1. Understanding Self
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotleadvertisement - learn more
Like most things we do in life the first step always begins with how we relate to ourselves as humans and how comfortable we are with ourselves. We have a far better chance to share more meaningful relationships with others if we are at peace with ourselves. As humans we spend much of our time engaging in trivial or superficial dialogue and not in deeper more meaningful conversation, we exist at this artificial level of consciousness. At such a superficial level we find it difficult to experience our ultimate feeling of connection and communion with others. Only upon silent reflection and understanding of ourselves can we begin to let go and let others enter our lives without fear, prejudice and preconceived ideas. We continually evolve during the course of our lives. We develop and grow at a physical, emotional and spiritual level. We are products of our past experiences, unfortunately too often we let these control how we react to situations and relationships. We must come to the realisation that we are able to consciously control how we engage with others. Often we see people coming out of poor relationships only to fall back into the trap of having the same experiences again. This cycle of dependency and patterning can see people in destructive and unhappy relationships for many years, decades and often lifetimes.
To love someone and find happiness we must achieve inner contentment with who we are and what we believe. It is only when we are content within ourselves that we are able to release the expectations we would otherwise place on others. We are free to love unconditionally when we are free from our ‘ego’ centred self. So how do we truly get to know and love ourselves?
2. Letting Go of Fear & Insecurity
“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” – William James
Have you ever entered into a relationship because at the time you thought it would make you happy? Be honest. You were a little unsatisfied with life and in need of something to bring some variety or distraction into your life. We look for relationships that will enhance our lives in the hope that they will bring us a multitude of different feelings and experiences. Our thoughts can sabotage any hope of a truly meaningful connection if we see relationships as something that seek to bring us happiness. Until we realise that happiness comes from within and that relationships are but a common and enriching sharing of experiences, then we will always struggle to have meaningful long-term relationships. Needing someone to add value to our lives is a sure way of dooming any relationship. By understanding our ego needs we can let go of any need to seek satisfaction by grasping to others to fulfil these needs. Until we understand no one can complete us and make us truly happy we will always be living a life of turbulence. Others can enrich our world, yet it is ultimately up to us to find inner happiness and contentment. A sure way to destroy any relationship is to harbour fear and insecurity in a relationship. Inner happiness can only be found within. Any reliance on others to bring us happiness will be short term at best or will eventually lead to disappointment.
3. Living Without Expectations
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust
What do you expect from any relationship? Love? Security? The feeling of being needed? An underlying cause of relationship failures, whether people are aware of it or not, is that they enter into relationships based on expectation. That is, they enter into the relationship hoping to receive something in return. Relationship breakdowns often occur because people rarely discuss their expectations prior to entering into a relationship. Too often we enter relationships and want to change something about the other person to suit our ego model of how things ‘should be.’ Many couples have ‘requirements’ for potential partners. These may include such things as appearance, social standing, employment criteria, so on and so forth. I am not advocating that we find a partner we have nothing in common with. It does make sense to look deeper than the ‘ego related’ requirements we look for in our relationships. We must ask ourselves, are we using our relationships purely to satisfy the ego? Expectation can be the killer of relationships, with undue influence, pressure and demands creating relationship tensions. We must learn to let the other person be who they are and free from our expectations.
4. Communicating Effectively
“Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.” – Richard Bach
According to Doctors Lonnie Barbach & Linda Levine in their book, ‘Shared Intimacy,’ “Good communication in a relationship is similar to a solid foundation for a house. If a house is built with a strong foundation, it will be able to withstand the stress caused by such natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes. Even if the rest of the house is damaged or destroyed, if the foundation is solid the house can be rebuilt.” Direct and honest communication leaves no doubt to the meaning of communicative interactions. Being able to share problems and issues within a relationship helps build a stronger bond between partners and stimulate a deeper more meaningful relationship. Participating equally in the communication process by listening and interacting, creates an atmosphere of two way communication.
While poor communication underlies many of the destructive forces that harm and ruin relationships, positive communication plays an important part in helping build and sustain meaningful relationships. Over time, the day-to-day reality of living, responsibilities and family commitments, allows familiarity and complacency to creep into our relationships. When this happens it is easy to start taking our partner for granted. A combination of familiarity and stress may create unnecessary conflict within a relationship. These conflicts may be short lived or ongoing and can be the foundation for relationship decline. It is imperative to have a firm understanding of our partner’s communication style so we can consciously appreciate each other fully as human beings. How do you communicate with others and what are the communication styles of your loved ones? While everyone has slightly different communication styles a simple way to ensure you maintain and foster healthy communication is to put yourself in the other persons shoes. Think about how you would like to be treated.
5. Unconditional Love
“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
The foundation of all great relationships is based on unconditional love. Unconditional love is when we give love and in return want nothing back. It is caring about the happiness of another person without any need for reciprocation. It is something sages, mystics, artists and great leaders have talked about throughout the millennia. It is the greatest power on earth, yet in this modern world of excess we struggle to understand how to give unconditionally. It is a powerful force that can change everything. Unconditional love is free of restrictions or expectations as nothing is expected in return. A classic example can be seen in parenting. A parent may love their child unconditionally and while the feeling may be reciprocated by the child, the parent’s love will endure regardless of how the child feels, behaves or acts. It is seeking the best for others and understanding that they need to be free and make their own choices. It is not judging others regardless of their decisions and actions.
6. Honesty the Best Policy
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most effective ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” – Stephen R. Covey
It goes without saying that one of the keys to a successful relationship is honesty, openness and mutual trust. Honesty builds trust which is essential for enduring relationships of any kind. The trust of another is the most important thing we can ever receive from another. Not only does it help develop confidence and respect for the other person, it establishes life long bonds. A strong relationship through sincere honesty can endure almost anything. If strong communication is the foundation of a good relationship, then honesty is the cement that holds it together. In honest relationships we are open and frank with each other and hold nothing back. Our honesty sets us free from guilt, worry and any other form of potential sabotage we can bring forth to destroy our relationships. Any relationship that does not harbour honesty will eventually cause stress, grief and suffering to one or both parties. Intimacy is lost when people are not completely open and honest with each other. Once trust has been broken it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to restore. When everything is shared, people can experience relaxed, comfortable and more complete interactions with others. With intimacy comes a deep connection, understanding and knowledge of each other. This sharing of feelings, experiences and communication is the ultimate expression of love and makes for happy and fulfilling relationships
7. Freedom to be Yourself and Let Others be Themselves
“Love is the only freedom in the world because it so elevates the spirit that the laws of humanity and the phenomena of nature do not alter its course.” – Kahlil Gibran
As we have mentioned previously, expectation is often a heavy burden that weighs down and places undue pressure on relationships. The opposite of expectation is unconditional love, as this allows complete freedom from any rules, regulation, mandates or conditional behaviours. We place conditional expectations on people often without realising. We may want to spend more time with a partner, we may prefer they didn’t do certain activities, we may want certain feelings returned from a relationship and we often send messages of disapproval in many non-verbal ways. By remembering that a relationship is a two way street and we must take into account what others feel and wish for in a relationship. By requesting or pushing for certain things from a relationship, we are effectively trying to change the behaviour of others. Freedom in a relationship, be it an intimate interpersonal relationship, a friendship, or a working relationship, promotes trust, respect and provides an environment for happy and enduring relationships to blossom.
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