Relationship Rules

1001-relax-and-succeed-in-obedience-there-is-always-fearJealous people didn’t just randomly pick up jealousy as a habit–it got taught to them. In general they’ll have witnessed it or had some very bad experiences relating to the damage that can be caused by cheating. These are painful experiences and they are worthy of our respect, but respecting a jealous person’s experience isn’t the same as living inside of it. No one owns a relationship, we share them.

It doesn’t matter how many rings we exchange, how many contracts from the government we sign nor how many people were present in a pointy building when we made our promises, the fact remains that real relationships are always, 100% of the time, voluntary. You cannot police a relationship into being secure; that is the opposite of respecting the person’s ability to make their own choices. We can lock a person in a room and never let anyone else see them and we still can’t force them to love us if that’s not what we’ve been nurturing with our behaviour.

A person dealing with someone scarred by jealousy is like being a dog that’s been beaten by its owner. Without the trust the relationship quickly deteriorates as the dog’s anticipation of a positive experience is replaced by fears of a negative one. The owner’s rules for the dog can be entirely logical; they can be about safety and responsibility and good behaviour, but if the price for failing is a verbal or physical beating then the dog will cower and the relationship will begin to fail.

1001-relax-and-succeed-love-is-always-bestowedFailure isn’t imminent. Just as a dog can be beaten and left for dead, and as many rescue dogs have proven, consistent love, care and respect can return them to their naturally loving state, but if the behaviour of the owner is inconsistent between love and threat then the dog is still left uncertain, unsafe and disconnected. Even if the treatment is good 95% of the time, how’s the person or dog know when the other 5% is? They have to be on guard all the time. It’s exhausting. We can’t threaten anyone into good behaviour we can only encourage it with our own good behaviour.

Whether it’s done overtly or in a manipulative manner, the rules jealous partners try to exert are doomed to fail simply because they are imposed rather than chosen. We can’t make anyone feel anything they’re not prepared to feel, not with logic, not with begging and not with the force of threat. We can feel sympathy for the jealous person’s plight; we all have our crosses to bear, but our early life is only where we start. As mature people our job is to look honestly upon the world and ask ourselves which lessons we took from life that are fruitful and which are poisonous.

Jealous relationships always end, whether the person stays or goes. The only way to save them is to remove the jealousy, it cannot be managed with rules or promises or absolutes. We either show our respect for someone by trusting them or we show them disrespect by not trusting them. Obviously disrespect, however understandably motivated, is never going to generate increased love in a relationship. Instead it will strangle it.

1001-relax-and-succeed-however-the-tea-is-preparedIn this quote the Dalai Lama expresses that the rituals of religion are pointless without a foundation of compassion. Likewise, direct or implied rules in a relationship are effectively meaningless. What’s needed is compassion and connection. You can either be a person the dog is happy to see or someone they’re afraid to see and that won’t depend on words or promises, it’ll depend on behaviour.

I normally use the word “human” rather than “owner,” but I wanted to make a point. Rules are like a rope. They might keep the dog in the yard but that’s not the same as the dog wanting to be in the yard because it’s so great to be there. In one case if the dog gets loose it happily stays, in the other it just keeps running.

A relationship must be nurtured to stay alive. People just don’t fall in love and then love solves all their issues. Relationships aren’t cars that we fix when they’re broken, they’re things we cultivate and maintain. You can mistreat a car for years and then spend a lot of money and you can get it running like new, mistreat your dog and it might take a lifetime for them to trust anyone again.

peace. s

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

Insecure Relationships

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #3

900 Relax and Succeed - Being possessive about a personWhen I was a teenager I had the same girlfriend for five years. For four and half of those years–as amazing as it sounds–we quite literally didn’t have a single argument. I had this clarity that everyone else thought was weirdness and she had a humility that made her look like the sanest person on Earth to me. That was a long time ago and we’re still best friends today.

I said four and a half of five years because the last six months of that I went through a growth spurt that made my legs ache horribly every night, I got little sleep, and because I didn’t know about testosterone at the time I would seemingly get mad at nothing. I’d never had it happen before. I could track where my emotions came from, but here were some that were simply part of being human. I had to ride them like a cowboy in a rodeo and it taught me to feel sympathetic about the hormone cycles women experience every month.

This all lead to about a year of feeling very suspicious and angry. For the first time in my life I was jealous. I could meditate on my anger and disassemble it after the fact, but I had very little control when it came to my immediate reaction. I did not like it at all. Fortunately the best friend was smart enough to leave and I worked hard to better myself and eventually that cloak of frustrated energy naturally lifted and we reconnected. It was a big relief. Jealousy or insecurity in a relationship is one of the most damaging forces you can encounter.

900 Relax and Succeed - Marriage won't stop a cheaterThere is no way for the other person to win with a suspicious mind. The suspicious mind will have reasoning behind it how it feels. Maybe they saw one parent cheat on the other and they blame that for the ruin of the other parent, so they’re watching closely to ensure it doesn’t happen to them. They idea is that they will be able to self-validate the reasoning, but that doesn’t mean a lack of trust is helpful to any relationship.

If you don’t have trust that can be for good reasons or less productive ones. But even if you have good reasons, no trust is essentially no relationship. Unhealthy people are held together by obligations and even threats, whereas the healthy kind of human relationship is one that’s naturally attractive, magnetic and safe.

We’re not complicated creatures. We go where we thrive. If we don’t go where we thrive, we wilt. A relationship is not something you can protect, it is only something you can reinforce with love and positive feelings. They aren’t about keeping other people out, they’re near-constant invitations to be in.

900 Relax and Succeed - If you love a flowerLook at your life. Do people do things for you because they love you or because they feel they have to? Because if you’re laying down “rules” for another human being then you’re misunderstanding deep relationships. They have no rules. No one is supposed to be anything except happy. That’s how unconditional love works.

You can have all the commitment in the world and still fight all the time. Commitment is like a rope tying something down. Love is like the sun. It doesn’t hold anyone in place it just promotes growth in the direction of its warmth by making sure the other person is showered in enough light to ensure they have all they need to help them fully realise themselves. Relationships are not about what you need, they’re about what you give.

peace. s

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

Leaving a Cheater

They had moved their lives and their family halfway around the world together. They were a team. They had been married for 15 years. Most people thought they had a great marriage and he did too. And then he found out his wife had been lying to him. There was a boyfriend. Heather didn’t mean for him to find out but it came out in something she said. She didn’t notice that she had accidentally given something away. And Nigel didn’t say anything for the first while. He used that time to gather information.

777 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes good things fall apartAnd gather it he did. Once he started looking he noticed that the clues were all over the place. Unfortunately, as jealous people prove–you can develop quite a list of clues that turn out to be false if you’re looking for them. So even 90% of his clues weren’t actually clues at all, but he did find a half-dozen actual things.

So Nigel would think about those six real things plus the 5o or so he imagined and he could tell himself story after painful story–which he did. Over and over, and he was more and more hurt, and that made him angrier and angrier. And while his anger was masked it still came out pretty clearly if you weren’t Nigel. Heather certainly noticed. He was eating away at her. He was criticising her body. He wanted her to feel insecure. If she was going to be naked with someone else he wanted her to waste it being worried.

He thought about moving back to Britain but he couldn’t do that to the kids. As angry as he was he wasn’t crazy–this was about his relationship with her, not hers and the kids. That was a separate issue and he knew full well he wanted her guidance and influence in the kids lives and that they loved her. But this hurt and hurt people hurt people. So they both suffered.

777 Relax and Succeed - Love is what we are born withHe never did define what he was waiting for, but eventually those silent resentments built up and Nigel exploded in a totally uncharacteristic way. He stormed around, threw things, called a rental company and was loading a truck all in the same day. It was extremely dramatic. And when he was gone he was totally gone.

The kids were obviously completely broken up about the breakup and it made perfect sense that at their age and the way they would be able to understand things–it would almost inevitably lead to them blaming their mother, which in turn meant them choosing to live with their father. In another city.

So there he is. Away from someone that up until a short time ago he loved. She was also his main support even though he’d barely noticed that part. Not that she had noticed that he was doing likewise for her either. Now it’s two years later, the kids have mostly forgiven their mom and they’re better for it. And he’s realized he had been somewhat inattentive to his wife prior to her affair which ended anyway. Now she’s single and he’s still alone too–too scared to get hurt like that again. And he’s still trying to find a way to forgive her so he can do what he calls moving on. That’s how he described it to the ancient Chinese guy who taught his Tai Chi class.

777 Relax and Succeed - Forgiveness is not something we do for other people“I am sorry. I do not understand.” The accent was Chinese but this guy went to a British-style English upper class school in Hong Kong. The serenity about him was undeniable. “What do you mean by overcoming? And moving on?”

“You know, that moment where how you feel about something–about someone–changes…? Then you can forgive the person because you see what happened differently so you can move on.”

The Tai Chi teacher seemed confused and it was obvious. “I see.”

“I just have to wait until I can see this–thing–in this certain way and then I can get back to living my life.”

The old man laughed. “1980. John Lennon. Double Fantasy. Beautiful Boy. The song is four minutes twelve seconds. ‘Life is just what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

777 Relax and Succeed - Too many people go through life“That’s my problem, I can’t make any plans until I put this behind me.”

“Then you have plans to put that behind you, and until you succeed at your plan you refuse to move forward.”

“Not refuse. Can’t.”

“Mr. Nigel. You are a very good student. You learn Tai Chi well but you are very mechanical. Your motions are individual. You must learn to flow.”

“I’m not sure I….” 

The old man just looked at him for a good long while. “I’ve have been alive a very long time Mr. Nigel. My own life does not include the moment you have told me about. And I know if I never needed such a moment, and most of the people I know never needed one, then neither do you.”

“But then what do I do?”

777 Relax and Succeed - We are not held back“If there is nothing left to do with your past then you are free to make a plan and begin taking the steps of your future.”

Nigel slumped. He felt weak. The old man put his hand on Nigel’s back. “But how do I get over what happened and feel better?”

“You leave it in the past. You don’t bring old opponents into today’s battles. You fill your mind with other things. I remember when I met you you told me about an old car you wanted to restore?”

“I haven’t felt good enough to do it.”

“You have not felt good because you’ve been thinking about the worst events of your life. May I suggest you may have been happier working on the car. Our life is our own responsibility Mr. Nigel. No one gives us a good life. We each must fight our own opponents and win our own battles. But between the battles is the time for living.”

777 Relax and Succeed - Life is too shortAnd Nigel got it. He really did. He’d misunderstood. He was waiting for a lightning bolt of insight. A stroke of wisdom that allowed him to understand. Understand what happened. But the stroke of insight wasn’t about the events from years ago. Of course that would always be what it was. The insight was that he misunderstood literally how to live. He was trying to figure out how to have it always be okay and instead he realized he was just supposed to respond wisely to it not being okay.

And from that day forward Nigel responded to feeling badly by doing more of the things he enjoyed. He was not only a lot happier, but it resulted in more women finding him attractive and him eventually finding a new partner that easily kept his mind off his problems–and on top of that, on weekends they got to drive around Nigel’s sunflower yellow 1948 Ford Coupe.

Now go build your life’s a hot rod. 😉

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Rekindling Love

I often write about how there’s pretty much both a new physical and a new psychological You ever 8 years or so. This means every married couple essentially has to get spiritually remarried each time one of them goes through these phases. You have to re-choose your renewed partner. And because people often marry people close to their own age that also means that both people are going through their tumultuous times at roughly the same time. That can make essentially good things look pretty bad.

768 Relax and Succeed - We do not see things as they areAdding to this mix is the fact that these questions usually start getting asked during a crisis, like when someone has let their partner down in a very significant way by cheating, lying, stealing or generally undermining their long term confidence. Then it’s possible for one or the other people to actually feel they have fallen out of love. Fortunately this isn’t actually possible in the spiritual sense so there’s no need to panic but you do need to proceed with wisdom. Divorcing isn’t just ending your marriage. It’s changing your entire financial life, it’ll change all of your friendships and it will make you a completely different person.

If you truly stand for entirely different things–if people aren’t happy together in the most fundamental ways then they should split. But if they’re just experiencing the inevitable bumps and challenges that go with debt and aging and family and career and decision-making and the general angst that naturally goes with each age, then that’s just the stuff you covered in your wedding vows. Remember? You were supposed to endure some hard parts too. Otherwise a lot of people end up regretting that they left something only to find themselves right back in a similar situation eight years later, often with a person who is less dedicated than the one we left. The trick is, how do you know which situation is which?

It’s actually not that hard. You just have to be in the right state of mind to make the decision. If your mind is full of thoughts then you’re lost in ego and you will make an egos decision. That includes pro and con lists, fantasies of possible futures etc. etc. If you choose what you want, or if you choose based on what you don’t like, then those thoughts will dictate your life. Buf if you’re aware of the love that exists between all people then you’re in a healthy state and there’s no egocentric repulsion or revulsion or repellant. You can see each person beautifully and clearly. If you decide to go elsewhere from that state of mind then go. But if you decide before you re-establish that loving connection then you are making your decision from an egocentric perspective and it is more likely to lead to a lesson than a reward.

768 Relax and Succeed - Let's not forgetDepending on who you ask the Greeks had six types of love. If you can establish even one of them with your partner you will be able to see them clearly. From that state you can make a quality decision. So what are your options in terms of how to feel about the person you’re considering reconnecting with?

Unless the situation is unusual you probably won’t use Storge, which is familial love. And you’re trying to reconnect to Eros–romantic or intimate love–so you won’t use that either. But you can experience Philia, which is akin to open and loving friendship (among other things). Or even better would be Agape, which is that impersonal love we feel for our fellow man–the love the religious describe as God’s love. Each is without judgment. Once we can see our partner without any judgment then we are left with a better sense of what form our connection should take in the outside world.

These can feel like terrifying times. But like Ukemi in judo, if we remain very aware then we can end up better off for having fallen or failed. Once we are not afraid of what is happening our resisting thoughts leave us in peace. We make friends with the present moment and in doing so we gain access to the sort of wisdom that will lead us to answers we can feel are the right ones for the person we are in this moment.

If you’re seeking wisdom, be in love. Look at the world with clear vision. And then choose your path. Either way you’ll find joy and heartache. You can do no wrong. Be at peace.

Much love, s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Scott’s Top Other Perspectives of 2014 #2

716 OPY Relax and Succeed  - The path through trouble

You get to vote on your favourite blogs at the end of each year, but those aren’t always the ones that I felt were my best work. So this year, to ensure your summer reading is of high quality while I’m on my break, I have decided to use now to reveal my personal favourite blogs of last year. To that end, my second-favourite Other Perspectives of last year was all about how much easier life is when you have a mature concept of love.

CLICK BELOW TO READ:

Winner: Scott’s Top
Other Perspectives of 2014 #2

peace. s

Other Perspectives #71

701 OP Relax and Succeed - Don't flirt with someone else

As you get older you can read quotes like this and you can usually guess the age of the writer within five years. That shows you how much the same we all are. We’re all moving through patterns of behaviour as we move through our seven ages of man. Listen, I know that seeing someone you love being with someone else is something that really hurts. But there’s a great lesson in that. Because I promise you that the pain is not coming from seeing them. It’s about looking at them and then thinking. It’s the thoughts that hurt. Because if they’re happily with someone else, you can’t go quickly get someone and make them jealous. Because if they left they left for a reason of theirs and they went to this other person for a reason of theirs. So they might look over at you and feel a short temporary jab, but because their thoughts will shift to the better position they themselves feel they are in, they will feel fine. That’s why the leaver always does better than the leavee. The leaver either wanted someone else or they wanted more freedom but either way their thoughts will be less commonly on the past and more on the future, whereas the leavee has to rip themselves away from the future they’d imagined so they can start living in the present moment they’re in. So if someone’s flaunting just to hurt you then that’s just childish. Maybe in the future when they’re more mature, but for now, if someone is vindictive or possessive then they’re still immature and you don’t want to be in a relationship with an immature person. So just live your own life. Don’t keep your thoughts on inappropriate things. Learn to do this early in life and you will bring yourself great salvation later, I promise. Good luck.

Much love, s

Ugly Secrets

There’s been a recent news story in Canada that has many people polarized and it speaks to the power of perspective. A prominent national radio host has been fired and he claims it is because he has been defamed by what he describes as a former jilted lover who is now claiming consensual BDSM sex was in fact non-consensual. Naturally any woman who’s endured the horror of anyone using any means to obtain non-consensual sex will be immediately reminded of the intense level of violation that they experienced. Similarly, any man who’s been falsely accused will also be reminded of their own horrors in finding it impossible to defend themselves against 538 Relax and Succeed - We all have secretsunprovable he-said she-said allegations that will echo throughout the rest of their lives.

It’s just a horrible situation all-around and while I felt the sting of it because I myself have experienced such an attack, I simply have no idea regarding who might be telling the truth. There are additional alleged victims coming forward who may be able to back up the original story, and yet the host is wealthy and popular and there is always the possibility that people do have ulterior motives. All I know is that something terrible happened, I just don’t know which parties have been wronged and I wish I did because I would extend my compassion because any of those positions would be agonizing to be in.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the host himself but I am an unabashed fan of the show and I will even give the host props for being a far above-average interviewer and many superstars agree. He’s often gotten interviews from people famous for not giving interviews. And at the same time, those skills don’t mean he can’t have horrible ideas about how to relate to women and it is entirely plausible to me that his fame could have tipped an already potentially dangerous personality into a literally dangerous one. If he has been hurting women then I’m glad it’s come out so he can be stopped and so they can be supported.

Because I cannot know, I don’t give the matter much thought because that would be little more than painful ruminations to no good end. But others are jumping on all kinds of bandwagons and their views are informed by their histories and beliefs. Some say there’s no chance several women could all be lying and yet it would be easy to find examples of such things. 538 Relax and Succeed - My parents divorcedLikewise, people can like the host and hate the idea that they were aligned with a rapist and so they can easily be defending him as a way of avoiding their own guilt-by-association. People lie for all kinds of reasons, and my point here is that the reason we should not take our opinions seriously is because they are based on beliefs and not on some hard reality.

You might be familiar with the website PostSecret. This was a clever idea for a site started by Frank Warren. The premise is that people mail in anonymous postcards containing secrets that they find difficult to maintain because they are so meaningful. Of course some of the cards themselves can be faked so the fact that they exist is no guarantee that they are true. And yet at the same time, doing the work I do, my sofa is a bit like a PostSecret seat where people admit to me secrets that they are sometimes suicidal about.

By now I’m sure you’re wondering what kinds of things I mean, so I’m using some actual PostSecret examples here in the photos to illustrate the kinds of things I mean. The worst example I can recall from my own practice is from many years ago. Two sisters who—when they were tweens—fabricated an affair for their father because they were angry at him. The whole thing rolled out of control and the parents divorced, leading to the mother being deeply depressed where she has in turn fallen into abusing both painkillers and alcohol. The younger sister came to me nearly a decade later concerned that her older sister was suicidal over their mother’s increasing self-abuse.538 Relax and Succeed - I said I miscarried

I’m sure you can see that as young kids it was easy for them not to extrapolate out what kind of things might unfold in an adult mind. I know for sure they never planned on causing their parents to divorce. They destroyed their own home and pushed their heartbroken mother to the brink, all over something that never actually happened. It’s tortuous to them that their father still loves them even though they know he is livid over what happened. He feels entirely violated and cannot believe anyone would be so heinous as to do such a cruel thing, and his own daughters often hear their father angrily describing the villain(s) in the worst possible terms, without him ever realizing that he is telling the story to the perpetrators. They routinely hear him describing the worst kind of person possible and they know he’s describing them. In essence, what took a few days to concoct has now lead to four people leading hellish lives for over a decade. That’s 40 years worth of suffering all for one childish lie. That’s a big one.

Now we can judge these girls for not coming clean. We can say it’s their responsibility, we can say they were clearly wrong, but they were eleven and thirteen. This was raging hormones combined with intense anger meeting naive minds and clever technical abilities. It was the perfect storm and it took down what otherwise had been by all accounts a great marriage—which is in part why it was so devastating to the mother who had thought her husband was incapable of such a thing—and indeed he likely was/is.

538 Relax and Succeed - I'm in too deepIf you don’t think they’re paying for it, think again. One has a drug problem and the other was suicidal. They live with this every single day. Everything they do reminds them of it. They are thoroughly self-hating. Imagine listening to your beloved father describing what he would like to do to the person who set him up when you know he’s describing what he would like to do to you. That if your own father knew it was you, he would want to kill you. It’s just heartbreaking and there’s no reason to think the truth would do anything other than make it worse. At least both parents love their kids. If they know the truth they’ll lose that too.

Please don’t assume you know things because people have told them to you. Everyone lies for reasons that make sense at the time. And sometimes these stories roll wildly out of control. I’ve had clergy admit that they stopped believing in God but still preach because they need the work. I’ve had people admit they accused people of horrible things that were not true, even though those accusations ruined the person’s life. I’ve had a grown man crying in front of me because he was so lonely after his wife left him that he kicked their beloved dog when the animal wanted to leave the room. He was just so hurt that the dog didn’t want to love him when he needed it so badly. After that,he organized everything in his life around the needs of the dog all in an effort to alleviate his guilt.

538 Relax and Succeed - If you didn't hear itPeople are logical once you know what the details and the values in their psyche are. But because we don’t know either the details or the values, we can only guess if what they are presenting is accurate. And as the examples above indicate, that includes the people closest to us, and even if they sincerely love us dearly. Life is much more complex than the movies make it seem.

So how can we live? By surrendering. By accepting our inability to know. By living in the mystery rather than desiring certainty. Because that permits a certain kind of clarity. It’s why I can hear both sides of the debate about the radio host and I know that almost every theory I hear could be true. And I also know they could not be true. So rather than having a useless opinion about the subject, I prefer to do what I can to inject the world with some love and positivity and I leave the rest to the universe. Because I cannot do anything about what did or didn’t happen. But I can choose to invest myself in sweeping in front of my own door, and in doing so I can hopefully inspire others to do likewise. And if we all do that the whole world may not be perfect, but it will be better.

peace. s