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The Three Rings of Relationships

Glenna Trout is an international authority on face reading whose name I first registered in the context of Domestic Violence. (She contributed to The Kent Constabulary's extraordinarily informative leaflet on Domestic Violence.) As her eyes read my face, she talked about the Three Rings.

Briefly, all of our relationships fall somewhere within these three concentric rings. It was as she spoke of the Second Ring that Glenna placed a hand supportively on my shoulder. Glenna talked and I squirmed slightly in my seat, marvelling at how some more piece of the jigsaw had fallen into place

I pass what she said on to you in the hope that it will be as enlightening for you as it was for me. The language and any shortcomings are mine.

The Third Ring

This is the outermost ring and it comprises the people with whom you have, quite literally, a nodding acquaintance. Your interaction with them may be pleasant enough. It comes about not by design, but simply because your paths cross.

The Second Ring

These people you meet and become familiar with in specific circumstance. You tend to become close quite quickly; you may share affinities that matter a lot at the time. These relationships are more closely connected to where you are in your life at the time than they are to who you truly are.

Second Ring relationships include the kind of 'instant' friendships you strike up on holiday, workplace friendships, as well as the 'new mothers together' bond. They tend not to survive the specific circumstance in which they grew up for too long.

Glenna points out how easy it is to confuse Second Ring romances with First Ring love. There will be a common interest or experience that throws two people together so that, at the start, they share something quite powerful. Rather than defining the nature of the bond, they are swayed by its force into believing in its quality and its durability.

Two people who throw themselves into a Second Ring romance may well share a common hurt or problem, so that each has an unusual degree of awareness of what the other is feeling ? and a sense that the other is equally aware of what they are feeling. It would be quick and easy to say that this intimate knowledge of the other person's feeling is indicative of a high level of mutual understanding and empathy, but it would be wrong.

Although it may look initially like understanding and it may feel like empathy, it is something quite different. What has happened is that two people have come together both looking for the same thing. Their assumption is that, since the other knows what they have been through and what they want so intimately, the other will be able to heal them and make them whole. He will satisfy their previously unmet needs.

In short, the other person is there to do for them what they cannot do for themselves.

With time, both come to realise that rather than mutual healing there will be an increasingly urgent battle to get their own needs met, because neither has the necessary resources to still the other's old pain. The abusive partner will find some release in masking his needs by shifting blame onto the other, who will be labelled 'too needy and dependent'.

Their needs brought them together and their needs will drive them apart but only after they have undergone profound disillusionment and suffering together.

Second Ring romances typify the adage: "marry in haste and relent at leisure". We let the wrong person through too many boundaries, too fast, without finding out the things we really needed to know about them.

The First Ring

The First Ring is the domain of truly loving, nurturing relationships with a partner, close friends and family. It is the circle of congruence: people's actions are consistent with their words.

Unlike a Second Ring romance, in which one partner may protest undying love, but will, increasingly, treat the other with contempt and hostility, a First Ring partner has the personal resources to care for and treat the other as well as they treat themselves.

First Ring people are not saints, but they are mature, functional human beings who are not always clamouring to get their needs met first.

There would be a lot more to say about First Ring relationships, but our focus, here, is on The Second Ring because that is the ring over which we should have the greatest control, but often do not. It is also the ring where a great deal of emotional damage occurs, that we can learn to prevent.

(C) Annie Kaszina 2005 Joyful Coaching

An NLP Practitioner and Women's Empowerment Coach, Annie specialises in helping women heal the trauma of the past, so they can enjoy the present and look forward to the future. To subscribe to Annie's twice monthly ezine, or order her eBook 'The Woman You Want To Be, go: to

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