Spring is the time of mating, regeneration and rebirth. Winter has fled and summer approaches. Sap is rising in the trees and blossoms, new leaves, and growth surrounds us. For single people, thoughts turn to romance. For people in relationship, thoughts turn to rejuvenation. The reality of today’s culture is that many people are also beginning or finishing the long process of divorce and separation. The global rate of divorce is at an all time high, and no country is immune to its effects.
Whether one believes in all of the metaphysical pronouncements of shifting energy, or not, the truth is that the old way of relationship just isn’t working (if it ever did). In the past, economic hardships kept our ancestors in their marriages or relationships. Today, the younger generations consider a relationship just as disposable as cans and bottles. What is it that we are doing wrong? Why is it that relationships are not working anymore? Have we just become more superficial and impatient?
Having been single for many years, I have had a chance to reflect on what works and doesn’t work in relationships. I was a divorce lawyer for many years, and noticed what caused marriages to fail and prosper. I ended up writing a book, “What is Love?” to talk about what I had learned about relationships. Since I wrote that book, I have had a chance to reflect more on what makes a successful relationship and what causes a relationship to fail. I also have had the opportunity to study with Derek O’Neill and other spiritual teachers and have formed a short list of what is necessary for a healthy, vibrant relationship.
(1) LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH: We often are attracted to people that we believe are our soul mates. The desire is intense, the intention to live together forever sincere. This attraction is difficult to live with, we think of our love every minute and grieve when we are apart. However, we have to use our common sense. Sometimes we feel attracted to people we will never have compatibility. When the initial biological attraction fades, we sometimes wake up to the fact we are committed to someone that does not support us or want us. We have to use our logical brains to balance the emotional attraction. We can love someone deeply but we do not have to marry him or her or even have a long-term relationship. Move slowly and understand the person before you commit.
(2) RESPONSIBILITY: Both parties must understand what they are experiencing is being created by them for their enlightenment. When we don’t get what we want, we have to understand that what we want is only our belief systems getting in the way of our relationship. We should take a very hard look at what is more important, our beliefs or the relationship. Usually there are two possible responses to any circumstance: (a) love/heart or (b) ego/mind. For example, what if your partner says they will do something and then changes their mind. Do you get upset or do you accept your partner as doing the best they can? On the occasions where we get really disappointed, we need to look at whether we had unrealistic expectations in the first place. In the final analysis, we have to take responsibility for feeling bad about something. It is not your partner’s responsibility to make you happy, that is your job. Think about it, if you are unhappy, will that make you any more desirable? If you are happy, I guarantee that your “mate” will be more interested in being with you.
(3) SELF DISCIPLINE: When we put our beliefs before the relationship, the relationship will fail. If we have rules or needs that have to be met for us to be happy, we are putting ourselves before the relationship. If both parties have the need to have their needs and wants satisfied, there is no way the relationship will prosper. It does require one party to put the relationship first. It also requires each party to do whatever it takes to be happy. If that means being apart, the other party should allow that to happen. Any relationship that involves keeping the other person happy is not a healthy relationship.
(4) SPIRITUAL PRACTICE: For both parties to thrive in a relationship, both need to understand the concept of spirituality. That does not necessarily require a worship of any particular religion, but each does need to understand that there is some consciousness greater than them at operation in the universe. I am not saying that atheists can’t have a wonderful relationship, but if they have no understanding that the earth is something greater than the individual that would be very difficult.
(5) ROLE MODELS: We often need help and guidance in relationships and all aspects of our lives. There are always people who live their lives as we would like to live ours. We need to seek them out and ask for guidance. Whether it is a friend, a religious leader, a parent or an author of a self-help book, we need to ask for directions. Only the reckless would go on a journey without guidance.
(6) CHOOSE WISELY: Face it: sometimes we pick a person who is not compatible with our belief systems. We have a choice at that point; we either change the belief system or the person. We have to make a conscious decision whether our beliefs are more important than the person, and as long as we are clear about the basis of our decision, it is the best we can do.
(7) DISCUSS, DON’T ARGUE: Whenever we argue, we are coming from a place of fear. We have to be right and the other person has to be wrong. When we discuss something, we come as equals to a discussion about a mutual decision. When we argue; we are not looking for compromise, we are looking for victory. Always remember that no one wins an argument or a discussion, but for opposite reasons.
(8) FORGIVENESS: We have to forgive ourselves more than we have to forgive others. Whenever we are hurt, it is because we did not understand the lesson. We have to seek the truth of the lesson in order to understand why we experienced pain. To forgive the other person will not prevent similar events from happening in the future. We have to forgive ourselves and understand our part in creating that scenario. We have to stop taking things personally.
I feel that the kind of love that will be required between people from today onward will be a new kind of love that requires clarity, self-reflection and grounded affection. In other words, a more mature love will be required so that we can grow along with our partner.