I love spring—the time of mating, regeneration and rebirth.
Winter has fled and summer approaches. Sap is rising in the trees and blossoms; new leaves and growth surrounds us.
For many people, thoughts turn to romance. For people in relationships, thoughts turn to rejuvenation. Fortunately, or unfortunately the reality of today’s culture is that many people are beginning or finishing the long process of divorce and separation. The global rate of divorce is at an all-time high, and no country is immune to its effects.
It is clear that the old way (the way of our parents and grandparents) of relationships just isn’t working (if it ever did). In the past, economic hardships created and imprisoned our ancestors in their marriages or relationships. Today, many people consider a relationship just as disposable as cans and bottles.
What is it that we are doing wrong? Why is it that relationships are not working anymore? Have we just become more superficial and impatient?
Having been single for many years after two divorces, I have had a chance to reflect on what works and doesn’t work in relationships. I was a divorce lawyer for many years, and noticed what caused marriages to fail and prosper. I ended up writing a book, What is Love? to talk about what I had learned about relationships. Since I wrote that book, I have had a chance to reflect more on what makes a successful relationship and what causes a relationship to fail.
Love is not enough. We often are attracted to people who we believe are our soul mates. The desire is intense, the intention to live together forever sincere. This attraction is difficult to live with–we think of our love every minute and grieve when we are apart.
However, we have to use our common sense.
Sometimes we feel attracted to people we are not compatible with and our hormones cloud our perception. When the initial biological attraction fades, we wake up to the fact we are committed to someone who does not support us or want us. We have to use our logical brains to balance the emotional attraction. We can love someone deeply but we do not have to marry him or her, or even have a long-term relationship. Move slowly and understand the person before you commit.
Responsibility. Both parties must understand what they are experiencing is being created by them for their enlightenment. When we don’t get what we want, we have to understand that what we want is only our belief systems getting in the way of our relationships. We should take a hard look at what is more important: our beliefs or the relationship.
Usually there are two possible responses to any circumstance: (a) love/heart or (b) ego/mind. For example, what if your partner says they will do something and then changes their mind. Do you get upset or do you accept that your partner is doing the best they can? On the occasions where we get really disappointed, we need to look at whether we had unrealistic expectations in the first place. In the final analysis, we have to take responsibility for feeling bad about something.
It is not your partner’s responsibility to make you happy, that is your job. Think about it, if you are unhappy, will that make you any more desirable? If you are happy, I guarantee that your “mate” will be more interested in being with you.
Self-discipline. When we put our beliefs before the relationship, the relationship will fail. If we have rules or needs that have to be met for us to be happy, we are putting ourselves before the relationship. If both parties require their needs and wants to be satisfied, there is no way the relationship will prosper. Both parties have to put the relationship first. It also requires each party to do whatever it takes to be happy. If that means being apart, the other party should allow that to happen. Any relationship that involves keeping the other person happy is not a healthy relationship.
Spiritual practice. For both parties to thrive in a relationship, both need to understand the concept of spirituality. That does not necessarily require a worship of any particular religion, but each does need to understand that there is some consciousness greater than them at operation in the universe. When we understand that there is a bigger picture than our individual desires, we can put life in its proper perspective.
Role models. We often need help and guidance in relationships and all aspects of our lives. There are always people who live their lives as we would like to live ours. We need to seek them out and ask for guidance. Whether it is a friend, a religious leader, a parent or an author of a self-help book, we need to ask for directions. Only the reckless would go on a journey without guidance.
Choose wisely. Face it: sometimes we pick a person who is not compatible with our belief systems. We have a choice at that point: we either change the belief system or the person. We have to make a conscious decision whether our beliefs are more important than the person, and as long as we are clear about the basis of our decision, it is the best we can do.
Discuss, don’t argue. Whenever we argue, we are coming from a place of fear. We have to be right and the other person has to be wrong. When we discuss something, we come as equals to a discussion about a mutual decision. When we argue, we are not looking for compromise, we are looking for victory. Always remember that no one wins an argument. You may be right but you may lose the relationship.
Forgiveness. We have to forgive ourselves more than we have to forgive others. Whenever we are hurt, it is because we did not understand the lesson. We have to seek the truth of the lesson in order to understand why we experienced pain. To forgive the other person will not prevent similar events from happening in the future. We have to forgive ourselves and understand our part in creating that scenario. We have to stop taking things personally.
I feel that the kind of love that will be required between people from today onward will be a new kind of love that requires clarity, self-reflection and grounded affection. In other words, a more mature love will be required so that we can grow along with our partner.
The bottom line for everyone is a matter of priorities. Do you want to be right or happy?
I am now in a glorious relationship with someone I feel is totally compatible with me, and the only thing that I want is to be with her. Everything else is secondary. I realize that there will be times that we will have to take care of business by ourselves, but I trust that will not be for long. It is a new kind of relationship when I apply the principles listed above.
Author: James Robinson
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Brian Holland/Flickr