practical day-to-day things like how your kids are doing in school. It is important to determine how much you can trust these people so you can manage your expectations of the relationship. Choosing to have a positive impact on this relationship level will create a safe space where you feel comfortable meeting up with your friends and having a good time.

Level two relationships are people who you trust with knowing most of your personal details. They are considered to be close friends or family members. They usually know much of what is going on with your life, but you keep some boundaries with them about the most intimate parts of your life. It is important to manage expectations, but people in this relationship level allow each other to positively affect one another. In these relationships, there is a lot of trust that is shared. These relationships can quickly create a negative experience if that trust is broken. Being mindful of how you can facilitate the feelings of others is important.

Level one consists of the closest relationships you have. This relationship level includes a spouse or intimate partner, close family members, or a best friend. These relationships have the highest level of trust, and it negatively affects you the most when that trust is broken. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable to another person can be risky, but if you maintain that trust, you gain someone who genuinely cares about you.

These relationship levels are only guidelines. It is important to keep yourself from taking an “all or nothing approach” when it comes to developing trust in a relationship. People age and develop differently and everyone has different life experiences. Moving people to different levels of intimacy is an organic process and keeps you from clinging to toxic relationships. It can also help you grow lower-level relationships into something more intimate that can positively influence your life.

In The Mentally STRONG Method we have Choice Opportunity worksheets that will help you navigate through the levels of relationships. I created The Mentally STRONG Method to share with you so that you can learn to think, organize and choose your way to success in life! Remember, you ARE Mentally STRONG!

Interested in learning more? Register for our Mentally STRONGer Course and learn the Mentally STRONG Method for yourself!

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