Romantic Chemistry

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year!

If it’s working well you simply shift from a me to an us. That’s what relationships are. The couple is an entity unto itself. The mixture has a personality of its own and it routinely exhibits itself throughout the day, whether the couple is together or alone. But most of us get the management of this fact wrong. At least it’s for good reason.

732 Relax and Succeed - Until we have seen someone's darknessYou start as a baby and there isn’t even a world. Then you can see the world but there is no you—babies don’t recognize themselves in mirrors. Then you know you’re a you, after which you learn about property and ownership and then people start marketing to you and for a time you become an increasingly self-centered human being from roughly 13 to 21, and then—if you’re paying attention—you grow increasingly less self-centered in about seven to eight year increments, which is why a lot of people find the quality of their relationships improves as they age.

Your first loves are when you are most self-centered. So you’ll believe all the fairy tales and you’ll think your partner is the other half of your pre-written story. In the wealthy world that’s where she’s loved and seen as beautiful; and he’s envied and seen as strong, but the problems come when you try to turn that into a life because as soon as the other person doesn’t fulfill their part of your personal story, you feel they’ve failed and you break up. That’s why most relationships are so short when we’re younger.

This is due to how we choose to think about each other. When we first meet all we do is focus on all of the traits that are most important to us, plus however well the new person fills the particular holes left by the previous relationships. Any time you think that positively about anything you’ll be flooding your brain with the chemistry for awareness and gratitude and love—and it feels wonderful. But then…

732 Relax and Succeed - Maturity is when someone hurts youLife is busy, right? So life happens. And we get distracted. It used to be work was hidden at separate places and only fun was had together. Now we’re scheduling time together and there’s laundry and bill-paying and errands rather than all the fun. It’s domestic. It’s real. And it’s disappointing compared to where we were focusing our thoughts previously. And we’ll tend to start blaming the other person for that shift in our chemistry.

So now we’re focusing more on disappointing things and that’s what we’re talking to friends about, which just serves to lengthen the suffering unnecessarily. And eventually others and ourselves come to notice and focus on so many differences that we’ll wonder why we’re even with someone and we’ll leave. And yet the original person with all of their original qualities is still there, just waiting to be noticed. The only thing that makes it survivable is that both parties are variably doing it to each other.

When you’re younger you’re more absolute. If this person gets even one thing wrong then they are not your “soul mate” and so they must go. Then after a few painful losses we’re a bit more mature. We can see potential issues sooner so the drug isn’t such a dizzying high at the start and we stick it through one of those tough goes, have another good run for a while, and then break up on the second or third trouble spot. Which is fine because again for people that are paying attention: we learn from each of these.

732 Relax and Succeed - The Velveteen RabbitLater we’re older and wiser. Plus as we age we know we both have more invested in our lives with each other so there’s more to lose and less time to make up the difference. Sometimes that makes us stay when we shouldn’t. Other times it makes us try a bit harder to make things work and sometimes that’s why it does.

I know a couple that get along stunningly well for about seven weeks and then they’re absolutely certain they need to divorce immediately. That lasts less than a week and they’re back in touch with why they fell in love. In fact, they’re particularly good at noticing each other’s qualities during those other seven weeks. So the wisdom that keeps their relationship healthy is half gratitude and half patience. Because now when the blow-up happens, deep down they both know that it’s a pattern and that it will go away when they change their thinking. They just have to wait. That’s a mature relationship. That’s people who know how to forgive. That’s what love looks like in the trenches.

It’s not easy being loved. Most of us tell stories to ourselves about ourselves that lead us to believe that we can’t possibly deserve to be truly loved and so we fight against it in strange ways. Again, if we’re paying attention and are being introspective we’ll learn over time that everyone is fallible and we too are as deserving of love as anyone else. By genuinely feeling that way we become vulnerable and thereby open ourselves up to the greatest sensations of love we will have ever known.

732 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes you forgive peopleGo into every relationship knowing that your brain chemistry will naturally shift after seven or eight straight months of thinking wonderful things about the other person. When it changes don’t panic. Don’t think something’s wrong with your relationship when all that’s happened is that there’s been a natural and necessary shift to your thinking. Nothing can stay new and exciting when you see it every day.

Accept that trouble will happen and it’ll only be as meaningful as you make it. Remember that when you’re struggling you’ll want to control your partner’s behaviour—you’ll want to define their role in your life. And as soon as you can see yourself doing that you can consciously shift toward thinking about your partner’s many qualities instead. You’re not stupid. You were attracted to them for a good reason.

Be patient. Be understanding. And be grateful. Do those things as much as possible and that’s as good a recipe for a great relationship as any. And don’t be surprised if it takes a lifetime to learn just that.

Now go create a great day by appreciating the qualities of your partner and everyone else around you. And don’t forget to include you too.

Much love, s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organisations around the world.

Other Perspectives #68

686 OP-R Relax and Succeed - When you start seeing your worthIt’s a holiday here in Canada so I hope you have the day off and can spend it with your loved ones. In today’s Other Perspectives I discuss that very thing—how to spend healthy time with your loved ones. Because a lot of people have a lot of misconceptions about what a good, healthy, long-lasting relationship looks like.

Enjoy.

peace. s

Other Perspectives #67

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There’s a lot of hormones raging in any teenager so it’s not surprising the boys are prone to cheating and the girls are prone to drama. But there is no direct relationship between your care for someone else and their care for you. It’s not like a bank machine where you put your care in and then later you withdraw it. You each come with your own upbringings and your own tendencies in terms of how you were taught to deliver love (gifts, time, touch, talking, assistance etc.). It would be incredibly unlikely if both parties gave equally or in the same ways. For instance, if a guy had a distant, non-demonstrative father who never gave gifts then the guy is likely to be the sort of person who never buys a birthday card or gives a massage or barely says I love you. She can think he doesn’t love her but then the same guy can be solid and enduring during chemotherapy or with a very sick child. Likewise a woman who doesn’t show much affection or offer much attention to her partner can still be a remarkable partner to have during the death of a family member or for the most trusted of duties. You should be with people because of how they are in the world, not because they tick off a bunch of boxes in some magazine or off some list created by your friends. Your partner is not in a movie performing a romantic role for you. Your partner is a person with their own drives, interests and values and personality. The differences between you can coincide and be very compatible and helpful to both people. But you’ll still both routinely fail to meet each others expectations. But that’s not them failing. That’s you expecting. That’s not their problem, that’s yours. Lose the expectations and you’ll lose the pain too. Let people be who they are, don’t tell them what to do, but be fully yourself and that will make you an enjoyable person to be with. After that the rest will take care of itself.

peace. s

Other Perspectives #56

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Do you see that if you do something just because someone told you that you couldn’t, that you’ve still let them control your actions? This is why teenagers often come into conflict. A very low percentage of them will be aware of the fact that in their brain’s attempt to feign independence (no happy person is every truly independent), all they are doing is simply the opposite of their parents, teachers, coach whatever. They have no choice but to just choose the opposite because they are too young to have any nuanced references on what all of their choices must even be—and so they start at the only place they can—the opposite of whatever their oh-so-uncool parents would choose. And so if you want to be like the relatively short Martin St. Louis, and win the Most Valuable Player in the series that wins your team the championship, then that’s great because you’re using another person’s opinion to motivate you to achieve a goal that’s yours. But if you’re just doing it because you were told not to then that is what immaturity still looks like. If you want to know just how different the world can be just do some travelling. And if you’re too young for that, just start dating. If you’re in North America you’ll know something’s up as soon as Thanksgiving rolls around and you learn that your date’s Mom puts (or doesn’t put) raisins in the stuffing. Dating is usually the first real comparison we get they helps us understand how individualized the culture in each family actually is. So we don’t want to choose things just because they’re the opposite of what another person would choose, but we do want to become aware of as many of our choices as possible so that we can use all of the wisdom gained by all the world to help you find your way to the source of deep and abiding peace. Have a wonderful week!

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

Other Perspectives #37

Winner: Scott’s Top Other Perspectives of 2014 #1

510 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Someday you will find the one

Orand here’s Scott being all harsh and everything again—or you might stay single your whole life. Yep. Sorry. Could happen. And you know what? That could easily be a wonderful, full, rich life filled with love and tenderness. But it still might not include a “permanent” relationship. In fact it’s that very concept that gets so many people in their 30’s and 40’s to throw away their lives while they analyze their existence against some impossible invented standard. Then they end up feeling like they’re failing when really they’re just being human. You’re not supposed to be in a relationship, you want to be in one. Well as this blog has clearly stated many times, wanting creates suffering whereas gratitude creates love. So it’s not the lack of a relationship that’s painful—it’s the fact that you want one. Stop waiting for your life to start after this or that event takes place. There is no destiny. You create it with the verb of your life. You have free will. Create a life. Make choices. Move forward. Live boldly. Do that and you will feel the love that is the basis of our universe, and there is no greater love than that.

peace. s

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