Building a relationship is like building a house, and if you plan to stay in that house for a long time, you’d better make sure you have a solid foundation.
In order to relate consciously with others, we need to first be conscious of ourselves at a personal individual level. The more we understand ourselves, and the more we respect and accept ourselves, the more capable we are at understanding, respecting and accepting others. In order to truly love another person, we have to come from a place of love. We have to first love ourselves.
It’s important to have some understanding of how we see relationships and what we expect from them. Are we just in it for our own gratification? Or are we coming from a place of love, wanting only to share what we have attained from our relationship with ourselves? Do we recognize within ourselves, not only our various strengths, but do we also recognize and accept our imperfections? And if we do recognize and accept our own imperfections, are we then willing to accept the imperfections we recognize in others?
So, first of all, we need to come from a place of understanding, putting no expectations upon anyone to be anything other than who they are. Do we recognize that person as an individual? Are we willing to we accept their flaws? Do we respect their freedom to think, feel and express in whatever way comes most naturally to them?
Because Love (if we’re really talking about genuine love) is about acceptance. It’s about giving… it’s about respect… and it’s about honoring the other just as they are… not trying to change them… not trying to get something from them… but being willing to embrace the whole person… both the positive as well as the negative qualities.
We want the same thing for ourselves, don’t we? We want someone to respect us… to value our individuality.. to accept us just the way we are and to support us in whatever we desire for ourselves. But we can only expect to receive that acceptance to the same capacity that we’re willing to give it.
If you want to be loved, you have to be love. You have to give love. If you want respect, you have to give respect. If you want someone to accept you, you have to accept them, without judgment… without expectation.
2.) HONEST, OPEN COMMUNICATION
By recognizing each other as individuals, we allow a space for one another to express our thoughts and ideas, our feelings and our desires. From the very beginning there should be clear communication about what our intention is, what kind of relationship we desire, and what, if any, our expectations might be. Too often we make an effort to tell the other person what we think they want to hear. We’re not able to be fully honest with them because we’re not being fully honest with ourselves. And somewhere down the line, the truth emerges, and what often results from this a feeling of betrayal and distrust. So from the very beginning, be very clear about what you seek from the relationship… what are your personal desires?… your personal boundaries? Even if you aren’t quite clear what it is you’re feeling in that moment, or what it is that you desire, then be clear about that.
If you can’t be fully open and honest with this person right from the beginning, it will be so much more difficult to be open and honest with them later. If they cannot accept you as you are now… if they are not in alignment with your thoughts, feelings and ideals… then this is not the person you should be with.
Once again, in order to receive this kind of openness and understanding from the other person, you need to be accepting of them… to hold no judgment… to be an attentive listener, and to provide a safe space in which they can feel comfortable opening up and expressing their innermost thoughts and feelings.
If you react to them with judgment or anger, they will learn to keep their mouth shut. This won’t prevent them from having certain thoughts and feelings about a particular matter, but it will prevent them from expressing it. And in addition, they may grow to resent you for not allowing them the space to express themselves. By denying their thoughts and feelings… by denying their freedom as an individual with their own unique perspective, you are denying the relationship from reaching any real degree of intimacy.
3.) RESOLVING NEGATIVE EMOTIONS
Intimacy means closeness… connection. But in order to get close, you have to dissolve some of the barriers. You have to work to resolve negative emotions like fear, jealousy, anger and judgment. We call something “negative” because its nature is that it repels, whereas “positive” energy attracts. So the more we can learn to remove these negative emotions from our interactions, by giving more energy to positive emotions like compassion and understanding, the closer we are drawn to one another. The more attractive we are, energetically, the more intimately connected we become.
Establishing this kind of intimacy is a very important foundation for our relationships because there will always come a time of difficulty. If we have not established a deep intimacy, it will be all the more difficult to deal with these challenges. But by first developing an intimate connection, we can use this as an anchor during stormy weather. And even while the waves are crashing down upon us, in the depths there remains a stillness. If we can delve into that stillness, remaining intimately connected at the level of spirit, even while the waves are crashing all around us, we can emerge from the storm unbroken. But without that connection, the storm can brake us.. tear us apart.. leave us feeling shattered.
So, take time to build upon that foundation. In a world that is always judging us, disapproving of our thoughts and feelings, trying to control and manipulate us for its own selfish advantage, be that person who your partner can always come to for refuge. Be that safe space… that loving space where they can feel comfortable being their authentic self.
4.) GRATITUDE & APPRECIATION
It’s easy to get caught up on everything that’s “wrong” with our partner. Initially we may have believed that they were perfect, only to find out they’re not. But if we’re realistic about it, who is? But despite these imperfections, there are reasons why we were attracted to this person in the first place. There were aspects of them which we appreciated. And it’s important to stay focused on these, and to give gratitude. And as we come to know them more intimately, we may find more and more aspects to be appreciative about.
One of the things I appreciate most about my current partner is that she accepts and appreciates me despite my many imperfections. And for that I am extremely grateful.
Some people suggest that gratitude and appreciation help us to develop a deeper sense of love. But I would go further than that and say that gratitude and appreciation are in fact expressions of the love that exists already within us. And by expressing these feelings we keep that channel of love open, allowing it to flow more smoothly.
5.) COMMITMENT & LOYALTY
And finally, what is needed is commitment and loyalty, which are often misunderstood. The reason for this, I believe, is because there are two very different definitions of the word “commitment”:
1.) the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.
2.) an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.
I think most people define romantic commitment by the second definition, which would explain why so many people are so hesitant about getting married. This definition is better suited to those confined to prisons and mental hospitals. But commitment, as it relates to relationships, has nothing at all to do with restricting one’s freedom of action. It has nothing to do with romantic or sexual exclusivity. It has nothing to with taking vows or signing contracts.
Commitment, in regard to relationships, is about dedicating one’s energy to preserving and maintaining that relationship, even if things get a little bit dry or difficult. It’s about maintaining the above mentioned foundations of acceptance, open and honest communication, gratitude and appreciation, and resolving negative emotions. It’s about seeing the relationship as an opportunity for personal spiritual growth, and being willing to do the necessary inner work that comes with each life lesson.
Loyalty, which goes hand and hand with commitment, is about being devoted to one’s partner… to being committed to supporting them through their own personal and spiritual journey. It means honoring them from a place of love, and offering them comfort, encouragement and guidance during times of difficulty. It’s easy to be available to your partner when everything is bright and happy, but real commitment and loyalty is about being there for them even during the darkest hour.
In combination with all of the above mentioned building blocks, one can create and maintain an unshakable foundation upon which the relationship will thrive and flourish.