Humans are social beings. We are continually in relationship: with our selves, our loved ones, our co-workers, friends and community at large. The quality of our life depends on the quality of our relationships. How are your relationships? Are they a source of joy, fun, pleasure, learning and/or fulfillment? Or are they a source of frustration, hurt, disappointment, and/or anger?
If relationships are challenging for you, please consider the possibility that you, like many others, are suffering from a mistaken notion that the purpose of relationship is to love and to be loved. So much is invested into “If she loves me how can she…?”, “Why is my friend doing so and so?..”, “How could my friend say this…?”, “Why is my boss so unfair?” Accounts payable and accounts receivable are held meticulously for every hurt and every infraction. I am exaggerating. But not too much.
Our purpose is to discover our true identity.
Consider the possibility that our purpose in all our relationships is not about giving and receiving love, our purpose is to discover our true identity, is to find out who we really are. As we see all our best and worst qualities being displayed before our eyes, and nothing more than being in a relationship will do it so clearly, we have an opportunity to choose to “climb the ladder of ourselves,” to work toward becoming the best we can become, or not.
The work on yourself in a relationship is quite simple. Keep in mind the principle underlying every spiritual tradition: “As above so below”. This principle of the mirror, in which inner and outer are reflection of one another teaches us that whatever or whoever we encounter in our lives, is the reflection of our own qualities, impulses, or beliefs.
Think of a person you really appreciate and most likely the qualities you like in this person are the qualities you like about yourself. Now think about someone you do not like. You may discover that this person possesses qualities that you do not like about yourself, or have not yet recognized existing within you. People who possess those negative qualities will keep appearing in your life until you recognize the true message. Once you do, you may choose to work to weed out the qualities of yourself that you least appreciate.
Does this mean that if you have been victimized, you are a person who victimizes others? Perhaps. Or, it may mean that you victimize yourself, constantly criticizing yourself or not giving yourself enough credit for the hard work you do. When trying to understand meaning, look in broad terms.
If there is a thief in your surroundings see in what way might you be stealing. Are you taking something that does not belong to you? Are you involved in a project that will take something away from someone? Are you making promises that you know you can’t keep therefore making others wait in vain? This last example is the most severe form of stealing because time is the only thing you can never repay.
Making it work
If you want to start improving the quality of your relationships, here is what you can do. The next time you see a person with whom you have a challenging relationship here are four steps you can take:
Mentally say to yourself “Here comes my teacher.”
Become aware of what qualities in this person are most irritating to you and try to identify in what ways these qualities reflect your own tendencies.
Remind yourself that this person, though a “teaching tool” for you, has his/her individual journey, and was this way before you, is this way with you, and will be this way after you. So, do not take it personally.
After having an encounter with this person, whether planned or unexpected, find a quiet place to do this short mental exercise: Close your eyes. Imagine a beam of white light coming out of your chest. As it extends about two feet beyond your body, see it curving to your right till it makes a complete circle around you. See the person in the distance. Breathe out gently and see your circle of light expanding in all directions until it embraces the person, and as it does, see the person lifting his/her eyes at you and smiling. Then open your eyes. Do this exercise for one week.
Improving the Quality of Your Romantic Relationships
Those who have been in a committed relationship know that challenges always come up. And when you have children, there are even bigger challenges. Sometimes there are arguments and tension, but consider this. The moment there is a threat to a child’s welfare, all disagreements are instantly put aside, and you rush to save the child. Isn’t it true?
When two people enter a committed relationship there are no longer only two entities. The two give birth to a third entity. They give birth to a baby. This baby is the relationship itself.
And the only way this baby can survive, grow and mature, is if the individual ego of each partner is less important than the baby and are immediately cast aside when the welfare of the baby-- of the relationship-- is threatened.
One of the ways to help your romantic relationship thrive is to have regular “state of the union” dialogues. That is, once a week create a special time (it may be only 10-15 minutes,) during which you sit in front of each other and ask questions like “Where are we as a couple?” “Has there being anything that we must discuss?” If one or both of the partners has grievances the other is not to explain why they did what they did, unless they are specifically asked, but to say, “I am sorry this…whatever the problem is, made you feel uncomfortable, what can I do to make things better for you?”
A “state of the union” discussion will be most fruitful when sharing statements are used, as opposed to accusations. Try your best to focus on the following:
1. How you feel (not what your partner did to you).
2. What makes you uncomfortable (not how insensitive your partner acted).
3. Which of your needs are not satisfied.(not what your partner is lacking).
4. What steps you feel your partner could make that would make it better.
It is also very important to acknowledge your partner’s feelings and needs, and to offer ways in which you can meet those needs.
If you feel angry before speaking to your partner do the following mental
Close your eyes and breathe out gently three times. Long slow exhalations. Nice and easy inhalations. Breathing out twice as slow as breathing in. Now, find yourself inside of your anger; in any way you can see it. Sense and feel yourself being totally surrounded by it. Breathe out one time. Knowing that anything is possible, find your way out of anger, and look at it from the distance. Decide what you want to do with it; you can burn it, you can burry it in the earth, you can sink it in the ocean, or you can let it be taken by the wind. Do it. Breathe out one time. Bring into the newly vacated space something beautiful. When ready, open your eyes.
Above all remember the mirror principle is true for any relationship, particularly for close ones. Most often your partner possesses qualities that you need to develop, and you posses qualities that he/she needs. Your partner is your teacher/student. Make your life lesson enjoyable.