This month marks the beginning of a new series on mastering the relationship fundamentals that produce happiness, closeness and bliss. Relationships are like sports in that athletic success is largely determined by who does the “little things” the best. In love and intimacy, it’s quite similar. If you master the basics, if you practice the fundamentals and preform them consistently, you will “win” and experience relationship bliss.
The best way to think of these fundamentals is to view them as key ingredients of a great recipe: They’re all necessary for it to taste just right. In this issue of The Bridge, I discuss the first two essential ingredients. Bon Appetite!
1. Seek Your Spiritual Evolution
Your complete development as an individual is a critical fundamental if you desire to create a thriving relationship. You must be committed to clearing up anything that might hinder your ability to be close. As I have said, the key to intimacy is not finding the right partner, but being the right partner and therefore it is essential that you discover and display your authentic Self. To grow and evolve means that you are letting go of your fictitious self and all of its fears, personas, beliefs and patterns. That is what causes drama and conflict in the first place. The more you are realizing and displaying your authentic Self, the more authentic and deep your relationship can be.
Most people have a hard time seeing their fictitious self with any clarity and so require the help of a mentor, coach or therapist to make significant progress with this fundamental. That was and is true for me. It probably is for you as well.
2. Stop Blaming and Take Responsibility
I’m going to pull a Nancy Reagan here and tell you to “just say no” to blame. You will never have even a decent relationship, much less a blissful one, if you play the victim by blaming your partner for your feelings, problems or experiences.
But what if you’re absolutely, positively certain that something is your partner’s fault? Because at times, it will seem like they are, in fact, responsible for your pain or problems. What do you do? First, don’t blame. Just don’t go there. Instead redirect that accusation energy and use it to fuel deep self-inquiry and curiosity. Turn your conviction into investigation and wonder. Ask yourself how you might be responsible for what’s occurring.
I know how bizarre and insane this sounds. When my coach first taught me this truth, that we are 100% responsible for our reality, I thought she had lost her mind. But when I actually investigated a situation or two that I was sure was someone else’s fault, I always found that I allowed, invited or required things to be exactly as they were, that I had, in fact, set the whole thing up. This doesn’t mean that our partner (or anyone else) doesn’t have their part, for they too are 100% responsible. It just means that without us, it could not have turned out as it has. Let me give you an example.
I once worked with a couple that was on the verge of divorce because the husband had found out that, over their 20 year marriage, his wife had been having multiple affairs. When I first talked to him, he was, of course, terribly hurt and angry, but he also saw himself as the total victim of her behavior and blamed her for ruining their lives. “How could she do this to me?” he said. After a bit of discussion, I asked the question that led to his breakthrough. I asked him to tell me about the early days when they dated. He said, “We broke up three different times when we dated because I caught her flirting and dating other men.”
He knew exactly who she was before they got married! She was simply continuing to be the woman she always was. How then could he claim to be the victim and blame her for his pain? He set the whole thing up. He chose to date and then marry a woman who was a committed cheater. As Jimmy Buffet said, “Some people say that there’s a woman to blame, but I know, it’s my own damn fault.”
Now, of course she is responsible for her actions and her addiction. She certainly had some issues to address and she did. But the point is that none of it could have occurred without him choosing to ignore who he knew her to be. Does this mean he should stay married to her? No! It means he can take responsibility for how he created the mess and for what he now wants to do about it. In the most literal sense, this is absolute freedom.
And this freedom is only available to those who “just say no” to blame and instead inquire, investigate and wonder about how they set the whole thing up. This is, without question, the most challenging fundamental of all, but living it brings profound results.