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.

Love in the Trenches

They were out at the lake. The husband had just yelled at his wife for how how dissatisfying he found his lunch. He barely tasted it, choosing instead to storm back down to the lake and take another shot at fixing that stubborn boat engine. The very liberated daughter had watched the whole thing and she clearly was not happy.

“Why would you let him talk to you that way? If Ray ever spoke to me that way I’d show him the door.”

The mother just smiled as she picked up her husband’s uneaten food. She sat at the counter and ate it herself while they talked. “Ray’s way to be angry is to get quiet and cold. Honey, if I left your father every time he was upset we would have been divorced hundreds of times over.”

“All the more reason! Why do you let him treat you like that again and again? You didn’t raise me to be weak like that.”

The mother took a moment before speaking. “You’re right, we didn’t teach you to be weak. But what’s your definition of strong? He was one of the few liberated husbands when we were young. He cooked for you kids, he helped with school work, and he always made sure there was a roof over your head even if he really didn’t like what he was doing for work.”

“That’s 20 years ago! If you’d made him behave back then you probably wouldn’t be dealing with this now.” The daughter was very piqued.

“He’s not a child. And how exactly do you make someone behave? Withhold affection? Make demands? Fight with him? Why would withholding, demanding and fighting do anything for a relationship?”

“Mother! You just made him a incredible quinoa salad and he insulted you! He could at least appreciate that you made it for him!”

The mother pushed her meal aside and she went to the fridge and she started to make a sandwich. “Your father doesn’t like quinoa, you know that. When he was at the peak of his career I used to complain about him not being home enough.”

“Well he wasn’t.”

The mother returned to the fridge for more ingredients. “He wasn’t successful to spite me. Why would I criticise him for something I was proud of? Aren’t you trying to get a promotion right now? Do you see that as an attack on your relationship with Ray? Of course not. You’re trying to succeed at being a good professional, like we raised you to be. It’s a sign of respect to others to do your job well. You know your father always says that.”

“He still shouldn’t talk to you that way.”

The mother stopped and looked at her daughter for a long moment before speaking. “I’m not sure what ‘shouldn’t’ means. Your Dad was in pain. I was just being compassionate. I’m not a pushover.”

“What pain?! He wasn’t in pain! He couldn’t get the stupid boat motor working and so he got angry at you, like he always does when something breaks.”

The mother went back to finishing the sandwich. “Your father prides himself on being able to fix things, it’s what made him look capable in front of his Dad. He feels like he’s letting his Dad down, or he’s not being a man, if he can’t fix something. He’s always been like that.”

“All the more reason for you to tell him it’s time to stop.”

The mother smiled. “I might do that if I could figure out a way to stop getting mad at him. Demands don’t fix relationships honey. Love does.”

“Love doesn’t yell at someone for making them quinoa.”

“That’s right, love doesn’t. He knows I made it because you and Ray were coming out. Your father just told me is that he’s feeling a long way from feeling good. That’s the problem, not whether he likes quinoa. My job isn’t to demand that he like the food you and I like it’s to love him when he feels unlovable.”

“He yelled at you!! Why would you be helping him!! It should be him crawling back up here to apologise to you!”

“Crawling?” The mother smiled at the thought. “Your father’s having his version of a tough day. He stayed too long trying to fix the boat and now he’s really hungry and he came up to eat and found something he finds totally unsatisfying. He gets angry when he’s hungry. That’s just being human.”

The daughter notices the sandwich. “You’re making that for him!”

“He’s hungry. I’m just being practical. He’s in a better mood after he’s eaten. When I’m menopausal and screaming at him for no reason, these are the things he remembers to help balance things out. You see him upset about quinoa. I see a man I care about having a bad day; a man who’s proven himself over and over for all of us.”

“Your expectations are too low.”

“I’m trying not to have any.” The mother picks up the sandwich and starts for the pier. “Sweetheart, you guys just had a baby. You’ve been exhausted and your hormones are going wild. I’ve seen you be pretty mean to Ray, but ninety percent of the time he just takes it because he loves you.” The daughter chases after her.

“That’s a baby! How can you compare that to a boat motor!?”

“Pain is pain. It doesn’t matter whether you broke a foot or a leg.” As they near the water we can see the daughter really cloud over. She is harbouring a lot of anger toward her father. The mother stops and addresses her before walking onto the pier where he and Ray are working.

“Honey. Again: your father’s problem is that he’s suffering. I’m not going to debate whether he deserves to or not. What makes a marriage isn’t weighing whose suffering is worse. I can think about me and what I want, but does he really look like he’s got much to give right now?” Just then the father hurls a wrench angrily onto the pier. The mother kisses her daughter on the cheek and walks out onto the pier and offers the sandwich. He half-heartedly thanks her, but he seems a bit embarrassed.

Later that afternoon he does get the boat going. After a nice steak dinner he suggests a boat ride. Ray suggests, “Should we head down to Half Moon Bay?”

The father walks to his wife’s side and puts his arm around her. “Diane likes the view down by the promenade. I thought we’d go down there.” The mother turns to the daughter, winks and smiles.

Later, while the father and Ray do the dishes, the mother sits down for a tea with her daughter. “Ray might go under soon and we all know it. Every business like his is struggling in this recession and he just had a baby. If that happens you can kick him while he’s down and demand that he do the impossible and undermine his confidence. But after 35 years of marriage I can tell you, you might find that you’d get where you’re going quicker if you just made him some sandwiches instead.”

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.

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

Relax and Succeed

414 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - A healthy relationship

Uh. Be careful with this one. A lot of people will misinterpret this. This doesn’t mean you help your partner improve. It means you help them become who they really are. Improvement was what I originally thought too. A lot of people make that mistake. My ex-wife and I—me more than her—saw potential in each other that was unrealized and so we urged each other to realize it. We were totally well-intentioned. But what we’re essentially saying to the person is, “you’re not okay the way you are already.” Ouch. People don’t “make” anyone better, people grow at their own pace relative to the nourishment they have. Period. So in the relationship I had after my wife, I didn’t wake up and look at her and think wow you have so much incredible potential that I want to help you realize—I thought instead: wow I cannot believe how patient…

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Other Perspectives #67

681 OP Relax and Succeed - I don't understand

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

Truly Loving

Are you ready to truly love someone? It’s not for the faint of heart. People tell themselves they can do this because they know the feeling of getting swept up in someone else. But that’s more a storm of neuro-chemicals you give yourself via your own thinking, it’s not really because of the other person. It’s due to your thoughts about them. And it is a great feeling. But the peaks are easy. Everyone loves the peaks. It’s how you handle the valleys that counts. That’s where you prove your love. Where it’s hard.

554 Relax and Succeed - The truth is that the more imtimately you know someoneEvery person you know will have a huge variety of days in their lives. Even if you died at 30, that’s almost 11,000 days. And to experience happiness you need something to compare to, so you need days that suck so that you can recognize the ones that are great. Let’s say we voluntarily surrender 4%—a pretty small amount of your time—to you experiencing things you don’t enjoy. That’s about 450 days for every 30 years. That’s more than a year for each stage of life. So if you want to know how good your relationship is, you’ll find out during those days.

When people are scared they’ll be aggressive because they feel unusually weak. But if you love someone you have faith in their core, and so behaviour outside of their normal patterns doesn’t look bad to you—it looks like a sign that something is wrong. They don’t need scolding. They need help. They don’t need to be deserted. They need to be hugged.

554 Relax and Succeed -A physician once saidWe all fluctuate in our psychological state. To say someone is mentally or emotionally healthy is to say that they exhibit a general kind of equanimity. They maintain a rare—though not constant—state of gracefulness in their interactions with the world. Again, even those individuals can slip into weaker, self-critical thought-streams. And as long as they think those insecure thoughts they will feel those insecure feelings.

Your relationship is not failing if one or the other of you is facing an enormous struggle. Maybe one of you drinks too much. Maybe one of you has a secret lover. Maybe you’re not proud of yourself and your self-hatred is bleeding out into your treatment of other people. Maybe your lack of power over cancer is causing you to over-exert power at work and now your job’s in danger and that’s causing relationship strife. There are a lot of ways to struggle both minor and major but they are all worthy of our respect. It is during these times that people prove whether or not they love someone. The real questions is, will you stick with them when it’s hard instead of easy?

Look at the person you’re dating’s worst days. Imagine 4% of your life being spent that way. If they’re still worth it, then you’re fine. Because after all, they’ll have to be just as forgiving to you. 😉

peace. s

Other Perspectives #22

420 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - True love isn't

Okay. Let’s just stop and think about this for a second. Does this make any sense? I mean, really? So if you Mom’s married to an awesome guy and he’s killed in some war or dies at work when he’s 31 years old, you’re saying that your Mom can never fall in love again? Bah. If you’re a 13 year old girl who’s been programmed by Western media then I can understand why you might believe such a crazy idea. But the deep down spiritual truth that every single prophet agreed on is that we are all brothers and sisters and beyond the barriers of our divisions of thought, we love everyone. So yes, when you love and then that love isn’t active anymore, that’s a very noticeable feeling in your life. But it doesn’t mean you’ll never feel the love again. That horrible feeling is actually prompting you to go out and find it again. The universe is beautiful that way. It makes bad things for your mind to dwell on hurt, and good things feel great. It’s an excellent signalling system and it definitely does not prevent you from falling in love many times in your life, so you can relax. Have yourself a wonderful day because you choose to focus on what you like about the people and places where you are.

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.

True Love

How do you know if you truly love someone?

signed,
Potentially In Love

Dear Love,

On the deepest and most profound spiritual level there is no separation between you and another. You are literally One, and all that you are is Love. So the truth is: you’ve always been in love with everyone, you just have thoughts that tell you otherwise.

358 Relax and Succeed - Love never failsI realize that you’re effectively asking if there is a way to tell if you’re ready for a relationship with someone and my answer might seem overly abstract, but in the end it really isn’t so let’s take a moment to look at my point more closely.

When you were born you only had experiences. You didn’t even have a You yet. You couldn’t think one into existence. There was zero separation between you and the world. But as you increasingly learned words you began to divide up the world and you did so based on your preferences. Having preferences is fine—it’s what makes you, You. The problem is when you begin to think of your preferences as being right or wrong. Then other people become either bad or good, and that’s how you steal connections from yourself. Your love becomes conditional. You will only share your open love with people that line up with your preferences. But even those that don’t will remain whole and perfect and just as much a part of the universe as you or I. They are entirely and thoroughly loveable despite not lining up with your personal likes and dislikes.

So why don’t you love them? Well again, deep down you really do. If we stripped away all of the pretences that exist in your world and you met them as only a human being and not as an identity, you would feel a closeness to them that would amaze you. You can take two sworn enemies, but if they suddenly need each other to survive you can bet that they will begin to see the value in each other. And in a healthy person, all that they are striving to do is remove more and more thought-barriers to love. They are attempting to expand their circle of who they can love by coming to an understanding that the separation they feel exists only through their thinking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo heartbreak is really us learning that our ideas about people are not the people themselves. We say people have let us down when really we mean they did not meet our expectations. And as long as we go around with a lot of expectations we will have a lot of heartbreak. But if we view these experiences wisely, we can come to see that each new heartbreak offers us a chance to take down our barriers and open our hearts to more and more people.

You don’t need to fall in love with anyone. The universe has already taken care of that for you. All you need to do is to see the other person for what they truly are—which is someone who you could have easily become you. Once you have seen how You were created you will suddenly realize that you are only made of thought, and so is everyone else. And just as you became you, they became themselves. And other than your approval of that fact, there isn’t anything else. If you don’t accept that we are naturally different then you will have conflict. If you can see that we are all aspect of one thing and that our differences are only ephemeral then, like the great avatars of our world, you would find yourself with the capacity to profoundly love literally anyone.

358 Relax and Succeed - You have to keep breaking your heartIntimate, romantic love is generally our first insight into this reality. Other people will question us and wonder why we are with this or that person, and yet we can see clearly how lovable they are. We can see it’s only a matter of our friends having the wrong perspective. But then when we fall out of love we suddenly change how the world works and we label the other person as wrong or unlovable, when really we’ve just done as our friends already did and we’ve changed our ideas about the person.

Romantic love can be a beautiful first gaze into the vastness that is true love. It is an often fleeting look at someone without judgment. If we want to be developed in our life both spiritually and with our relationships, then the very best thing we can do is to encourage ourselves to keep our judgments to a minimum and our appreciation to a maximum. Because it’s not the person that’s our access point to the limitless potential of true love, it’s our openness—our lack of judgment and opinion. The longer you keep your judgments at bay, the longer you will experience the glory of true love. And you can do that with absolutely anyone.

All the best.

peace. s

Dear Jealous Boyfriend

It’s a common problem. High school boys sometimes get hit with huge testosterone bursts as they suddenly grow. It comes with painful femurs and easy tempers. It’s when boys who are insecure about love will be inclined toward jealous worry. Today’s blog is a letter from their partner, urging a different kind of relationship. If someone’s printed this off and left it for you somewhere, then they’re trying to tell you that they think your relationship behaviour is inappropriate and/or childish, and that it is leading toward disaster.

186 Relax and Succeed - You know it's love whenReal relationships need real commitment. And the commitment isn’t to each other. It’s to ourselves. Because that’s how you make a healthy relationship work. You focus on making yourself the most helpful, enjoyable person to be around and the rest just takes care of itself.

So, for those people who feel trapped by their relationships, I offer you this:

Dear Jealous Boyfriend,

Let me begin by saying that despite what you often choose to think, I am with you by choice because I wanted to be. I was naturally attracted by qualities you naturally have. This isn’t something I really decide—you know that. You didn’t decide to like me either, you just realized that you did. So if people are truly attracted to each other, they don’t have to do anything to stay attracted other than continue to be the person who was attractive in the first place. Magnets don’t try to attract each other. They simply are what they are so they do what they do.

The only thing that threatens that otherwise natural attraction is when you’re angry and upset about things you’ve been thinking about. For me that’s like seeing a restaurant window that looks really good, and outside it smells awesome, but when you get inside the food’s terrible half the time and the waiters are super rude and mean because they’re worried and upset that I might not come back. And because it looks and smells so good, I keep going back. But if it’s going to be bad food and bad service more and more of the time, I start to feel like I’m stupid for continuing to come here.

186 Relax and Succeed - What you allowLook, your thoughts are very obviously not my actions. And no quality person is going to want to be in a relationship where they are always yelled at, are accused of things, or are generally treated poorly just because they either did some innocent thing like talk to someone of the opposite sex—or because you thought a bunch of scary thoughts that I have absolutely nothing to do with. I can definitely be responsive and I can recognize you’re worried and can act in ways that are helpful, but it’s not my responsibility to surrender my life just so you can stop worrying. Worrying happens inside your brain, not mine, so you’re the only one who can deal with that.

I need you to think about this carefully. Obviously no person is going to want to date someone who controls their life. I’m sorry that your life has lead you to believe that real relationships work by force, but I can tell you I didn’t want to date you for anyone else’s reasons but my own, and if I choose to leave it’ll be for the same reasons—mine. But I can’t force you to love me any more than you can force me to love you. That’s obviously not how love works. So we really only have one route to being in a relationship: we both volunteer for it, and we do that because we want to, and we want to because it’s enjoyable. So if you want to make sure I stay with you, rather than grabbing me by the arm and threatening me, you would do a much better job by acting in ways that are enjoyable. No one makes me spend time with my friends. I volunteer because they make me feel good. That’s important and worth remembering.

186 Relax and Succeed - Incredible change happensI’m sorry that events in your life lead you towards insecure thinking when it comes to relationships. I don’t take this personally. I know you don’t mean to do it and that it’s no fun for you to go through either. But I still can’t be a slave in a relationship. That will feel dead after a while and even you won’t want us like that. So let’s really work on this, because otherwise we’re just delaying our relationship’s demise.

Your thoughts are your thoughts and while it might be challenging at first, they are obviously entirely your thoughts, meaning they are ultimately in your control. So if you feel yourself knotting up in a rage, use the rage to remind you about the thoughts. And remind yourself that just because your childhood urged you to think that way, it’s still unproductive to us, and to our relationship, so think of something else instead and just come to me and be enjoyable.

Let’s glue ourselves together with joy. With fun. Let’s live with the least amount of anger and fear, and the most amount of orgasms and laughing. I would never leave a situation like that. So let’s quiet our minds and do that as much as possible.

I love you darling. And I love me too. So let’s build something that makes us both happy.

All the best,

Your Sweetheart.