In this, our third article about relationships, we'll once again begin by sharing the single greatest relationship myth in recorded history. And why do we keep repeating ourselves? Well, as one of our USM students remarked in a large group sharing, "My boyfriend says I don't listen to him. That's so hard to hear."
This myth is contained in the following message to your partner: "If only you would change, everything would be so much better. And, of course, you need to change in ways that I am absolutely certain would be to our mutual benefit."
Further, we suggested that trying to fix or change your partner never works since much as you think you might like to, you have absolutely no control over the thoughts, beliefs, feelings and attitudes, which underlie your partner's behavior.
We've also been suggesting the outrageous possibility that you consider working with the one person you can greatly influence, which, of course, is you!
So far, we have shared eight keys or ways you can build a more intimate and mutually fulfilling 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.
4. Keep your agreements.
5. Take responsibility for your own upset.
6. Celebrate your own and each other's successes.
7. Resist the urge to complain about your partner with your friends or family.
8. Develop and maintain supportive and mutually agreed upon ground rules and guidelines.
And now, here are an additional four keys we've found that work wonders:
1. Be willing to give up personal space.
If you have children, especially very young children, you understand what it means to be willing to give up personal space. When they cry, you hold them. When they're hungry, you feed them. And so it goes.
Now obviously, we're not saying that whenever your partner makes a request or demand, you immediately agree to satisfy it. We're talking more about the attitude of willingness to treat them with the same quality of acceptance and loving as you would treat an infant or young child. When they ask for something, sincerely consider what they are asking for rather than dismissing it out of hand because it doesn't match what you'd like in that moment. And because you're both adults and not parent and child, sometimes such conversations are opportunities for learning to use heart-centered listening (key number one) to negotiate your differences so they become contributions to your relationship rather than catalytic of conflicts.
Perhaps this key has its greatest usefulness when each of you would like to do something different. Let's say you've decided to go to the movies. Uh oh! You each want to see a different film. Assuming both of you are practicing the willingness to give up personal space, you'll look for a creative win-win solution.
You might decide on a third movie you'd both like to see, or you might simply have a nice dinner out and skip the movie altogether. The key is flexibility... letting go when some part of you (translate ego) may be poised and, in fact, positioned to insist on your way as a means of attempting to feel comfortable or in control. Why would you choose to do this? Because when you make sharing the loving with your partner more important than your personal preferences, you are making deposits in what we call your "Relationship Love Account." This facilitates you both deepening into a true heart-to-heart relationship whose currency is loving, honoring, respecting, cherishing, joy and magical memorable moments.
Nowhere is this guideline more important than in cases where you each have a different opinion. After all, when you move to higher ground and give up having to be "right," you just never know what new experiences await you. You may discover a generosity of spirit inside you that elevates your consciousness and influences how you conduct all your relationships. Think creative win-win solutions.
2. Prize your partner.
A heart-to-heart relationship can be cultivated through practicing prizing, which at its core involves you in moving into your heart and sharing with your partner your experience of their preciousness. Entering the consciousness of prizing not only moves you into your heart, it also opens the eyes of your heart! You'll see the inner beauty and wholeness, or holiness, of your partner. And in that sacred space, you'll also experience your own. Surely, this is one of the most direct routes to sharing deeply beautiful moments with your partner.
Let's try it out. Join us for a moment and close your eyes... Focus your awareness in your heart... bring your partner present there as well... reflect on the qualities and ways of being within your partner that deeply touch you.... most inspire you... What's present in your heart to share with your partner?
OK! You've got it! So now the next step is actually prizing your partner. It's simple. Move into your heart and bring your partner there too. Share with them tonight when you're having dinner or quiet time together. Or pick up the phone and call them right now. Prizing is very, very good for your health and happiness as well as your partner's, to say nothing of the enhanced quality of your relationship.
3. Touch with love.
Warmly, generously, playfully, sweetly and wholeheartedly share your love and affection with your partner daily. Physical touch is one of the ways you come into loving resonance with each other and harmonize your energies. No perfunctory kiss on the cheek will ever touch your own heart, let alone your partner's. Holding hands, putting your arm around your partner, massaging their neck and shoulders, hugging, cuddling, snuggling and tender kisses provide opportunities for heart-to-heart and skin-to-skin connection that contribute to a sense of warmth, nurturance, well-being and deeper experiences of shared intimacy, loving and oneness. Touching with love also helps keep the romance alive in your relationship. Open hearts are happy hearts!
4. Your job is not to fix, change, manipulate, or control your partner -- your job is to love them.
We've saved what may be the most powerful key for last. It's also often the most challenging of all the keys to implement. We think you will see how related it is to the myth we've been referring to. If you believe that everything would be so much better if only your partner would change in ways you've unilaterally decided would be better for you, then you have cast yourself in a frustrating and unrewarding role.
The problem with this approach is that relationship doesn't happen in the future once someone changes. It happens now based solely on how you and your partner choose to show up.
So what if you let go of attempting to fix, change, manipulate or control your partner and you simply chose to place your focus on discovering the myriad of ways available to enjoy, prize, love and appreciate your partner? Your perception of your partner as lacking will fall away as you discover the fullness of the loving inside of you. You'll experience the fulfillment that comes from sharing your loving unconditionally.
We invite you to practice the keys we've shared with you in these articles. Of course, you'll have to let go of the myth. And what's the upside potential? As you change your job from fixer to lover, regardless of what happens with your partner, you'll find that you have become a very loving individual.
Oh yes, as if by magic -- all by itself -- the quality of your relationship will take a marked upward flow. How can we be sure? We suggest you experiment for yourself and let us know how it goes.
Ron and Mary
For the past 31 years, Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick have been facilitating a two-year Master's 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.