Seven Paths to Extraordinary Relationship
What are the most important ingredients of a great relationship – whether it is romantic, parent-child, sibling, or good friends? What really makes the difference between an ordinary and an extraordinary relationship? From almost 40 years of loving one another in our own relationship and 30 years of studying and helping others in our counseling and workshops, here is what we have found to be crucial to both heal ailing relationships and make solid relationships even better.
Cultivate a Deeper Relationship with Yourself. This comes first. There can be no fulfilling relationship with another until you come to peace with yourself. There are many ways to nurture your own heart and soul: prayer, meditation, time alone in nature, inspiring reading or music, singing, dancing, etc.
Express Your Gratitude and Appreciation Every Day. The opposite, taking your loved one for granted, is a sure path to relationship stagnation. Doing things to show your love is great, like bringing flowers or hugging, but speaking words of genuine appreciation or gratitude right from your heart is a precious gift. Look deeply at your lover or friend, feel what you love the most, are most grateful for, or would miss the most if this person were not in your life, and then say it with all your heart’s feeling.
Reclaim Your Projections. Every day we see couples blaming each other, and thus feeling like innocent victims. Rather, what is it that you are doing that is hurting the relationship? Take responsibility for your projections, both negative and positive. If you don’t like your partner’s “neediness,” have you really looked at your own neediness. Or their anger (and thus your own anger)? How about the positive projections, like your loved one’s beauty, kindness or intelligence, reflecting these same qualities in you? Reclaiming your projections is the central theme in Light in the Mirror (aka The Heart’s Wisdom).
Apologize for the Ways You Have Hurt Your Loved One. Go ahead, swallow your false-pride. Make time with your loved ones to apologize for hurtful words or actions. What if you aren’t sure how you hurt this person, humbly ask. Let them know it’s important to you to make amends for any pain you’ve caused, whether inadvertently or deliberately. This is another way to take responsibility for your actions and words.
Share Your Vulnerable Feelings. When something is said or done, usually inadvertantly, that hurts (even a little), most people do one of two things: they ignore the hurt feeling or they get angry. Often these two choices produce a tense silence or expressions of sarcasm, lectures, criticism, or outright anger. This is not just a men’s issue. We see just as many women making these two choices. The courageous (and honest) choice might sound like this: “You probably didn’t mean to hurt me by saying (or doing) __________, but it did hurt me.” Now here’s the catch. This kind of statement works best if spoken with real vulnerability. If there is anger in your voice, and you may not even be aware of this, your loved one may become defensive. So how do you know you are truly vulnerable? Most of the time, you will be met with vulnerability in return, and possibly even an apology. If not, then seek professional help.
Come to Know and Love Your Inner Parent and Your Inner Child. Most people have difficulty understanding these two parts of themselves. But it’s true, we each have an inner parent that longs to nurture, protect, and surround another with love and safety, as well as an inner child that longs for love in the form of acceptance, cherishing, or protection. Relationships commonly get into trouble by ignoring these two inner parts of each person. If you ignore your inner parent, you may become too fixed upon getting love from others rather than giving love. In other words, you may be unconsciously acting out the child part of you. If you ignore your inner child, you may burn out on giving too much and not receiving enough love. In other words, you may be unconsciously acting out the inner parent. When you make both the inner child and the inner parent conscious and in balance with each other, your relationships achieve balance as well.
Discover Your Shared Spirituality. Although it is important to develop your own daily spiritual practices that feed your own soul, it is just as important to discover spiritual practices that can be shared with your loved ones. A shared religion or faith is an obvious solution, but many couples or families don’t have this. It is even more important to find that common spiritual thread that unites you on a daily basis. The two of us love to sit side by side, each doing our own silent meditation, but enjoying the closeness. Then we love to touch our foreheads together, and each speak a prayer of gratitude or asking for help from a source of wisdom and love greater than our personal selves. This is just what we love to do together. Your challenge is to discover your own shared path, practices that tune you both to the highest love, acts of kindness that you can do with your loved ones, a common gift (no matter how small or large) that makes this world a better place. Mother Teresa says, “It’s not the big things that matter to God, it’s the little things done with love.”
If you can truly practice even one of these principles, you will be amazed at the difference in both yourself and your relationships. If you take to heart all seven of these principles, you will enjoy abundant love yourself and in all your relationships, you will heal and transform stuck or troubled relationships, and you will deepen your connection with all those who really matter to you.