Ask anyone and you’ll get the same answer: What’s the most important thing in life? Love! We want to be in love, and we want that love to last. So how do we go about finding that one person to share our lives with? And how do we live happily ever after with that person once we find him or her?
There are many ways of looking at our compatibility with other people – such as the Mars/Venus theories, and the Love Signs system based on astrology, among others. But long before any of these formulas were even a twinkle in the cosmos, philosophers and scientists in Ancient India devised a system of health care called “Ayurveda” – or “the science of life.” Within this holistic system lies everything we need to know about love.
Ayurveda explains the nature of everything in the universe. It is a compelling way of looking at all of life, the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Ayurveda “types” people according to both their physical features and personality traits. Ayurveda tells us how we “tick,” and how we relate to the rest of the world, including the other people in it!
Once we understand the basics of Ayurveda, we see that we can get along with anyone. There are no “bad” matches! So whether you want to end the squabbling with your mate, you’re having a hard time with your boss, or your boyfriend just can’t commit, with this system of Ancient Indian Love Matches, you’ll find ways to make the relationship work.
It is impossible to go through this life alone. We all have relationships, people in our lives to interact with. The purpose of those relationships is to help us learn and grow. And more than that, the purpose of any relationship is to help us learn more about ourselves and who we really are.
When we understand who we are, and why we are here, everything seems to fall into place. We’re happier, more content, and we feel our connection to the universe. We attract like-minded people into our lives and our relationships become stronger.
As important as our relationships are to us, how much time and effort do we really put into them? So often we go about living our lives and expect that another person either fits into that picture or doesn’t. But we each have needs, and temperaments, and ideas about how we like things to be. When we better understand ourselves, and each other, we can focus on what is important, and what makes a relationship work.
When I first learned about Ayurveda, I was impressed with how simple and clear it made everything to me. The whole system just makes sense, and you can apply it to anything in your life! I’ve read lots of books about Ayurveda, and even more books on relationships, but I’ve never come across one book that applied this age-old system to our very modern-day relationships. So I decided to work it out myself, and that is how my book, “What’s Your Dosha, Baby? Discover the Vedic Way for Compatibility in Life and Love” came about.
Because Ayurveda sees people as three different mind/body types, or “doshas,” there are basically nine different “Love Matches” (3 x 3). Of course in reality there are an infinite number of combinations, because no two people are exactly alike in any particular way, but we’re keeping the numbers manageable here! Once you find out your particular dosha (free online quiz at www.whatsyourdosha.com), and the dosha of the person with whom you are in relationship, then you can look up the chapter that corresponds to the two of you. Here you’ll find clues as to how you interact with each other, your communication styles (physical and emotional as well), instinctual preferences with regards to food, travel, lifestyle and work among others. This system shows us how we can please each other and ourselves at the same time. It shows us how we can live in harmony with those around us by recognizing a person’s natural qualities and bringing more love into the world
If you are looking to understand or strengthen a relationship with someone other than your mate – say, a colleague or friend or child – it will help you with that, too. And because we all have a unique relationship with our environment, there are principles called “Vastu” we can use. Through our use of space and color, we can create an environment where we feel inspired and blissful.
Love is an amazing phenomenon, and the reason that all of us are here. It’s worth our study, our attention. Why are we attracted to the people we are attracted to? Why is that we feel as if we “can’t help” who we fall in love with? What is the chemistry that draws us to certain people?
We may never figure ourselves out. Or maybe we already have. Maybe the ancient texts are right and all the answers we will ever need are available to us now… we just need to keep learning and growing until we finally “get it.”
One thing’s for sure, finding love and connection is one of the most important – and pleasurable – things we come here to do. My hope is that Ayurveda, with its ancient Indian secrets for keeping love burning bright, will not only help you in your process of self-discovery but enable you to find and nourish the love matches of your dreams.
Each of us experiences some kind of loss in this lifetime. People come and go from our lives, whether by choice or circumstance. How we cope with these events affects how we move forward, how we see the world, and how we feel about our lives.
I’m not the only person to have been through a divorce. When my first marriage ended after 17 years, I thought I handled it well. It was an amicable parting, and we maintained a friendly relationship. But then a few years later my sister’s husband died unexpectedly. My grief brought up new emotions, and I felt sad and angry and hurt as I relived the divorce in my mind. I realized through this experience that although I had moved on, I hadn’t really gotten over it; I didn’t have closure. I saw the parallels between my sister’s loss and my own, and I actively sought to come up with a formula through which we could both alleviate our pain.
Relationships take many forms: marriage, friendships, family, co-workers, classmates, lovers. Whenever two people have some kind of a connection, a relationship is established. Our energy goes into these connections, our emotions, our hopes, our human vulnerabilities. A relationship is an organism itself, and it can have a life cycle. But since relationship is a spiritual organism, it doesn’t die. It merely changes shape. The relationships we build with the people we encounter continue in spirit, in memories, and in lessons learned.
We are invested in our relationships with other people. We spend our time, and emotions, developing a kind of bond with a person. We give of ourselves, through our love, our friendship, our concern, and our efforts.
When we are faced with what seems to be the “end” of a relationship, we may feel loss, grief, anger or pain. We might even feel relief, or freedom. We may question the purpose for this change, whether it is abrupt or expected, and the necessity of it. The change may or may not be our choice, or our desire, but something we must learn to live with. The uneasiness may nag at us for years as we struggle to understand. How do we get that “closure” that our hearts and minds so desperately seek so that we can move forward with our lives?
We need to shift our perspective a little bit when it comes to relationships. In our human form, we see the illusion of death, and the ending of relationships. But what really takes place is a transformation. As we learn and grow through our relationships, our relationships evolve. We can use this evolution as an opportunity for continued growth, and for personal transformation. The pains that we feel are growing pains. However a relationship changes, whether it is a loss from physical death, a divorce, a move away, a growing up, or a falling out, we can not only survive, but thrive, knowing that everything, always, is exactly the way it is meant to be.
A Natural Law works whether we are aware of it or not. It is a principle of nature that is in effect at all times, without favoritism. Gravity is a natural law. It works the same for everyone, at all times. By being aware of gravity, we can move about more freely, with less risk of pain from falling down.
The Law of Relationship is two-fold. It says:
1) We are all connected.
2) We are here to help each other.
We are all connected in one way or another. We feel the same emotions; we share the same experiences. We are brothers and sisters on this planet. This connection bonds us, and gives us a relationship with each other. A mother in any part the world, can relate to another mother she has never seen because she knows what it means, and how it feels, to be a mother. We are all born the same way, and have to learn how to walk and talk and find our way in the world. We face challenges and heartache, no matter where we live, or how we live. Our connection cannot be broken.
With our challenges and experiences we learn and grow. Our relationships bring us many challenges and experiences, and through our relationships we learn and grow. This is how we help each other. We may not even know that we are doing it, but just by being in a person’s life, in some small way, we are contributing to the learning process, as they are contributing to ours. Our actions affect other people in ways we can’t even imagine. Even in times when we feel hurt by someone, that is an opportunity for us to learn and grow. We might not realize it in the moment, but in some strange and miraculous way, we are helping each other by going through this experience together.
Closure is different than grief. Grieving is looking back; closure is about looking ahead. We want to let go and move on. This is what closure gives us. We may have gone through the grieving process and still not have the closure we seek. The law of relationship helps us to maneuver our way through the five set process of closure: Recognition, Acceptance, Understanding, Integration, and Gratitude. When we reach a feeling of gratitude, we know we’ve come full circle to experience closure.
Closure is actually the perfect word for it. It’s more than neatly tying up loose ends. Think about life as a series of events and relationships, all linked together in some sort of artistic way, like a beautiful piece of jewelry. We can’t wear a necklace or a bracelet if the chain is just left dangling. The jewelry maker finishes off the piece by adding a clasp, one loop that kind of ties together the beginning and the end, the start and the finish, so that what we are left with is one strong continuous chain. Our closure is that clasp. Closure helps it all make sense. It turns something seemingly broken into something useful, purposeful, and lovely.
Lissa Coffey is the author of CLOSURE and the Law of Relationship: Endings as New Beginnings.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have just visited Southern California and of course the media covered every moment. Upon their arrival in Los Angeles from Canada, I noticed something that I don’t think everyone did, but that could be very telling of the royal relationship.
After William and Kate disembarked the plane, they went through a receiving line to be welcomed by Governor Jerry Brown and his wife, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other dignitaries. Will went through the line first, followed by his bride. They were greeted, curtseyed to and shook hands with each person graciously. When Will was finished, he made a bee-line for the Range Rover and got in the back seat without a glance back. Kate completed her duties a minute or so later and went to the back seat on the other side of the car.
What is unusual about this? Since the British are such sticklers for etiquette, they should be practicing it in their marriages as well as amongst commoners. The gentlemanly thing for William to do would have been to wait for his wife to shake the last hand and then walk over to the car with her. Ideally, he would walk her to her side of the car and help her in before entering the car himself.
This may be a small thing, but it shows respect and consideration. I get that they’re both on a schedule and being shepherded around by security. But in a marriage, there is a kind of radar that keeps you aware of where that other person is at all times. I get that William is the prince and probable heir to the throne. But whatever happened to common courtesy and “ladies first?” If I were in Kate’s position I’d be saying to my hubby: “Hello? Wait for me!” Of course it’s not good form for couples and especially royals, to correct each other in public.
While I’m on the subject, yes, it was a lovely gesture that William gave Kate his mother’s ring. However, I do believe that Kate deserves her own ring as well. Why have Diana’s ring be her engagement ring? After all, even though Diana’s ring is beautiful and historic, it did originate from a marriage that is widely known as unhappy and that ended in divorce. That’s a lot of baggage to be carrying around on your finger. Already Kate is being compared to Diana and this will inevitably follow her throughout her lifetime. Kate is her own person and this is a new relationship, so I say give her a new ring.
Kate has a lot to put up with. Every bride has to deal with in-laws, but Kate has to do it under the scrutiny of the world. She had her wedding in the same church where her husband’s mother had her funeral. She’s a good sport to go along with her new family in all these decisions and I know this will go far in keeping Will and Kate together.
The royal couple is sure to get lots of attention wherever they go and whatever they do. But they need to remember that it is the attention that they give to one another that will be what makes this marriage succeed. It is both the attention that they give to each other in private, at home, when it is just the two of them. And it is also the attention that they give to each other in public. I remember hearing from body language experts about the sweet glances they gave each other during the wedding ceremony and how that was a good sign of a true loving relationship. The world is watching! The pressures of the position will be there and there will be obligations and schedules and demands. But the smallest reassuring glance, the hand on the back as a guide and the simple act of waiting for the other person to finish before going ahead with the next task, that will make all the difference.
This royal marriage is only a few months in and as time goes on, these simple courtesies will mean more and more. I would advise William to get in the habit of being a gentlemanly husband now. A husband with good manners is a true Prince.
We should have seen it coming. But then, I think we all did. Did Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries ever look blissfully happy, at the same time, on their reality show? Not from what I could see. They had their issues from the very beginning, and yet they chose to look the other way. This is typical when you get two Kapha types together, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
In Ayurveda, India’s 5,000-year-old “science of life,” there are three doshas, or mind/body types: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. When you know your dosha, and the dosha of your potential partner, you can gauge your compatibility. This information helps you to look at the strengths and challenges that you will have in the relationship, so that you can move forward knowing what you need to know.
Both Kim and Kris are Kapha dosha dominant. You can tell physically by the thick hair, big lips, sturdy body frame. And you can tell by their personalities as well. Kaphas are home-bodies, with a devotion to family and a loyalty to friends. Kaphas are kind, sensitive and caring. Ironically, while these are all traits that attracted Kim and Kris to each other, they are the very traits that likely broke them apart.
Being kind and sensitive are wonderful traits to have — but not when it means you avoid conflict at all cost. There are some things that need to be discussed before you walk down the aisle. Things like: where are we going to live? Whenever this was brought up on their reality show, it was clear that Kris wanted to live a more normal life away from the cameras near his family in Minnesota, and that Kim wanted to stay near her family, and career opportunities, in Los Angeles. Nothing was ever resolved on camera, so it is likely that nothing was ever resolved in “real” life, either.
Kaphas are very set in their ways. This is true for both Kim and Kris. Kim is a self-professed “neat freak” who really could be diagnosed as obsessive compulsive when it comes to order around the house. Kris considers his dogs to be his children, and wants them around all the time, including on the bed at night. How to reconcile these two lifestyles? On the show, it seems the two reached an impasse. They both dug in their feet, and then the dogs went back to Minnesota and we didn’t hear anything more about it.
Kaphas can be childlike and playful. On the show, Kim would say that she liked how Kris acted like a little kid in his excitement. She actually laughed when he burped in her face. But then she would get frustrated at his lack of attention to details and his sloppiness. Kim could be just as childlike, wanting the wedding to be her way, and not validating Kris’s input. When two Kaphas get together, it is important that both partners behave like adults when necessary. When one partner acts like an adult and the other doesn’t, then the role-play is more parent/child than equals, and then resentment is bound to build.
The impulsiveness of both the quick engagement and the wedding is out of character for Kapha types. It is as if they felt pressure to perform, to put on a show, for the camera. And once the decision was made, they spent the rest of their time planning a wedding, rather than planning a marriage. They seemed to both be swept up in the glamor and glitz of the wedding, and they didn’t give their relationship a chance to get past the romance stage. Couples need time together — both quality time and quantity time. They need to successfully get past conflicts together, and it’s hard to do that with cameras around all the time.
Now that papers have officially been filed, it seems the couple still can’t agree. Kim’s issued statement was that “things don’t always work out as planned.” Kris was surprised that papers were filed and has said that he will do whatever it takes to make the marriage work. California is a no-fault divorce state, so even if Kris doesn’t want the divorce, it can still happen.
What is troubling for the rest of us is the implied disposability of marriage. For all of the professing about how important this relationship was to her, how it was forever, why didn’t Kim and Kris seek marriage counseling? America feels duped! We feel like we were sold a bill of goods, on national television, on the covers of magazines. Online people are calling the marriage a sham, and the wedding a publicity stunt. This wedding was a reportedly $10 million party that netted the couple a nice chunk of change from endorsement deals, not to mention all the gifts they got. Shouldn’t they be returning those gifts now? Or donating the proceeds to charity? It all seems like such a waste. With the economy the way it is, people hurting financially, whole countries going bankrupt and children starving, how does anyone justify spending that kind of money?
A lavish $10 million wedding does not guarantee a happy marriage. Was it telling that Kim appeared solo on the cover of People magazine, beaming about her “dream wedding?” Is it a coincidence that Kim filed divorce papers the day before her mother’s book hits stores?
It takes six months for a divorce to be finalized in California. So the legal process, even with a pre-nup, will last longer than the 72-day marriage. We’re sure to be hearing a lot more about this. And that’s sad. Not sad for this couple, who will surely bounce back, but sad for the rest of us. There are so many more important things we could be putting our attention towards.
You’ve found the man of your dreams — but is his mother turning your life into a nightmare? You choose your husband, but you don’t choose his family. His mom is a part of the package and somehow you’ve got to learn to get along. Even if you live far away and don’t have to deal with each other daily, issues come up at holidays and birthdays and any family event. Who goes where and when and who cooks and what?
Get the image of Jane Fonda’s “Monster-in-Law” character out of your head. All mother-in-laws are not like that! The media loves to exploit the relationship with over-the-top humor. Mother-in-laws are simply mothers, and if their behavior rages out of control it’s because they don’t want to lose that role, or that honored position, in their child’s life.
I actually have two mother-in-laws. How can that be? Well, when I divorced my first husband I didn’t divorce his mom. She’s a very important part of my children’s lives, and mine. I respect her, and make sure that she is updated on the boys’ activities and kept abreast of any family going-ons that she needs to know about. She appreciates that, and always remembers me on my birthday and at Christmas. And my ex-husband still keeps up with my mother and often calls her for “motherly” advice. Meanwhile, I married again and I have a new mother-in-law who lives in Australia. She is “mum” to me! We don’t get to see each other very often, but we talk on the phone quite a bit. When we go to visit we stay with her, and do what we can to help out while we’re there.
Becoming a mother-in-law is a milestone in terms of aging. It can affect someone on a profound level, as they feel they become somewhat secondary in their child’s life. Emotions are mixed, and communication can be cloudy, or harsh. The mother-in-law might take her frustrations out on the “other woman,” which is YOU!
Yes, there are horror stories, you see them on “Jerry Springer” all the time. But it doesn’t have to be like that. The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship can be an alliance. You might be best-buds, you can definitely be friends, and at the very least you can have mutual respect and admiration. Here are some tips:
1. Remember that the first thing you two have in common is that you both love the same man: her son, your husband. This doesn’t have to be a competition for his time and attention. You each hold a special place in his heart.
2. Have an attitude of gratitude. If it weren’t for your mother-in-law, your husband wouldn’t be here! Thank her for that. She has a lot to do with the man your husband is today. For all those good qualities he has, whether genetic or learned, thank her.
3. Be respectful. This woman has been through a lot in her life. She should be valued. Ask her questions, tap into her wealth of knowledge. Let her share her experiences with you.
4. Spend time together. Get to know this new person in your life. Take her to lunch, or have a spa day, have fun and laugh like girlfriends. These times when you get along great and there is no conflict will go along way to helping smooth things over when an inevitable disagreement comes along.
5. Be kind. Give compliments, send cards, remember her birthday and other special occasions. Smile when you see her. Bring flowers or a gift when you go to visit. When you put out kindness, that’s what you get back. Kindness softens the heart.
6. Speak up, and also listen. If something is bothering you, or you feel like you’re being put in a situation where you are not comfortable, clear the air. Don’t let things fester. Be clear so that there are no misunderstandings. Let your mother-in-law talk to you when she needs to, and listen to what she has to say.
7. Understand that you can never change another person, you can only change your response to any given situation. Look at what you can do to make your relationship with your mother-in-law better. Don’t have any expectations about what she “should” do or say or how she “should” behave. Learn to love her for who she is, as she is, not for who or how you want her to be.
8. Be yourself. Relax. You don’t have to be perfect, and trying to be perfect will only put pressure on your mother-in-law to try to be perfect, too. It’s okay to let her see you without your make-up on. It’s okay that you aren’t “superwoman.” When you let your guard down, your mother-in-law will, too.
Keep in mind that one day you will be a mother-in-law, too, and you can employ many of these techniques in vice-versa to establish a positive and loving relationship with your new daughter-in-law.
It is said that the number one skill required in being able to communicate effectively is the ability to listen.
As you might already realise, listening is different to hearing.
There is a lot of buzz about active listening – where your focus is entirely on the words that are coming out of the person you are listening to.
Active listening makes the person talking feel like they are being heard. Now, that is a good thing by any account.
If you wish to take it up a notch, then please practise empathic listening.
What is empathic listening?
According to an article in Educational Psychology Interactive, empathic listening is defined as “Paying attention to another person with empathy (emotional identification, compassion, feeling, insight)”.
In other words, putting yourself in the shoes of the other person, in an attempt to understand why they are saying, what they are saying. You are getting in touch with that person’s goal for speaking to you. It is taking your connection with that person to the next level.
If you have read my previous articles, you will realise that I am a big advocate of having more empathy. Empathy is a very powerful tool when dealing with others because it allows us to be more human.
Here are 4 tips on how to engage in empathic listening:
- Be present – this sounds so basic and simple. Yet, it can be overlooked very easily. I remember attending a job interview when I was working in the Financial Planning sector. The director of a boutique financial planning firm was asking me interview questions in his office. He at his computer screen and drafting a response to an email while I was responding to his questions. Whenever he started typing, I would stop talking. While typing, he kept saying “Keep going, I am listening”. Was he really listening? That is why you have to be fully present, without any distractions. Take three deep and slow breaths, sit straight, and look at the person who is talking. Turn your phone off, avoid looking at anything else in the room/building/place, and refrain from paying attention to any sounds or noise.
- Comprehend, not compose – your goal is to comprehend what the person is saying, instead of composing a response for them. It is very easy to start thinking about what to say while the other person is talking. If you do that, you will not be present. Your goal is to understand what that person is saying. Ask them questions or paraphrase what they have said in order to gain clarity on what they are saying. Once you are able to comprehend what is being said, you will be in a better position to respond and/or provide support. Being understanding is the key here. The person who is talking must be able to feel that you are understanding them.
- Avoid interrupting – as an empathic listener, your goal is to listen with undivided attention. If you start interrupting the person who is talking, you will do two things – 1.) Make that person feel that you are not listening to them. 2.) Prove that what you have to say is more important than what they have to say. Let them finish what they are saying. While they are talking, keep validating what they are saying with a nod or with a “Yes” or “Okay”. If you feel like you have to really say something, gain their permission first. In my coaching and mentoring career, empathic listening was the most important trait in every single session regardless of whether it was a CEO or a teenager sitting across the table from me. If there was a need to stop that person from speaking, (as a coach/mentor, that had to be done at times), I would gently ask “Can I please ask a question right now?” That made the person feel valued.
- Observe non-verbal communication – pay close attention to non-verbal communication. If the person you are listening to starts breathing heavily, and assures you that they are doing just fine, chances are that they are not. Observe their physiology. Is it congruent with their vocal messages? If their physiology is not congruent to their verbal communication, you can check in on them by asking open ended questions like “What would you like me to do now?” or “What is making you breathe heavily?” That will make them open up to you. Asking open ended questions will allow you to elevate and elongate the conversation if their verbal communication and their physiology is sending mixed messages.
Whether you are in management or are a stay at home parent, empathic listening will allow you to be more impactful when communicating with others.
There are many other keys to emphatic listening. Please research and study empathic listening, and practise it in detail.
Empathy can be learnt. It is well worth having more empathy.
Quote: “Empathic listening takes time, but it doesn’t take anywhere near as much time as it takes to back up and correct misunderstandings when you’re already miles down the road; to redo; to live with unexpressed and unsolved problems; to deal with the results of not giving people psychological air.” Stephen Covey
I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can use empathic listening to enhance your communication skills.
Influencing you to your excellence,
Ron Prasad (Author, Speaker, Corporate Trainer, Anti-Bullying Campaigner)
PS: Here is my Anti-Bullying Charities latest short video (What Is The Best Revenge?) – https://youtu.be/xB8gvV5nAb8
This is a prayer that is featured in my book “Bhakti: 108 Prayers of Devotion” – I think it is appropriate for what a lot of us are feeling right now. It applies to many situations. I keep reminding myself: “God’s got this.” It’s very comforting.
I’m glad You’re in charge.
Sometimes things don’t go the way I’d like them to go,
Or the way I think they should go.
And I feel frustrated, or hurt, or disappointed.
But then I remember You’re in charge. I remember that You have a plan.
I remember that however things “seem” to be – is probably not how they really are.
It is comforting knowing that I don’t have to exhaust myself
Trying to make things different.
Because I trust that You have it covered.
I might forget, and get stressed out.
So when I forget, please remind me.
There are so many ways you are present in my life.
Open my eyes to beauty. Open my heart to joy.
Grant me patience, and peace, understanding and acceptance.
I can’t control everything. And I really don’t want to.
So I’ll just leave it to You.
I’ll just let go, and let You do your thing.
One area that is often overlooked in the divorce process is the need to update estate planning. Most people would agree that their ex-spouse is the last person they want to inherit their assets when they die—or to have that person make life and death decisions for them. But that is exactly what can happen – and often does – when these documents are not updated.
By Linda and Charlie Bloom, authors of Happily Ever After…and 39 Other Myths about Love
When did the honeymoon end in your relationship? Was it the first time you realized that your mate wasn’t all you had hoped for? Or maybe it was when you discovered that sometimes their cheerful optimism could turn to resentment or depression for no apparent reason. Do you remember your first fight? How about the first time that you wondered whether you had made a mistake in your selection of a partner?
Many of us have had the experience of anger, frustration, hostility, or resentment more times than we care to admit. If you’re like a lot of people, you may have taken these feelings as an indication that something is seriously out of line in your relationship, so much so, perhaps that you may even be considering calling it quits. And if you’re human, you’ve probably attempted to influence your partner’s feelings, attitudes, or behaviors, only to discover that you’d now created a new problem.
Most of us spend between twelve and twenty years of our lives in school yet nowhere are we really taught the specific requirements of sustaining and enhancing the quality of our relationships. We hope and pray that despite our ignorance, we can make it work anyway. And when the inevitable conflicts arrive, we may find ourselves entrenched or embattled with each other.
Though conflict may not be avoidable in marriage, it is not necessarily a foreshadowing of doom. Differences in opinions, feelings, temperaments, and even values, are an inherent aspect of relationships. In fact, we generally select partners who will help us to expand our inner and outer lives by offering a broader range of perspectives to our own. Opening up to these opportunities for growth, however can be excruciatingly uncomfortable. Often it is easier to tell ourselves that “it’s just not meant to be.” And yet how many of us are acquainted with couples who called it quits in frustration, only to turn around and play out the same pattern with another person?
What if one of the objects of relationships is not to eliminate conflict, but to work with it in an effective, responsible and conscious way? What if each breakdown that occurred between you and your partner contained the seeds of the possibility of becoming a more loving and wise person? What if your experience of your relationship had more to do with you than it did with your partner? What if there were no mistakes or wrong choices in the selection of a mate, and you really do have the perfect partner for the lessons that you’re in this relationship to learn?
The purpose of these questions is to generate an inquiry and to begin the process of going beyond the models, expectations, and beliefs we each have about relationships in order to discover and create new possibilities. One of the biggest barriers in the development of a great partnership is our own set of preconceived beliefs about conflict and anger.
Observing the suffering of other couples who are struggling in their relationships, it’s easy to presume that things inevitably break down sooner or later and that for many of them, the breakdown is permanent. It’s easy to wonder, “Who’s next? Is it us?” The tendency to feel resignation and hopelessness in the face of fear is a choice, often made out of a desire to avoid looking more directly at some of the more difficult questions, such as:
- How might I have contributed to the current situation?
- What beliefs about myself or others might I be validating by holding on to my position?
- What is it that I’m so attached to being right about and why?
- What, if anything, might I have done that I need to reveal to my partner?
- What fears are underlying my fear of losing (or staying in) this relationship?
- What unfulfilled needs or desires have I failed to disclose to my partner, and why?
- What forms of manipulation have I used to try to coerce my partner into accommodating my desires?
- Am I making my partner responsible for fulfilling needs within myself that are my responsibility, and not theirs?
The common thread that runs through all of these questions is that they are all self-referential. They require us to redirect the focus of our attention away from our partner and look instead at ourselves, to look at our part in the chain of events that has led us to the point where we currently stand. Doing so does not absolve them of their responsibility in the breakdown, but it empowers us to focus our energies on the only person that we have the power to control in this scenario, and that is ourselves.
Taking our attention off of our partner will enable us to embody a higher level of vulnerability and encourage him or her to feel less defensive and consequently, more inclined to listen to our concerns and needs with a more conciliatory attitude. Such openness will promote a greater likelihood that our partner will reciprocate by responding more cooperative themselves, thus interrupting the cycle of defensiveness that turns ordinary differences into destructive conflict.
There is no guarantee that their response will be reciprocal. Our vulnerability is merely an invitation to them to respond with vulnerability. It is not assurance that such a response will be forthcoming, but it does increase the likelihood of them doing so. There is no better way to find out how willing your partner is to disarm himself than by modeling what this can look like by disarming yourself of your own defenses.
When we can interrupt these patterns, we can move beyond the concerns of day-to-day survival, and raise new questions having to do with greater possibilities such as “How great could our relationship really be?” Once we understand that there is so much more that is possible than we previously realized, old dreams are reawakened and new ones come into being along with a newfound confidence in our ability to implement them.
Paradoxically, it is only when we accept that there is no magic involved in the process of relationship-building, and no perfect person with whom we can effortlessly co-create the partnership of our dreams that we begin to experience the degree of ease and joy for which we may have previously hoped.
But first we need to free ourselves of our limiting beliefs and expectations. To find the partner of your dreams you first become the partner of your dreams. In so doing you will become more irresistible to that person that you have been waiting for, whether you haven’t met the person yet, or you’ve been married to them for thirty years!
Based on the book Happily Ever After…and 39 Other Myths about Love. Copyright © by Linda and Charlie Bloom. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com
Linda Bloom, LCSW, and Charlie Bloom, MSW, regularly teach at Esalen Institute and the Kripalu Center and have served as adjunct faculty at institutes of higher learning including UC Berkeley Extension, and California Institute for Integral Studies. They live in Santa Cruz, CA. Their website is www.Bloomwork.com.