LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH

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Whereas love is necessary and awesome, unfortunately it is not sufficient by itself to make for a healthy-enough relationship where two people can be happy enough.

Beyond love, another thing that a relationship needs in order to work, is trust.  When trust is betrayed, as it sometimes is in relationships, it needs to be repaired and rebuilt.  If there is no hope for rebuilt trust, all the love in the world isn’t going to make up for the essential trust that is needed.

Being able to communicate effectively is another thing that a relationship needs.  To be able to listen, understand, validate, empathize, and apologize are very helpful skills in a relationship, as are being able to express oneself calmly without blame.

Sometimes people find themselves chronically extremely unhappy in an unhealthy relationship but feel compelled to stay in it because “we love each other”.  As well as the love, there needs to be some realistic hope that things can get better with working on it.  Unfortunately, two people can love each other a lot and yet both be miserable together.

There is no relationship, from very dysfunctional to very healthy, that is all good or all bad.  There is always some good, and there is always some bad.  Therefore, being able to identify some good is not a good reason to stay in a relationship that is mostly bad, a relationship where there is no realistic hope of things becoming “good enough”.  Everybody deserves “more than crumbs”.

Because ending a relationship is a big decision, it should not be made impulsively from a place of anger.  Rather, from a calm place, one needs to reflect on the relationship from a distance and with objectivity, to determine if there is realistic hope for things to improve enough, what is needed, and if one has energy to invest on working on it.  This process needs to be repeated over some time; in other words one needs to “sleep on it”.

Some people have trouble ending a relationship because of fear of being on their own.  They often equate being single with being unloveable/unloved.  This is completely untrue.  You are loveable, loved, and good enough whether you are in a romantic relationship or not.  You are whole and complete whether you are in a romantic relationship or not.

Sometimes people stay in a relationship even though they don’t want to stay in it. It may be because of feeling guilty to leave, or fear of hurting the other person.  These, too, are not good reasons for staying in a relationship.  Staying for the wrong reasons can result in more hurt down the road.  You wouldn’t leave a relationship in order to hurt someone.  You would only be going separate ways because you don’t believe you can be happy in that relationship.  Feeling that way does not make you a bad person.  You can communicate in a kind and loving way.  The involvement of pain and sadness does not make a decision a wrong one.  Sometimes, a person doesn’t want to end a relationship unless the partner agrees with him/her.  The partner may be in a different place.  It is OK to agree to disagree.  Again, you are not a bad person to feel the way you do.  It is OK for it to be a unilateral decision.

Long term relationships are always challenging at some time.  One needs a sense of commitment to work through the challenges and difficulties that come along.  As long as there is hope for improvement, it is great to keep working on improving a relationship.  It is an ongoing journey.

Trouble in relationships is a frequent contributor to people’s unhappiness.  Also, trouble in a marriage often negatively affects kids’ wellbeing.  Because your happiness is important, it is worth working on your relationships rather than just letting problems remain unresolved.

Not attending to your relationship on a regular basis is like never doing any maintenance on your car.  It’s not surprising to find either the car or the relationship no longer working down the road. Real relationships are not like those portrayed in Hollywood or fairy tales, where love is enough and they live happily ever after.  Real relationships are challenging and need ongoing work.  There is a Sufi blessing at weddings that goes:  “May your troubles begin”.  This is not a curse, but rather an acknowledgement of reality, with an understanding that with overcoming those troubles, the newlyweds will grow, as will their relationship.

Here are some ways of working on your relationship:  Work on giving your partner what you are needing.  Chances are that your partner is also needing the same things.  And you’ll find yourself getting those things yourself.  Try to be generous of spirit, and do or say loving things.  Express appreciation, even for little things.  Try your best to live by the Golden Rule:  treat your partner the way you would like to be treated.  It is very helpful to communicate your feelings, needs, and requests calmly.

These recommendations are applicable to other kind of relationships as well. Obviously help from a professional is also available.  Professionals are all people and none is the same as another. So if one wasn’t a good fit for you, another one could be.

Contrary to what one might wish, problems do not tend to spontaneously disappear.  Instead, a gulf between two people can grow as unaddressed problems accumulate.  You don’t want to let that happen to you and your relationships. Fortunately there is a great deal you can do to make things much better for you, the other person, and the space between the two of you.

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IT WAS NOT LACK OF LOVE

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We have all been hurt in relationships, whether it be with our parents, siblings, friends or romantic partners.  Understandably, we have each, at times, been left feeling unloved.

Whereas the other’s action, or lack of action, was indeed hurtful or even unacceptable, the real cause for their behavior was  not that they did not care, as it may have seemed.  The reason for their behavior can better be seen in relation to their own issues and also to the circumstances – the things that influence the space between two people.  Relatedly, dynamics in the relationship, in other words the dance between their issues and yours, can definitely be a factor.

For example, a husband can love his wife very much yet forget their anniversary because of being highly stressed and preoccupied at work.  A partner or parent may be emotionally unavailable because he/she doesn’t know how to be better engaged.  A person with depression may not get something done that his partner has asked for, and may be less interested in sex, not due to lack of love, but due to the depression.  When a parent is repeatedly angry at a child, it is natural for the child to feel unloved, but the problem may be the parent feeling stressed and not coping well, not lack of love for the child.

It is a very important truth to work with that it was not lack of love, because it is good news.  It feels much better to feel loved rather than feeling unloved.  It helps us feel the truth that we are loveable and deserve good treatment.  Just because we got bad treatment does not mean that we deserve it.

People behave badly because of feeling badly.  Their behavior says something about them at that time.   Recognizing a separation between someone’s behavior and our own self worth allows us to be much less upset. This stance encourages us to get unstuck from the past and move on. It makes it easier to forgive, and to repair.  Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, we legitimately should not trust the other person enough and may need to maintain varying amounts of distance.  But with this important truth, we are no longer taking the other person’s behavior personally.  It seems very personal, but it isn’t.

MANY KINDS OF TEARS

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Tears are often treated in our culture as something negative.  People often apologize for their tears.  Sometimes people hide their tears, or are embarrassed by them.  And sometimes people are afraid of them, thinking, for example, that if they cry, they might be becoming depressed.  Others, perhaps more so in males and certain cultures, tend to judge tears as a sign of weakness.

Paradoxically, when you think about it, there is nothing strong about being too afraid to feel or show your pain.  It actually takes courage and strength to feel emotional pain, or other intense emotions.  Feeling a range of human emotions is one way of feeling alive.

Tears of despair can be part of depression, or can be a passing experience.  Tears of sadness, grieving the loss of someone or something, are very different than despair.  They are a healthy experience, with no associated false belief.  They are a normal reaction to loss, and loss is a normal part of life for everyone.  This “clean” sadness, and compassion for one’s self or for another, mean that you care a lot.  These are healthy, often healing and beautiful tears.

Another common type of lovely tears are tears of relief.  Relief is a wonderful experience of letting go of fear, worry, and tension.  Relief is a gift to be enjoyed when it comes along.

Tears of joy are also wonderful.  Joy is one of the great experiences of life.

People can be touched or moved to tears by love, whether they’re feeling intense love, or feeling loved.  Is there anything greater than that?  Is there anything wrong with that?

People can also heave tears with hurt, fear, or with anger.

So whether you’re experiencing tears or witnessing them, don’t assume you understand them.  Sometimes our emotional reaction appears before we understand what we are feeling.  So take your time, and be curious, and the understanding will come to you on its own.  Don’t try to figure it out with your thinking, as you might come up with a wrong assumption.

Obviously, there is nothing weak about being human and experiencing the range of human emotions.  Self acceptance with all our emotions is so important and healthy.

It would be a good thing if our culture were more sensitized to tears as part of healthy living.

THE MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP

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The most important relationship you have or will ever have is with yourself.

This is because a) your relationship with yourself is central to how you experience life,

b) it affects how you live your life, and

c)  it’s the only relationship you have control over.

Your relationship with yourself is central to how you experience life.  Broadly speaking, you can only experience feeling loved by another to the extent that you love yourself.  If you feel largely unloveable, you can be surrounded by enormous amounts of love, but will be unable to trust it and feel it.  Likewise, if you have trouble seeing and appreciating the positive in yourself, heartfelt compliments coming your way won’t be able to get through to you as you won’t be able to receive them.  You may tell yourself that the person giving the compliment doesn’t know you well enough, that you don’t deserve it, or you might minimize it and take it for granted.  Others might place their trust in you, but if you don’t trust yourself, you will continue to doubt and question yourself.   If you tend to believe, even at an unconscious level, that you are bad and have been chosen to suffer or be punished, you may tend to expect the negative in your life and you may tend to focus on the negative rather than the positive. You may tend to feel self-pity and be angry at the unfairness of life.  You may be good at judging and punishing yourself.

How you see yourself affects how you live your life. Not valuing yourself or feeling worthy can result in a host of serious effects, including not taking good care of yourself physically and emotionally. It can lead to not exercising, abusing your body, having poor boundaries, easily giving up on yourself, being reckless, not having goals, being apathetic, and so on.  If you don’t feel that you are worthy of good treatment, you may end up having difficulty engaging fully with those who treat you well, and instead find yourself involved with people who don’t treat you well.   Of course, this is often at an unconscious level.  Asking for respect is less effective if you’re not treating yourself with respect.

Your relationship with yourself is the only one you really have control over. Ultimately, we do not have control over anyone else.   Regardless of how wonderful anyone is or how much he or she loves you, another person is always going to have the capacity to let you down, by virtue of being human, and because of difficult to control circumstances.  It is actually very helpful to be aware of this, in order to have realistic expectations.  But if you have healthy self love, you are more likely to not take such disappointments personally, and can continue to feel loved without as much or perhaps without any upset.  For example, if someone forgets your birthday, you might understand that it is because of their circumstances, rather than feeling unimportant to them and feeling hurt and angry.  When you accept yourself the way you are, you lose the fear of being judged by others and the misperception that there is a lot of judgement happening.  You take your power back.  If someone judges you, it’s their business and their problem.  When we can be so easily negatively influenced by others’ judgement, perceived or real, we are giving away our power. So having a good relationship with yourself will make you much more resilient, and less easily upset.

Because your relationship with yourself is so crucially important, it’s well worth nurturing.