Relationships - Making them work
Relationships. Love or hate them, we all long for them. But why is something so special and integral to our human makeup, turn into painful experiences for many of us – for some, even “disastrous” consequences.
Perhaps it should be made compulsory that we first “qualify” before being allowed and let loose to get involved in any relationship with someone – it might help us avoid messing up someone else’s life. Instead, especially with intimate relationships, the only “qualification” we seem to deem adequate and appropriate, is that moment or period in our teen-hood years when we experience that inner “awakening of our hormones” that stirs up our emotions, feelings, desires and attractions of wanting to be with another.
Overnight we suddenly, and seemingly miraculously, feel and consider ourselves appropriately and suitably qualified and equipped to engage another person in a relationship (wouldn’t it be wonderful if everything else in life worked as simple as that).
But, what would be an appropriate relationship course we should take to qualify? Who would instruct us in this? Is anyone suitably qualified to teach and assess us – given that many who have studied and are considered “experts”, themselves either experience and have to work through relationship issues and challenges of their own, or, have never had any relationship experiences. To use an obvious one of numerous examples, the relationship and marriage counselling given by Roman Catholic nuns and priests who have no life experience on such matters.
In the absence of any such qualifying pre-requisite, from “that” young age we are left to helplessly – but full of hope – battle through as best we can and know how, to figure out how to make our relationships work. Driven by our inner needs to be loved, belong, be accepted, feel good enough etc., we invariably end up fighting against or ignoring the feelings and knots in our stomach from part of us saying, “this is not working how I want it, leave, run away, this is a horrible, abusive, painful relationship.” Driven by feelings and emotional fears and needs of: being a failure, unlovable, not good enough, not being wanted, alone, being at fault etc., we stay. If in a marriage or long term relationship, we might stay driven by our sense of wanting to be right, like: “I will not give up what I have worked for”; or fears such as: “how am I going to manage and live on my own?”; “how will it affect the children (if there are any)”; “what will people think and say?”; “maybe if I change, things will be ok”; and then the big one, “but I love him/her” ... (really!).
When all we really want, dream and wish for is simply to be in a loving, meaningful and fulfilling relationship, it is understandable that when things go wrong we become distraught, do not want to let go or break it up. So we explore avenues for a solution. It might be advice from friends and colleagues, consulting professional counsellors, maybe having a heart-to-heart with our partner – persons we are not likely to approach, especially when we are young, are our parents ... I mean, what would they know about our feelings and our relationship. Many couples just give up and stay in the non-working relationship no matter how horrible and/or abusive it may be; they will compromise themselves totally and live out a life of pain and suffering.
The advice our “reference” sources are likely to give us is that we need to work on our relationship to make it work – especially by mother ... right? We are advised to:
• Discuss things with our partner; share and understand each other’s needs and wants (may have already done that and nothing much has changed.) • Create a win-win environment by being willing to make compromises – this is considered an essential requirement for successful relationships by most. • Remember your marriage vows, they are your foundation • Go for relationship counselling (maybe done that already; applied the “tools kit”; fundamentally still no changes.) ... etc.
On the face of it, this advice all sounds reasonable and workable to create a loving relationship environment and experience. In reality however, while we might experience some early improvements as we work on it, overall things do not undergo any fundamental changes. The core of our issues and challenges remain unchanged, or unresolved. Before long we find ourselves creating piles of “snotty tissues” from a “broken” heart ... perhaps even, once again. The rationale and justification we might be offered for this is that it is what happens in relationships; why we need to keep working at it. This may lead us to think and believe that we are not working at this correctly; not working hard enough at making things work; that perhaps we are focusing on the wrong aspects of the relationship ... and so on.
But actually, those are not the reasons for things not working. What is missing from the generally proposed ideal about “work at making our relationships work”, is that it does not address the real fundamentals for the relationship not working; the real underlying issues. For instance, that our underlying feelings, truth and reality are that we do not really want to be in the relationship; that it does not support us; we did not really want this in the first place; should have left long ago; we got ourselves into it for the wrong reasons and were too scared to end it.
These can be tough realities to have to face up to. Especially if we fear the possible consequences of a break up/separation; what that says about us: being a failure, feeling rejected, unacceptable, unloved and so on. Feelings we might not have experienced in the beginning, when we were courted/courting ... and if it wasn’t like that, then one should definitely look at why they stuck around back then. If things were great in the beginning, then, what goes wrong? And why should we have to work at this to make it work? Why shouldn’t it just work? Why do the “tool kits” on how to work at making it work not resolve the issues?
In my experience, what goes wrong is that over time, there is a change of emotional needs that we had fulfilled in the beginning; and the “tool kits” offered only have a partial level of success because they are mechanism of managing the challenges and problems. They do not help identify and address the underlying source of the problems; they do not help a person dive deep within to find those inner truths.
To digress for a moment - when I looked up the dictionary definition of this “thing” called relationship, I ended up looking at three words in the Collins Dictionary version I used: relationship, related and relation.
What I noted about the inter-relationship of these words is that a relation is something which naturally exists between things - it does not differentiate between anything or anybody. Being natural implies (to me) that there is no requirement to work at anything. Things just are; as they ought to be in a relationship.
Without intent to manipulate words or semantics, a relationship can therefore be defined as: the state of being mutually related in a natural way – unconditional, mutual, natural, non-discriminatory way – with anybody and everything.
A definition that manifests best in nature where everything works in perfect harmony, in a natural way; one thing supporting and complementing another without need for control, domination, judgment, discrimination, blame and destruction. Everything co-existing as a manifestation of their respective, unique, natural beauty.
As humans we are actually no different. We too have the capacity to equally manifest the natural beauty of our human species. But we first need to learn how to accept ourselves unconditionally instead of getting into and depending on our relationships to satisfy our emotional needs and/or fears through:
• having control over someone or something • judgement, conditions, discriminations, dependencies, inequality • expectations, emotional needs and fears • being right – be it personal, cultural, race, religious, political, philosophical, economics ... et al ... ideologies • compromise • being better, superior than another • … and many others
But why do we have such needs in the first place? We experience these needs and the expectations we create from them in an effort to overcome and/or negate our feelings and belief of being “not good enough”; to prove our ok’ness; to be wanted; be loved; prove our self-rightness etc. Through this we are making our well-being dependent on our circumstances – partner, friendships, job, career, money, religion, politics ... and whatever else. When our expectations are met, we feel great, life is great, nothing must change (which does); when they are not, we feel lousy, hard-done by, victimised, etc. and we end up blaming the circumstances for our unhappiness, frustrations, stress, depression, anxiety, lack of self-worth, and so on. That leads to us living our life as a victim of our circumstances – whether these be favourable or not. We thus create expectations for how things must be so that we can ok with ourselves – our comfort zones.
How this plays out or affects our relationships is that by creating expectations so as to satisfy our emotional needs and fears, we end up becoming a taker – ok, I hear you say, “... who, ME, never” ... horrors of horrors. Well, unfortunately, that is the reality of making your well-being circumstantial – dependent on circumstances. The other reality is, that the partner/other parties are in the relationship to also satisfy their own such needs and fears. That results in both parties ending up taking. With both parties taking, it means that in the overall scheme of things, there is no one in the relationship environment that is giving; the relationship is empty, has nothing to give. This results in the parties then looking to take from their partner what they were hoping to have from the relationship. As, to repeat, each are “on the take” (so to speak), they encounter the issues and challenges experienced; which they are advised and counselled to “work at to make it work.”
What we are also taught about what is required to make this work, is compromise – considered an essential element to create win-win relationships. These teachings however are completely wrong. Because compromise is actually the source of our problems, it is the source of our non-ok’ness with ourselves, our issues and challenges in life. Compromise is what drives us to create expectations – because we want a payback. It is how we end up being dependent on and living as victims of our circumstances. It also puts us on a never ending cycle in life: we compromise –> it triggers our needs and fears - > give rise to expectations –> we become dependent –> more needs and fears - > we compromise again ... and so our cycle continues.
To stop this never ending cycle of events, we need to and must address and eliminate those feelings and beliefs of “being not good enough” that drive our emotional needs and fears. That will result in us accepting ourselves unconditionally – true love of Self – to enjoy a relationship that works naturally, that does not require any “working at ...”; it just does because neither party feels or has any need for taking. By this the parties automatically become givers and the relationship becomes a fulfilled environment - as opposed to one of needing fulfillment from.