Relationship School

1348 Relax and Succeed - Relationship School

This fall I will be starting the latest round of my course, The Principles of Healthy Relationships. I won’t pretend to know who or what is right or wrong for someone else. But I do know that by learning how to clear our heads and change our perspectives, we can learn to more clearly see what defines a healthy relationship for us.

Each of us comes to our relationships with unique histories, unique circumstances and a unique personality. Those factors in turn lead us to date in unique ways and to create unique relationships. We even have unique breakups. And yet within us there is a certain consistency that we see emerge as patterns.

The differences between us derive from small differences in how we weight our values and our preferences, and our patterns emerge because those rarely change. But what is helpful is that we all share a set of helpful principles that we process our values and preferences with, and we can become conscious of that process.

We all know it’s possible for us to be attracted to certain kinds of unhealthy situations, and we often have the same conflicts with multiple partners, both of which are indications of the invisible set of rules we have been using in our relationships. Yet, we cannot function wisely within them if we’re not even sure what those rules and boundaries are, where they came from, or if they’re helpful.

It is possible for us to be more conscious of what we bring to a relationship, both in terms of how we foster them in healthy ways and how we unwittingly undermine them. Because we not only need to know how to find joy, we also need good strategies for how to manage our particular brands of trouble.

Every good relationship runs into problems –even serious ones. But the healthiest relationships succeed precisely because they have calmly thought out good strategies for dealing effectively with the patterns we create with our lives.

If we understand our Selves and how we truly operate, we are then able to tell the difference between when our ego is over-reacting, and when we have an issue that truly needs a healthy resolution.

By slowing our dating, relationship and breakup processes down, and by seeing them in new and insightful ways, it is much easier for us to find healthy new routes into better quality relationships.

1348 Relax and Succeed - Being single dating being in a relationship

If we’re single we can benefit from gaining a better understanding of the differences between solitude and loneliness. That way we can avoid both hiding from relationships, as well as being pushed into unhealthy ones. (It’s no surprise that we often make better choices when we’re feeling healthy and not under stress.)

If we’re dating, that’s often through websites which match qualities and interests, and yet people in good relationships will sometimes share those and other times not, so clearly those are not the secret. Qualities and interests are important, but in the end what we are with in a relationship is someone’s true character. Knowing how to recognize it early helps us to figure out much sooner if someone is destined to cross one of our relationship limits.

And if we’re in a relationship, or if we’re thinking about leaving one, we gain by establishing much more clearly what our personal needs really are, and why we are with the person we are with. This can can facilitate very helpful dialogue and can just as often lead to a beautiful relationship renewal as it can lead to a compassionate and healthy break-up.

Whether we avoid someone, unite with someone, sacrifice to stay with someone or decide leave someone, in any case our actions should be motivated by the same underlying principle: because that choice will lead to a greater quality of life.

We can share our lives with others and we do not have to surrender ourselves completely to do it. At least not all the time. But we do need to know where our own balance points are, and how those correspond to our partners or potential partners. Without that we can easily see things tumble.

No one is ever wrong or right for everyone, but finding who we’re right for is certainly much easier when we have a clearer and more principled idea of what it is we’re really looking for.

peace. s

Modern Dating

1346 Relax and Succeed - Modern dating

Who can blame people for being confused by modern dating? It’s been complicated by changes in both technology and in how human beings react to one another, and on top of all of that we have #metoo. Regardless of what gender we are or who we want to share our lives with, it’s a minefield of uncertainty out there.

Women have to figure out how to balance newly discovered strengths with their sensual femininity, men have to figure out how #metoo and 50 Shades of Grey can be popular at the same time. And before we complain about having to navigate that, just imagine how much more complex dating is for transsexuals, bisexuals, or the polyamorous.

I’ve recently written about the timing of a breakup, the notion of being successfully single, and today it’s dating, but these are all really the same subject: how do we balance our desire to share our lives with our desire to fulfill our personal destinies? How much sacrifice enriches us and how much is too much?

Those in relationships need some basis to make stay-or-go decisions on, otherwise the fear of being alone can force us into unhealthy situations we wouldn’t otherwise entertain. But leaving also means being single.

If we move in that direction, are there really ways to enjoy singledom and not feel like something is missing? And if we do want a new relationship, how do we tell who is right for us after a series of choices that lead to disappointment?

How do we work around the fact that apps have turned dating into a process akin to picking Chinese food? Because it’s easy to just keep ordering different dishes (qualities) in different combinations in the hopes that we can find a consistent order that meets all of our needs.

At the same time, our needs change day by day, so what defines a good match? Some things that we don’t like are good for us, yet whenever we run into relationship challenges it can feel easier to re-order than to learn to cook.

1346 Relax and Succeed - We can bring love into focus

In the end we cannot order a good relationship in. Good food or a good relationship will always be dependent on what we put into them. What works for one will not for another, and yet we do all share a set of underlying principles that people rarely even notice, let alone consider –hence the coming course.

There is no universal key to a good relationship either with another person or with ourselves, but there are ways to view ourselves and our partners that can be extremely helpful when it comes to helping us determine whether or not a relationship adaptation is valid or a deal breaker.

What people need are tools of the mind. We all need ways to think about ourselves and our situations that help us all recognize when we’re asking for too much, when we’re accepting too little, and what factors define what will make our lives rewarding.

These things can be done, but they require us to step back from our relationships and our pursuit of them. We must take time to philosophically consider what our perspective truly is. What are our priorities and why do we have them? In what ways would we benefit by making sacrifices to adapt our lives to that of another person?

People needn’t feel hopeless. There are answers to all of those questions, but we don’t get them just by wanting them. We must be prepared to sit down to take the time to truly sort them out.

Once we have reached our conclusions, we then have the wisdom necessary for navigating the decisions around dating, relationships, marriage and divorce, and they all become less tangled and more comprehensible. And whether we are together or alone, living with that kind of clarity is a truly beautiful thing.

peace. s

The Heartbreaking Cost of Finding True Love

1258 Relax and Succeed - We feel the love we giveWhen we’re young we think it’s anyone notable. Notably attractive, notably strong, notably wealthy, notably popular; and we’ll go after the best version of that we can find. If our standards are relatively low we can be happy for a long time, but if they’re very high we end up breaking up a lot.

By the time we’re a little more mature we’re looking for someone who’s more of a match for us. We want someone who’s naturally inclined to have similar interests and values regarding how the energy in life gets invested, so it becomes less how people are to others and more how they are to us. But we still are quite particular about what we’ll accept.

Once we’ve had some difficult life experiences with the limits of our tolerance we know that even someone compatible to our interests isn’t good enough and we begin to look for people that are simply easy to be with. Just someone to share life’s loads with. By that stage people have surrendered their big strict romantic ideals and they happily trade that for a daily partner who simply sees past our own faults and still makes us feel truly loved. (Although notably, precious few work on trying to be easier to get along with themselves.)

1258 Relax and Succeed - May you be held in compassionWe can be lucky and find profound connections like that right away, but even they aren’t often destined for life. Regardless, for most people who do ultimately find true love (which isn’t a large percentage), it often takes several relationships and a lot of meeting people before they finally find someone that defies everything they’ve learned, and everything they know about themselves. At that point we are left with a very inexplicable attraction that exists despite all complications, including those surrounding our own confusion and/or lack of trust.

In the other relationships we were certain, and then we beat up ourselves for not being able to figure out how to make the relationship feel worth it. Each time we thought we’d finally figured it all out and finally knew what was right for us, but then we realised that all we did was graduate from one level of misinterpretation to a more sophisticated version of misinterpretation. Yet, in the case of actually realising true love, we’re often so startled by it that we question even ourselves. Despite our brain being uncertain, we find ourselves with a strange dedication nevertheless.

We do think these are the most beautiful people in the world, but not in the way we’ve traditionally thought of that concept. We see them as having deep and wonderful connections to various aspects of our lives, and yet they may have less to do with our personal interests than any other person we’ve been with. They are easy to be with in a very special way. These are people you can be at your worst with and still feel safe.

1258 Relax and Succeed - True love can be foundIn unexpected ways, the ultimate people for us will have all of the qualities we’ve always sought, they just won’t deliver that package of qualities the way we might have originally imagined. But how they always stand out is that these are the people we’ll pay a price for. These are the people who we are devoted to despite our better judgment. They are the ones who somehow magically compel our hearts to make significant sacrifices that aren’t about us feeling unworthy ourselves; they’re about us seeing the other person unconditionally.

There is no explaining them, and there is no way in which to go about finding them, they simply occur. But when they do they’ll stay with you for life, whether they live or die. We’ll never know enough to understand all the wonders that take place in our consciousness, but true love is what it is nevertheless.

Some people frustrate us because they only represent a part of the universe we’re looking for. But when we finally find a person that is whole to us as they currently are–even with us aware of their faults and weaknesses–well, then, that person is someone who can open a universe to us.

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.