In our last article, we revealed the single greatest relationship myth in recorded history. "If only you would change, everything would be so much better. And, of course, you need to change in ways that I, your partner, am absolutely certain would be to our mutual benefit."
Further, we suggested that you consider the possibility that trying to fix or change your partner never works since you have absolutely no control over the thoughts, beliefs, feelings and attitudes, which underlie your partner's behavior.
We then went on to offer the outrageous possibility that you consider working with the one person you can greatly influence which, of course, would be you!
We shared four keys for building a successful heart-to-heart relationship:
1. Seek to become a really good heart-centered listener,
2. Share gratitude and heartfelt appreciation,
3. Small kindnesses reap large dividends, and,
4. Keep your agreements.
In addition, here are four more keys we've found that work wonders:
1. Take responsibility for your own upset.
Oh, we forgot to mention that this means regardless of what your partner has or hasn't done. Can you recognize your partner is a mere human -- as are you? By all means, resist the urge to blame or make them wrong about anything. Blaming and wrong-making at best only lead to estrangement.
Can you see that when you blame someone else for your being upset, you have cast yourself in a total victim position? At such times, you are behaving as if someone else (your partner) is responsible for your feelings and behavior. It's what we refer to as a pattern of "I am upset because..."
What's the alternative? Sincerely consider that your partner's behavior or choices you find objectionable are simply triggering disturbance residing within your own consciousness. Really, you are the only one who can effectively work to resolve and heal it.
Learn how to work with the place within your own ego that is experiencing upset and let go of your illusory need to be "right" by judging your partner as "wrong." We know this is much easier said than done. Nevertheless, it's the best ticket we know to peace, inner freedom and heart-to-heart relationship.
2. Celebrate your own and each other's successes.
If your son or daughter just won an Olympic gold medal, would you cheer and celebrate? Of course you would! Well why not celebrate your and your partner's every success? Oh, you say, the small everyday successes are not as important as an Olympic gold medal. Think again! Each and every time you celebrate a success, are you not in a state of celebration?
Besides, who made up the rule that only "important" successes are worthy of celebration? And think about how your relationship could change if you both realized how fortunate you both are to be sharing your lives with each other. When that awareness becomes clear to you, your entire life will be one of daily celebration.
3. Resist the urge to complain about your partner with your friends or family.
"Well," you say, "if I don't complain to my friends or family, who will I complain to?" Notice, we didn't suggest that you don't share with your friends about feelings and situations with which you are challenged. We said, "Don't complain to your friends!" Complaining always has the flavor of "I'm upset because..." (see #1 above) and paints your partner as a villain. True, you may get some sympathy and feel better for a short time, you never really resolve anything that way. The person you really need to be talking with is your partner.
Of course, go to your friends for compassion and understanding. Just leave out the complaint. And you know something; friends really don't like being complained to. Why? Because they know that when the "trouble" has passed, your partner may not appreciate the position they, your friend, held at that time.
And by the way, a really fabulous response to a complaining friend at such a time is, "I really hear you and I hear what you're saying. I sure do love you and I'm here for you while you go through this situation."
4. Develop and maintain supportive and mutually agreed upon ground rules and guidelines.
Ground rules are principles of conduct foundational to a relationship. Guidelines inform the course of action we will take in a future situation. We recommend that you and your partner take time together to establish a clearly-articulated written set of ground rules and guidelines for your relationship.
This is especially important regarding how you will be with each other during times of stress and disagreement. You may have noticed that when disturbance is present, there may be a tendency to say destructive things which we often later regret having said. At such times, it is so helpful to be able to sit down and refer to your written ground rules and guidelines. One of our foundational ground rules is this: It is our intention to love, care for, consider and respect each other. We do this through our words, attitudes and actions.
An example of a supportive guideline is that when one or both of us find ourselves out of balance, we immediately cease whatever communication we are involved in and each retreat to a private place where we can work to bring ourselves back into balance. We do this because we know that no meaningful or constructive communication is going to take place while we are upset. Then, once we're back in balance, it's so much easier to practice heart-centered listening with each other and come to a creative solution.
Well here we are again! We've come toward the end of our keys and have once again only covered four more of them. That means there are still three to go. Assuming you've come this far with us, we'll get the remaining keys to you shortly.
Ron and Mary
For the past 31 years, Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick have been facilitating a two-year Masters Degree Program in Spiritual Psychology at the University of Santa Monica. They are both licensed therapists and authors of "Loyalty To Your Soul: The Heart of Spiritual Psychology." In January, they will be celebrating their 33rd wedding anniversary.