Why a Healthy Relationship is Like Swimming in Pee

I really didn’t create that title as clickbait. Things should stand on their merit, so I promise to pay this off. I was simply thinking about a relationship issue I wanted to blog about and was searching in my memory banks for a relevant set of facts to use as a metaphor. But I don’t think I’ve ever made myself laugh harder than when I found these particular facts, and this particular title occurred to me. And what it made it so funny was that it really is true.

When someone asks me if there’s a way to check how knowledgeable their guru is, the only thing I can think to say to them is, did you see improvement? Otherwise, the only other test I could think of would be to choose some random strange thing and ask the person to instantly metaphorize the truth using that thing or idea. If they can do it easily and it makes sense using; a shoelace, the 1950’s and the concept of competition, and if they do that quickly and clearly, then that’s a really good sign.

If they spout nebulous platitudes that lack clarity, then that’s often camouflage for a genuine searcher who is posing in an effort to use the fake it until one makes it approach. Then again, if you’re wise enough, anyone’s a guru, so even with a faker you don’t always lose.

Okay, so to use my own crazy metaphor: why is a good relationship like swimming in pee? It’s really pretty simple. My home town recently conducted a study and, surprise surprise, they discovered that people pee a lot in public swimming pools. And it’s not the kind of thing that’s likely to stop, nor has it likely changed much in history.

If you’re not currently a pre-teen playing gross pranks; the fact that every one of us was a baby with a diaper, and  every one of us will hopefully eventually be the old person with poor bladder control, we’ll all eventually take a turn at the role of The Urinator. So the deal simply is: if you want to swim in public pools you’ll have to live with a fair bit of pee. And yet note, the pools are packed full of people.

Like we all have muscles that help us move and digestive systems that make us pee, we all have ways of being that are productive and other ways of interacting with the world that are us just dumping waste. These are our low points. We all have them when we’re tired and weak, and that’s when we’ll fall back on our childhood programming. That’s why parents often sound like their own parents when they finally lose it with their kids.

Like the pools, if you’re looking for a relationship to swim in without that person’s childhood being a factor, then you’re looking for a magic pee-less pool. Sorry, you can’t swim in that. That’s like being single and out of the water. If you want to swim you have to live with the pee. There is no other way.

If you want a relationship you have to live with the fact that your partner will be at their worst when they’re tired, and they’ll act like their childhood programming for a short time. And you should know what that programming is. Then, when your partner’s the one who’s struggling, that is when it would be most helpful for you to be your most patient and tolerant. Certainly that’s when they need you most.

So see? I meant it. A healthy relationship is like swimming in pee. There’s some acceptance –some tolerance– built in there. And in that metaphor you still don’t like the pee, but you can largely ignore it as long as it’s not dangerous. This is what the Buddha means when he says, if you will accept suffering you can cease all suffering. By being accepting of people’s imperfections, you’re not only agreeing to accept the ‘faults’ of your partner, you’re also giving yourself permission to have all of the fun that goes with sharing time with them in the ‘water.’

pees. s

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

Other Perspectives #95

Yesterday was about what real love is really like. Today I’m using an Other Perspectives post to discuss the dangers of where most of us start with love, and why we have to shift our beliefs before we can have a mature healthy relationship. Keep in mind that when I say “start” I mean when our egos start, because few of these requirements are associated with true love.

The need for 100% Honesty is based in a fear that we really don’t have the person on our side in a meaningful way, which is largely true in every youthful relationship and all jealous ones. We worry it might not be true when they say I love you so we constantly need to check. Also, as the hilarious hemorrhoid scene in the film This is 40 illustrates, later in life we realise we often don’t really want full honesty….

Where it is right is Forgiveness. That is the best skill one could hope to have for a relationship. 100% is impossible, but you can get pretty close. Great Communication helps, but there’s some couples that remain quite private by nature, choosing internal reflection over a lot of sharing. These people often feel most comfortable with someone just like them. It’s not for everyone, but it’s valid love.

Trust is okay–you want to aim to always feel trust–but there will be times where you’re insecure and you just won’t be able to help worrying and you’ll need some reassuring, as most women who experience breast cancer or men with testicular cancer quickly learn. Even putting on weight or losing one’s hair can do this. That’s all okay if it’s temporary or fleeting.

Faithfulness is far rarer than people realise. Not that it isn’t natural for some, but as many experts, including Dan Savage, often point out; most marriages actually survive thanks to some monogamish behaviours that can strangely remind us of the value of our long term partners. Patience at 80% is hopefully where you’ll get to, but don’t be surprised if your maturity won’t allow for it until you’re at least over about thirty five.

Similar Values at 50% is one of the few that’s backwards, That one should be closer to a high percentage because as you age you realise that don’t people divorce because one likes golf and the other likes marathons, it’s because one will cheat at golf whereas the other would never do that in their sport.

Time Apart at 20% only happens when you’re young and before your adulting starts. After that it is impossible because you’ll be at work for a third of your day so you’re already over, not to mention one parent spending their evening at hockey with one kid while the other’s at dance with another. Romance at 100% is the funniest. You will quickly learn that life gets too busy for things to stay romantic, which is fine. It actually means more when it’s mixed into a life that has other responsibilities.

Again, we’re back to agreeing on 100% Friendship. You can’t love the person’s appearance or style or identity because those are guaranteed to change. You have to be with someone who will be a good life partner and roommate more than a good romantic one. On the contrary, Zero Selfishness isn’t healthy. You need to put yourself first. You can’t give your partner what you don’t have. And Playing Games also comes with people dealing naturally with their discomfort around being totally honest. But it’s the last two that are most important.

Nearly the entire list is primarily immature, Unrealistic Expectations, and one of them is expecting yourself not to spend time dealing with Insecurities, which is an entirely unrealistic expectation to put on yourself or your partner. Again, think of breast cancer or testicular cancer survivors. It makes sense that would take some adjustment to get comfortable with. Besides, there can’t be a peaceful psychological and spiritual path unless there’s a not-path. Not-path is ego. You can get good at keeping it at bay, but to not have it at all is to miss out on a valuable aspect of being human that incites healthy growth.

We all start with unrealistic beliefs that were created by culture, so I’m sure they’ll sell a lot of these shirts. But inevitably, over time, as we age, the shirt will seem more and more ironic as we attempt to apply it to the messy edges of the real world. Which is why the real keys are the Friendship and the Forgiveness. Forget the rest. Focus on getting good at those and you’ll be headed toward the most successful kind of relationship there is.

peace. s

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

The Friday Dose #128: Loving Relationships

1008-fd-relax-and-succeed-what-destroys-an-intimate-relationshipI’ve written about it many times. You can’t ask another person to create a great relationship for you. Those things come from the inside. If you’re always in a state of want, if you always have something you need from that person then who are you to them? You’re a burden. But you weren’t a burden when you were falling in love. You were practically willing to be a servant!

1008-fd-relax-and-succeed-to-come-upon-love-without-seeking-itWeird isn’t it? It’s counter-intuitive at first, but not after some meditation. If we’re always asking others to live for us then they are forced to defer their own life to lead the one we claim we need. But if I’m a servant I’m always helpful and worthwhile and valuable. If I’m so picky about how the house looks for company that I torture my family with anal-retentivity then is the beautiful home really valuable at all, or is it now just a source of abuse?

Some people have huge insecurities that lead to jealousy, leaving partners having to live their entire life in their partner’s fearful context when that’s not their own context. It is literally a form of being a prisoner. All actions are dictated by that identity. The same with people with tempers. If your spouse blows up the moment something goes wrong then you stop living your life and you just start trying to make sure nothing goes wrong, even though that’s inevitable. It’s a life on eggshells.

It is not other people’s jobs to live to your script. No one made you the screenwriter, director and producer of the film of all of our lives. We are not co-stars in your movie, our jobs are not to get things the way you want them. We are individuals and we have hopes and dreams just like you and they’re just as important as yours. Healthy partners don’t ask, they offer. We can all take turns at being unhealthy, but if someone lives their life in that state then that is not their partner’s problem to fix.

Have a great weekend everyone.

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.

Flights of Passion

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #9

929 Relax and Succeed - We aren't here to be perfectMany adult relationships won’t crash and burn with something like cheating or collapse under the weight of losing a child. Most will die a slow dull death and for that reason they are the ones that feel the most salvageable. Despite that possibility there is usually some external catalyst required for that to happen because otherwise the issue is difficult to overcome.

Imagine people are airplanes and the people inside are the potential experiences that everyone is born with. Flying is living. There is nowhere specific to go, so the closest thing you can do to “winning” is to land with all of your passengers / potentialities having already disembarked because they were fully realised. In short: you lived.

Okay, so everyone’s an airplane and when we’re flying high we have tons of perspective and we can appreciate tons of choice in terms of our direction. When we’re low-consciousness, we’re weaving through mountains of thought that half block-out the sky. It feels perilous and scary and we get angry and absent-minded in our efforts and yet the “mountains” are ultimately ephemeral; made only of our own thought and existing only within our own consciousness.

929 Relax and Succeed - Make your life worth lovingA relationship is when two planes choose to fly together. You happen to be on a similar course, you like how they fly and how their plane’s design works, and your passengers love waving to each other so you radio over and ask them if they’d like to join you on a permanent flight. Maybe you even make it official in front of all of the other pilots at some ceremony where you sign each other’s Flight Logs or something.

Obviously your planes fly differently so they’ll be impacted differently by weather, but in general the flying is good and you both enjoy the flow of your travels. This goes on for years until something happens. Maybe it’s an addiction, maybe you work too much, or you’re always angry or depressed, but somehow one or both of you goes into a downward spin. You’re no longer going anywhere, you’re only thinking about how much you hate the spinning.

The most their partner can do is radio instructions to them because the healthy partner does not actually have their hands on the unhealthy partner’s controls. Instead they naturally begin circling from as close as they can get without doing the same tight dangerous spin. They radio the tower for wisdom but it’s reconfirmed that there is nothing that can be done other than the pilot changing course. Any direction will do, but the plane needs to straighten itself out and only the pilot can do it.

929 Relax and Succeed - Don't let your struggle become your identityIn the best case scenarios the person realises that they are just spinning on thoughts about past regrets, or thoughts about future anxieties. They realise that there is no “correct direction.” They just need a direction. What was hurting wasn’t the danger in the future or the pain of mistakes made in the past, it was the spinning itself; it was the asking of the unanswerable question. At a certain point there are no more answers sought because in the end it is accepted that all that can be done is to fly and so the person does.

But in some cases the person spins too long. And while their partner has done a lazy circle for literally years in the hopes that their companion will pull out of it, eventually their passengers get restless. How much fuel do they have? There’s a lot of life to experience and they can’t live any of it flying in circles for literally years. Because one plane’s going down does that mean both should? The pilot feels that pressure and the passengers note that there’s been little to no sign that anything will change. Eventually the only question is: when will the pilot listen to the passengers, not if. And therein lies the problem.

Once that plane finally does depart (as incredibly reluctant as it will be to go), there will be an immediate sense of relief on the part of the passengers and crew. After all, they’ve just been doing a wider version of that same spin. They do not want to go down in the middle of a deep ocean having not seen much of anything in literally years. Ironically, their departure can sometimes be what triggers a genuine recovery in the partner. By focusing on that change the unhealthy pilot’s mind gets out of its loop and focuses as suddenly the partner gives chase.

929 Relax and Succeed - We travel not to escape lifeThe problem is that they’re usually a long way behind. It makes sense that they would radio their beloved other pilot and ask them to circle for a while until they catch up, but at the same time they can appreciate the difficulty in that. Now that they are finally in motion the notion of travelling backwards or circling more is particularly unappealing. Often even an intense love for their partner cannot overcome it. Too much recent time has been spent on down and backwards. Their souls are literally starved for forwards and upwards.

These are crushing circumstances. No one wants what comes to pass. These are the worst and most poetic days we will face in life. There are no winners in a scenario like that spin. People can pull out of those dives and they can draw a strong and passionate direction from the emptiness of their previous life so those experiences are never losses. They are however extremely painful. The most we can come to is an understanding that the passengers in all the other planes have the same will to live that ours do.

How long a partner should circle is the big debate. Some say marriage vows say you circle until your plane goes down. Some people say you leave right away. Others dedicate years, decades and lifetimes. There is no right answer. Others may judge but, they’re not in your plane, they don’t know your fuel situation and they don’t have your passengers. So all anyone can do is use all of their plane-flying skills and instincts and do what they genuinely feel is best. There just isn’t a better flight plan than that.

Enjoy your day.

big hug, s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations 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.

Finding Mr. or Mrs. Right

It isn’t too much to ask is it? Just one other person who gets you. Just one. Just someone who accepts you for who you are and who’s into the same things you are. There’s seven billion of us. Surely they’re out there. Right?

817 Relax and Succeed - Expectation is the root of heartacheThe reason people always feel they’ve made the wrong choice is because eventually some things don’t work out. But by “don’t work out,” I mean they fight, or argue, or they cry or get confused when communicating. Everyone figures if they could just find someone who’s truly compatible then that wouldn’t happen.

But what does compatible mean?  Because if you think it means no arguing, no hurt or upset feelings, or no pain or confusion then you don’t understand the journey that is your life.

People always ask me questions like this: how much do you compromise for your partner before you stop being yourself? The real question should be: how do I grow closer to my partner?

817 Relax and Succeed - The fool doth thinkIn these exchanges compromise is always seen as a loss. It’s you giving up a bit of yourself for them or they’re giving something up for you. Yeah, you could choose to look at it that way. But in the best relationships that is not what they’re doing.

People in the best relationships are not saying, Stop yelling at me! You know I’m always late! If you loved me you would accept me for who I am! The healthy couples look at each and the always-late-person remembers that one of the many reasons they were attracted to their partner was because they demonstrated themselves to be better at respecting other people’s time.

The healthy couples realize that they can develop the strengths their partner has if they simply emulate some of their healthy behaviours. In the case of being late, the person could simply start with the simple goal of genuinely trying to be on time more often. But healthy people aren’t doing that for their partner. They do it out of respect and appreciation for how they feel their partner is more successful than them. The changes we make are not a loss. They’re an improvement. The problem comes when we don’t tackle these issues in the order someone else thinks we should. After all, these things ultimately take us all a lifetime. But since they’re putting up with us learning it’s not unreasonable that we would put up with their learning too.

817 Relax and Succeed - Go and love someoneIf you’re constantly focused on how your partner is better than you then you’re often in a state of appreciation, which is the healthiest state to be in. It’s a everyday kind of steady love. Then, from that healthy place, the times where you are really late–your partner is more patient and understanding because they’ve been fully aware that you’re trying–because they were watching and appreciating you just as much as you were of them. When you both do this it all points upward.

Explaining yourself ad nauseum points directly downward. The more people talk about how they see it, the worse they do. The more they try to understand the other position, the better they do.

The two people in a relationship are in a state of growth throughout their lives. The unaware, ungrateful couples grow apart and more rigid. The conscious, appreciative couples grow ever closer as they both become stronger and more capable thanks to lessons learned–but not taughtby each other.

817 Relax and Succeed - It is better to bendYou can see your partner suggesting a different approach to things as them being incompatible to you. Or you can see it as an invitation to expand yourself. But if you have a list of things that your partner needs to change for you to be happy then you’re sunk. If you have a list of changes you want to make for yourself that were inspired by your partner, then you’re in a healthy state of mind where you’re not trying to direct the world to suit your worldview, you’re expanding your worldview to include more of life.

Which course you take your relationship on is always open to change, so if right now you think you’ve maybe chosen the wrong person, just ask yourself this one question: what are the ways in which I have grown by being with my partner? Because if you can’t find any then that’s not their fault. If they were good enough to attract you then they should be good enough to have at least one thing to emulate. If you don’t know what it is then the problem in the relationship is likely not them.

You were never supposed to crack the code of finding the perfect person for you. There’s no secret formula. The formula is awareness and appreciation. You are only supposed to find people that inspired you and then you voluntarily choose to try to grow to be more like them because you recognize that it would expand and improve you as a person in your own eyes. That act adds to your relationship’s cycle of gratitude and appreciation and it is those couples that have by far the fewest issues. Here’s to you joining them on that path.

peace, s

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

Other Perspectives #90

811 OP Relax and Succeed - Mom what is marriageThis is funny. In my experience thus far, the vast majority of men get left for the same reason every time. Same with the ladies. The guys tend to be emotionally inattentive and they keep calling their decisions the couple’s decisions. The ladies get it wrong when they do what this quote suggests: when they assume that their way of doing things is the correct way and that their spouse’s way is stupid, as opposed to just being another way of approaching something. Both the inattentiveness of the men and the certainty of the women lead to them usually being completely blindsided when their spouses leave them. Speak respectfully of those you love. Because you could flip this quote around to read, Dad, what is marriage? It’s a fancy word for having to put up with a bossy arrogant person who will constantly try to treat you like a child. Doesn’t sound nice, does it? Respect. If you’re going to be in a relationship with someone then make sure your commitment to love them is a verb that you practice daily and not just something you claim out of obligation or habit. Because whether they’re talking to other people or talking to their spouse, healthy people in healthy marriages talk about their partner’s qualities a lot more than the challenges they present.

peace, s

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