How Hard is it to Have Harmony in Your Relationships?

How Hard is it to Have Harmony in Your Relationships?

PHIL: A New York Times opinion writer just wrote:

I want to normalize significant periods of confusion, exhaustion, grief and unfulfillment in marriage.
Tish Harrison Warren

She referenced an earlier Times article:

We need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.
Alain de Botton

What these writers are describing sounds unpleasant, to put it mildly. Our experience has consistently been completely the opposite. It took us some time before we worked out that it is this way for us because we choose it. The pleasure in being together harmoniously is so strong that we tackle and deal with anything that threatens to unbalance it.

Many people find this challenging. The first stage is coming to accept that the other person is an individual who makes their own choices, which won’t always be the same as yours. They want to visit the Evel Knievel Museum? Sure, go for it. Have a nice trip.

Where it gets complicated is when your lives start to become entwined and one person’s actions affect the other. When the dishes get done. Who needs the car more. The rent is due.

If the way you want to live your life is fundamentally different from that of your partner, there will be recurring issues because your needs and values don’t match, but in an established relationship, you probably agree on the important things; it’s the smaller entanglements that cause clashes.

When we encounter something like this, it never causes a problem because the appeal of harmony is so much stronger than any benefit we might get from “winning”. We might sit down and look for a mutual solution, or we might just let it go. This is not compromise in the sense of balancing wins and losses. There is no loss of something that is taken by the other person; instead, it is something that is given to the other person, and this can happen so freely because at base, that sense of harmony is so enticing, we gladly act to maintain it. There is no ledger of obligations and payments; instead, we act because our relationship gives us the twin joys of connection and freedom.

The reason that many people do not move to this position is that a relationship that includes struggle is one that they are familiar with, and there is a comfort in that familiarity even though it may be painful. It matches their childhood. To live that way, they are likely to pick a partner who provides the same setting: the rejected child chooses someone who ignores them, etc.

Leaving that familiar ground and behaving differently in order to have a harmonious relationship is a choice that changes your life. It may feel strange and uncomfortable at first, but the more you get a taste of the sense of harmony, the more you will gravitate to that place.To accentuate and choose harmony, you have to develop your appetite for it #quote #relationships Click To Tweet

MAUDE: Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Harmony synonyms: balance, coherence, consonance, symmetry, unity.
Harmony antonyms: discordance, imbalance, disproportion, disunity, incoherence, violence.

We often share about the visceral experience of peace that lies at the heart of happy, joyous relationships. Embedded in the center of that peace is the experience of harmony. How can you apply that when relating to another?

Harmony or struggle. Harmony or discord. Harmony or dissonance. Which attracts you in your relationships? Take a moment and ask yourself this question. Often people have a hard time moving toward harmonic responses and interactions. The position of struggle, the push-pull that characterizes many interactions, is one that is so familiar (often from growing up in such an environment) that it creates a sense of comfort, even if it also creates distance and opposition.

You so often hear words and thoughts that applaud fighting through difficulties and struggling to overcome, that this kind of interaction has become accepted and often expected. Value is placed on mastering a certain degree of misery. It is important to note that this perspective implies that you move past those feelings into something else: that you “master” that approach; you “fight through” and “overcome” so that you wind up somewhere other than in perpetual dissonance.

Yet, moving toward an unknown can be oddly unsettling and as a result, many remain locked into a place of argument, of greeting each encounter ready to defend their position and to hold onto the cacophony of “I’m right, therefore you are wrong.” The adversarial position first chooses “No”. Try thinking “Yes”.

Creating harmony is an action, it is dynamic. This is not a peace won by acquiescing or remaining silent. It is a position of respect, of truth and honesty. It involves recognizing the beauty of mutuality and the acceptance of another individuality without any sense of threat. Harmony embodies the potential for unity.

To accentuate and choose harmony, you have to develop your appetite for it. Harmony feels good. Putting varied notes together to create a chord is a delectable pleasure. The same holds true in the practice of peaceful relationships. The more you experience harmony, the greater the pull will be.

This is easier than it may sound. It does take a conscious decision to make it the place from which you respond. In the beginning, you may be doing this from thought and intention only. As you continue to do so, the attraction will grow. It becomes a more known and recognizable experience.

Choose harmony, and you will have rich, fulfilling relationships.


Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: Founded in 1869 around a burgeoning local dairy industry, Harmony served as the home of the Harmony Valley Creamery Association and de facto capital of California’s Central Coast dairy production for nearly half a century.

Read what some other writers have to say on this topic.

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