Why Relationships Need Attention to be Successful
PHIL: Recently, a dear friend told us a dating story. They met, and after he had talked for 45 minutes straight, she gently asked “Would you like to know what I do for a living?” We told this story the other day to a woman we met at a book signing, who burst out with a litany of similar tales. Stories of men like this abound, but there are self-absorbed women, too.
So this week we thought we’d give our take on relationships in general – dates, friends, acquaintances – and the parallels with how we relate to each other. There are so many different kinds of sharing. The date first mentioned might have been lamenting a decade of misfortunes, laying out his hopes and desires, or advertising himself to cover up his weaknesses, but whatever his story, it was all about him. There was no sense of being with someone else.
One aspect of sharing is a sense of recognition, that there is another person out there just like you, just as complex and unique and autonomous as you are, but at the same time different in so many ways.
I suppose it’s possible to be in a relationship with a power imbalance, either by agreement (not necessarily even conscious) as to who is dominant and who is sub-dominant or because of frequent or constant power struggles. That’s not our choice, and if you choose and enjoy it, more power to you, but if you don’t, then you should settle for no less than a balanced relationship.
If that sounds impossible or unattainable, it’s not. By understanding the golden rule, do as you would be done by, you can have complete control, choice and autonomy over your life at the small, small, bargain price of granting the same to your partner. Of course, that’s only possible when you have complete trust in your partner, and that takes time and experience. To move toward that point, you need to be as open as possible, and this leads me to the next aspect of sharing: openness.
We all have a public persona. It has several purposes: to conceal our weaknesses, real or perceived, from public view, and to act as a social lubricant.
Intimacy comes from the progressive discarding of that persona, layer by layer, as trust develops. But you have to know yourself to show yourself, and that requires careful self-observation. Sometimes, sharing and self-discovery go hand-in-hand.
People vary in their levels of intimacy, need for intimacy and rate of opening up. A match is good, but remember: accept other peoples’ differences.
The last aspect of sharing is being present. Yes, you’ve heard it before, Ram Dass, Eckhart Tolle, yada, yada, yada, but practice it in the context of a relationship.
Pay attention both to how you are and how your partner is, and even more than that, pay attention to the relationship itself. It exists, not as a third material object, but as something you experience, as invisible as the force that swings the moon around the earth.
Every relationship has its own quality. When you’re spending time with John, it’s not the same as when you’re hanging out with Fred. Appreciate the quality of being with your partner. Be aware of that. Be present with it.
Be present. Pay attention to how you are, how your partner is, and to the relationship itself #quote Click To TweetMAUDE: I was talking with a dear friend about our blogs and she asked if we would explain how our writing applies to all relationships, most particularly to starting a romantic relationship.
As spreading peace one relationship at a time is our answer to changing the world, this is a real question to reflect on. We think the basic understandings and principles we share can be applied to all relationships, and that you can use them to build new partnerships, as well as for deepening and vivifying long term ones. Several of our readers have commented that they use many of these concepts and apply them to their relationship with themselves.
As we were reflecting and discussing this, a story came up that a friend shared with us this week. Our friend told us of having gone on a first date (through internet dating), and that the guy spoke for 45 minutes continuously about himself. After this time, she smiled and asked, “Would you like to know what I do to earn my living?” He had not asked one question or found out anything about her!
I have a similar story from the night Phil and I met. We were at a singles event, where you were supplied with a question to ask each other to get the conversation rolling. I spoke with three different men, and in each case came away knowing quite a bit about them, although they asked me next to nothing about myself, nor seemed to have any interest in finding out.
Why am I mentioning those events here? Because they bring up some of the really important aspects of successful relating. Let’s take a look at some of the behaviors that apply to building and maintaining relationships.
If you are going to connect with someone, you have to be interested in them. You have to be aware of them and not just be functioning in your own mind and thoughts. You have to be willing to share yourself authentically, and at the same time, you need to learn how to listen and communicate with another in a way that best creates the kind of give and take that builds knowledge of each other.
Through these kinds of exchanges, you come to know the other. You can learn their core values and assess if they match yours or not. To practice the kind of relating we describe, it is necessary that they match. Of course, to know if they do, you need to truly know what yours are. Hence our emphasis on getting to know yourself and how important that is to creating and maintaining relationships.
We have shared many techniques of listening and speaking that support achieving and maintaining this kind of intimacy. For us, one of the most critical is what we refer to as Sacred Space. The central aspect of this kind of sharing is being present. In any relationship, there has to be time set aside that is just for that relationship; for experiencing life together. There has to be time where you are doing nothing but sharing your connection with each other, and your attention is on that connection in whatever it is you are doing.
This cannot be maintained if it is only a memory, a sense of connection from the past. This kind of intimacy must be fed by new experiences together. Stay awake and alert to each other, whether this is a new or long term union. Make sure that there are times where all that is happening is that you are enjoying the pleasures of being together. Of all the practices and techniques you may incorporate, this is the one that will make your relationship last, and it applies to all relationships. The dormouse said, “Feed your head!” We say “Feed your relationship!”