When we use the word ‘relationship’ usually what is meant is a primary relationship in the sense of partner or spouse, husband, or wife or some ‘other’ with whom we can share our life.
Many people come to me because they are looking for ‘The one’ or a meaningful relationship with a partner, and I ask what qualities they seek and what their experiences have been. We then look at what may be blocking them from finding what they want. I usually suggest to them that it would be better for them to first come into relationship with themselves so they know who they are and what their priorities are. After having therapy for a time and becoming better acquainted with themselves they are in a much clearer position to find a person who has many of the qualities that they desire.
However, a primary relationship is not the only relationship that any of us have. It is extremely important, but what may be equally important are developing relationships with other valuable areas of life like:
- Spiritual life, the Divine, the Creator, the unseen world or whatever term you wish to use to describe that which is greater than us and has created the universe and all that is. Do you have any relationship with this?
- Prayer – do you praise and thank our Creator and/or ask for help from other realms, other realities in the unseen world?
- Death, your own death and that of others whom you love – do you believe in life after death or not and how does that belief shape your experience of loss? How does knowing you will die inform the way you live your life if it does?
- Faith or Religion – Do you have a Faith or a Religion? Do you believe in it or do you know that it is true? Often we believe in something on our way to knowing its truth. When we know it for ourselves, then it is truly embedded in us and we embody it authentically. If you have a Faith, is it important to you that your partner shares that same Faith or does that matter? What about children, is it important to you that they be raised in your Faith or that they make up their own minds about Faith, belief, religion?
- Health – What do you need to do to take responsibility for your own health?
- Work or Career – What did you dream of doing for work when you were a child? What kind of work makes your heart sing? Are you working just to get money or are you feeling that you are contributing something and being fulfilled in your work? Is your current work what you want to do for your life?
- Body, feelings and mind – People need to be in relationship with these because each of them works somewhat differently from the others and yet they can be in harmony with each other, but only when you relate to each of them and bring them to work together. Everyone is born with a body, feelings and a mind but without an instruction manual and as a result these aspects of yourself can become disorganised and not co-operative until you learn to help them to support each other. Can you think of building a relationship with each of these?
- Body – How do you feel about your body? Do you love it or hate it or both? If you are good to your body, it will serve you well for your life, and because it works for you 24 hours a day 7 days a week without ever asking for a holiday, it deserves your kindest and most supportive attention.
- Feelings – Your feelings also need attention. They give you lots of information about what is going on inside you and around you, and they need to be honoured. It is so important that you value them because they can guide you very well if you just listen to them. Which feelings do you enjoy and appreciate and which feelings do you fear and hate or wish you did not have at all?
- Mind – Your mind is a very powerful thing which enables you to live your life, do your work, have relationships and be aware of many things. However, your mind likes familiar patterns and habits so when you are in the midst of changing any of those, it needs your encouragement and support. Do you feel that your mind is the most important of all, or can you consider that your body and your feelings have an equal part to play?
- Soul – What do you understand by your soul or Higher Self? Do you want to accomplish here on Earth what you feel is your soul’s purpose for being here? Do you understand the difference between your personality and your soul and that your personality is a wonderful servant but a poor master to your soul or higher self?
- Sex – Do you experience it? In what ways and under what circumstances do you experience it? What are your rules and boundaries around it, and are those rules and boundaries ones that have come from your family, friends and/or Faith or have you thought them through yourself and made them your own?
- Children – Often the result of sex! Do you have children? What do they mean to you? Do you not have them but want them? What are you prepared to do to have them? In this life there are certain things you can do before you die and having children may be a choice you can make. Sometimes you cannot make such a choice and may grieve and regret that. You may need to pay attention to your feelings around having children.
- Family and friends - those who are close to you – how do you relate to them? What do they mean to you?
- Your Inner Child – Growth is not a straight line, but in a way we grow like trees and add another ring each year. Therefore our infant and younger selves are very much present with us all the time. If you are willing to build a relationship with your inner child, you may experience a greater feeling of wholeness and support. It is especially helpful in a relationship to be in touch with your own inner child.
- Primary Relationship – Can you find someone who qualifies and do you expect them to provide for all your needs or can you realise that there is unity in diversity and you may agree on many things but not all? You may need your own life and your shared lives and that is OK.
- Truthfulness - Can you be truthful with yourself and with others in a way that does no harm but is compassionate and empathic whilst at the same time being clear?
- Trustworthiness - Are you trustworthy? Can people trust you with information and ‘secrets’ knowing that you won’t betray them? Remember within every trust is the seed of betrayal and within every betrayal is the seed of forgiveness. If you have experienced betrayal, can you move towards forgiveness after having also experienced the hurt and anger evoked by the betrayal?
- Kindness - How kind are you to yourself and others? This is one of the qualities that is most appealing and attractive in people. The more you practice it, the better life may become.
- Generosity of Spirit - Do you feel excited and delighted when a friend or close family member achieves something important to them? Do you congratulate them with genuine fondness? Do you become jealous and resentful and begrudgingly act as if you are pleased? Are you more of a taker or a giver? We need both, and each of us can benefit from being both at different times. If we only give, we do not allow others the pleasure of giving to us. If we only take, well that is another story and a burden to those around us who can become resentful and feel used.
- Listening and Hearing - Do you actually listen to your partner/spouse? Do you really hear what they say and consider it or do you just hear what you say and consider yourself right?
I am sure there are many more areas of life that may be of importance to you and I shall continue this discussion in the future. I am simply suggesting that you begin to communicate more explicitly and clearly with each of them. When you make choices and decide who you are in many different circumstances, you become more defined and people know better who you are and you are more authentic in your relationships. Once you have made clear choices about who you are now, remember that you can always change your mind later as you become aware of new information.
We are all works in progress, but at least you will know yourself better and so will others. Thinking about these issues enables you to come into relationship with more of you and that relationship can include a fulfilling and wonderful primary relationship which works much better if you are clear with yourself and your partner.