Every relationship is a sacred dance. There are moments when people are so aligned that they move as one. At other times, we may struggle over who is leading and step on each other’s toes. Peace and success in life require us to be masters of relationships. Although we can rely on the patterns we learned when we were young, the conditioned responses we used to navigate our youth may not enable us to create the deeply nourishing and harmonious interactions we crave as adults.
There are several essential principles that support healthy relationships. If you are able to integrate these basic tenets into your view of yourself and the people in your life, you will experience a renewed sense of freedom and optimism in your relationships.
We are responsible for our own emotional life.
If we are to experience comfortable, nourishing relationships, we have to relinquish the idea that someone else can make us feel a certain way. If we hold another person responsible when we are upset, we surrender our power, which makes us less capable of creating the outcome we seek.
The language we use is a key to how much responsibility we are taking for our emotional life. For example, if you find yourself frequently saying things like, “My boss makes me so mad,” “I feel used,” or “I feel taken for granted,” you are using language that puts you in a position of powerlessness because you are essentially saying that someone else is in control of how you feel. It’s much more empowering to use language that directly expresses how you feel rather than language that interprets other people’s actions.
Here is a sampling of words, taken from Marshall Rosenberg’s excellent book Nonviolent Communication, that ontribute to feelings of victimization:
As Rosenberg states, by increasing our power to articulate our feelings without casting blame, we can deepen our relationships with others and improve our ability to resolve conflicts. If there is something that is lacking in one of your core relationships, it’s important to cast off the role of victim and commit to creating the harmony and love you deserve. In some cases, that means deciding to end a toxic relationship. While this decision can be difficult, we usually know at a deep level whether a relationship honors our soul and when it’s time to move on.
At the same time, it can be difficult to break conditioned patterns of behavior and limiting beliefs. For those who want to are struggling to let go of emotional pain and patterns that are holding them back, we suggest that you consider attending the Free to Love workshop, where you will be guided in an intensive process of identifying and releasing emotional turbulence and old obstacles, freeing you to create the life you envision.
Healthy relationships are based upon equality.
Ego-rooted relationships reinforce insecurities. When one person criticizes, demeans, or asserts authority over another, it may temporarily improve the self-esteem of one by lowering another’s, but this assumption of power is always vulnerable. Relationships based upon mutual respect liberate energy that becomes available for creativity.
Practice conscious communication.
Determine what you need and ask for it. Young children rely upon their caregivers to figure out why they are uncomfortable and what will make them feel better. As adults, we are much more likely to meet a need if we are able to identify it for ourselves and then express it as a request for a specific behavior. Explore the work of Marshall Rosenberg, who has written succinctly about the tools of conscious communication. His website offers many rich resources that you can immediately begin using to become a more conscious (and happy) communicator.
Give what you seek.
Human beings have four basic needs in a relationship: attention, affection, appreciation, and acceptance. We give attention by making eye contact. We express affection by connecting physically with sensitivity and permission. We demonstrate appreciation by telling and showing people that they add value to our lives. We provide acceptance by cultivating an internal conversation of recognizing ourselves in the other and the other in ourselves.
Since each of us craves these expressions of love, be generous with the people in your life and you will spontaneously see these returning to you in kind. This is the essence of the Law of Giving and Receiving. Anything of value in life only multiplies when it is given. IF something doesn’t multiply through giving, it’s not worth giving or receiving. So give freely, knowing that the flow of life’s gifts is infinite.
People sometimes say that they really want a “serious” relationship with a soul mate, but the result is seldom nurturing. In fact, it’s often when people decide that their relationship must become serious that all the fun and spontaneity evaporates. A more evolutionary choice is to look for a light-hearted relationship that allows you and your partner to express who you really are. These relationships tend to be more fulfilling and longer lasting. There is a powerful principle that when we are unhealthily attached and fear-based in a relationship, we almost ensure the dreaded outcome.
Remember that life is short.
Enjoy what you have. Don’t waste time indulging in petty grievances. We sometimes avoid healing our relationships because we anticipate there will be plenty of time in the future or because we actually get some limited benefit from withholding our unconditional love or forgiveness. Do what you can from your side to create peace now. Free your heart from grievances and regrets now. Do not allow your present to be trapped in the past.