Two Bits of Wisdom about Long-term Relationships – Positive Psychology News
We all know what a platonic friendship is, right? A nonsexual relationship. What about an Aristotelian friendship? What is that? Although you've likely never. Mar 17, She's out there somewhere, so shape up | See more ideas about Falling in love, Journals and Life advice. You may hear these sayings often, but these relationship paradigms aren't always helpful, and are oftentimes just wrong.
You may be wondering if you should leave a marriage, or how to improve the one you have, or you may feel that the time for being with someone has passed you by. In each of these situations, it is appropriate to ask yourself how your ideas of romance mesh with your spiritual values and aspirations.
Unfortunately, it is easy to become confused in thinking about relationships in the context of your dharma practice and, consequently, to undermine both.
So I hesitated as I sat there wondering how to answer the woman's question. Certainly, her dharma practice could help her see her relationship more clearly, and it could help her more skillfully implement whatever she decided to do, but was she sufficiently mature to consider consciously making her relationship part of her dharma practice?
It is tempting to hear about a profound way of working with romantic love and think, "This will solve all my problems! To actually practice mindfulness in a relationship, you have to find the strength of heart and mind to persist through much difficulty and doubt in order to make it real in your life. I first encountered the possibility of integrating outer love and inner practice in a teaching by Ram Dass. Astudent had asked him a question about relationship. At first, Ram Dass gave a superficial answer, but when the student persisted, he said, "Well, if you really want to look at love from the spiritual side, you can make your relationship your yoga, but it is the hardest yoga you will ever do.
And I wanted nothing to do with it!
It did not fit my idealized notion of romance - unconditional love that involved much drama around truth telling and intense feelings in and out of bed as each of us sorted out our childhood wounds and searched for life's meaning.
I could not imagine surrendering passion to the purifying fire of practice. But Ram Dass was speaking of a way of being in a relationship that is more fulfilling than living with intense expectations of each other.
How could this be? Only with repeated experience in longterm relationships and years of meditation practice did I begin to see the delusion that was inherent in my romantic expectations and the suffering that it involved.
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Expectations are a form of view, and the Buddha taught that view is a fetter to freedom. The truth of this is clearly visible in relationships. Culturally Conditioned Love Our current expectations about love are based on our culture's concept of romance, which originated in England and other parts of Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries with the emergence of the courtly love associated with knights and their ladies.
It was not that romantic love was suddenly invented or discovered then; rather, it evolved into an idealized form that redefined how we perceive love and how we act it out. Said another way, romantic love became the idealization of the feelings that a man was capable of having about a woman, feelings that were superior to carnal lust or economic practicality. Over time, the belief came into being that these pure feelings of love were transfiguring to both sexes and that love was a means of spiritual growth.
The idea that the feelings of caring between two people have spiritual meaning was revolutionary. Originally, there was no sexual acting out. The woman who stood for spiritual perfection was often married to someone else; thus, romantic love was an internalized experience of ecstasy of the spirit, not of sexual pleasure. However, as this idea of romantic love spread, it increasingly became a factor in choosing a mate. Historically, marriages were arranged by parents to serve economic and social ends.
But by the 20th century, most people believed that this feeling of romantic love, not arranged marriage, was the basis for making a lifelong commitment. As the original ideas of courtly love became widespread, they became more and more diluted with ordinary wants, although traces are still there as we search for a "soul mate," fall in love at first sight, and read through the poems of Pablo Neruda. Love is often regarded as the peak individual experience, but without the sense that it is grounded in Spirit despite our culture's tradition of church weddings.
Absent a strong connection to the idea of love being its own reward, it is hard for a relationship to seem like it's "enough. For many people, a relationship is considered successful only if all of their sexual and emotional needs are fulfilled, and their economic and socialstatus aspirations are met.
Obviously, things often don't work out in this manner, and there is a feeling of disappointment in the relationship. Many couples address this problem by having children and connecting through them to selfless love.
In fact, parenting is the most idealized spiritual act in our culture. But in many instances, the feeling of spiritual connection through the child does not spread to the relationship or to the inner life.
When the children are no longer the primary focus, what remains is an arid distance between two people.
Hollywood Romance Hollywood's happily-ever-after romantic comedies carry the implicit message that if your relationship isn't ideal in all ways, then it is second-rate.
Nothing could be more wrong, and many romantic movies make no reference to the connection between human love and spiritual love. In fact, their behavior as prostitute and capitalist predator reinforce just the opposite traits. Unlike the fairy tales they reflect - in which the characters are redeemed partly by their honest suffering and open hearts - everything happens spontaneously to this man and woman merely by "magic.
I frequently meet men and women who have such unrealistic expectations about relationships that they are made miserable by comparing their situation with how they think love is supposed to be. Loving Insights The woman sitting in my office embodied this dilemma of expectations.
For three years, she had been asking herself if she should stay in her marriage and make it work or go look for love with someone else.
She felt that nothing had changed in that time and that she finally needed to do something, because she wanted children and believed that the older she got, the fewer "good men" there would be to partner with. Even if you do not choose to make relationship your spiritual practice, the insights of mindfulness can help you clarify all the expectations and interpretations that determine how much you suffer with romantic love. As you learn the dharma, it becomes obvious that much of the misery you experience in relationships is not caused by the situation itself, or "what is," but by your mind's reaction to it.
You quickly discover that you are tormented by what the Buddha described as "wanting mind. Or else you experience aversion to certain characteristics of your significant other, yourself, or your life together. You then compare these irritations or frustrations with an imagined perfect alternative and you suffer. These judgments about your life being insufficient build steadily until they form the reality of your perception.
You then become restless and worried, or lifeless and numb, in the relationship.
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This is not to say that the problems in your relationship are not real, nor is it to say that they are not sufficient reason for leaving. The point is that your feelings become so distorted that it is difficult to know what you truly feel, let alone make a wise decision.
As you bring mindfulness to your relationship, you begin to see that the mind endlessly grasps after things, clings to expectations, and resents your partner if he or she doesn't share the same values or does not meet your expectations. Love and affection are easily forgotten amidst such hindrances.
The mind can so cling to images of how things are supposed to be that "what is" is never explored as a chance for deepening love.
When you are more mindful in a relationship, you become aware of how difficult it is to stay vulnerable when there is so much anxiety. Additionally, you discover that without a conscious commitment to staying emotionally present in the relationship no matter what arises, there's a tendency to abandon love and trust when either of you makes a mistake, diminishing the chance that you will ever grow closer together.
Relationships inevitably involve feeling vulnerable, fearful, uncertain, and disappointed - how else could it be? Yet the untrained mind is not equipped to maintain equanimity, let alone compassion and loving-kindness, in the face of these difficulties. There is also the tendency to want, even expect, your love relationship to heal your childhood wounds, to be a source of unconditional love and endless praise to help you overcome self-loathing, or to rescue you from your boredom and unhappiness or from your lack of purpose.
Being more grounded in your spiritual practice provides the strength and awareness to cope with all of these problems. Worked with mindfully, relationships become a vessel to help you travel deeper into yourself and, in time, to become more self-contained and less fearful or needy. Unhealthy Relationships It is imperative, however, that you be able to make the distinction between a relationship that is healthy and one that is unhealthy at its core. Basically, in an unhealthy relationship, your sense of an open, vulnerable self is ravaged and your connection to Spirit is suppressed, as is your spontaneity.
You have no sense of possibility for inner development and feel shut off from the joy of life. These unhealthy conditions may arise because of abusive psychological, emotional, or physical factors or because of strong incompatibility that offers no possibility of negotiation. The relationship deadens Spirit; you feel lifeless inside.
Your partner might be the one at fault, or you, or both, either because of personal wounds or because the two of you are simply mismatched. If you repeatedly experience the relationship as having an unhealthy core, ending it may be the wise and compassionate course of action.
However, not getting exactly what you want materially from a relationship and not having your sexual needs met does not automatically make a relationship unhealthy at its core.Wisdom In Relationships - Rev. Johnson V - 19.08.18
Likewise, not receiving the praise you desire or the lifestyle you had hoped for, or being disappointed that your partner does not have the personality traits you would prefer, does not necessarily mean a relationship is unhealthy.
Any one or more of these conditions could indicate your relationship is fundamentally unhealthy, or it may simply mean that you have work to do in these areas of your relationship and that you need to examine your expectations. This doesn't mean you can't choose to leave a relationship for these secondary reasons, but there is a big difference between leaving because of difficulty and dissatisfaction and leaving as a matter of urgency due to an unhealthy core.
Trust in Each Other If you want to try making relationship your yoga, there are three models of healthy manifestations of love that you might consider exploring. Mindfulness can help you with each. The first is what I call "two healthy egos at the center," which is based on a balanced, honest exchange between two people. This is the modern ideal of what relationships and intimacy are supposed to be. It is a union of equals, a partnership. Each partner desires to act in a way that is helpful, empowering, and loving to the other.
And likewise, each partner expects to receive an equal amount of attention and help in return. This fair exchange includes mutual decision making, sharing of the work, and equal respect for the values and needs of each other. In a healthy version of this partnership exchange, each person genuinely wants to be fair in giving to the other.
This means that even if one partner has some advantage, such that he does not have to give as much as he receives, there is still no exploitation. Each partner gives a fair exchange, ignoring any power advantage. Because each person believes that giving love to the other is a reward in itself. Therefore, the relationship has warmth and spontaneity at its core. You can see why this kind of relationship requires two healthy egos.
If either one of you always feels needy or inadequate, the capacity for generosity of spirit is lacking. Not that you are always going to feel and act loving toward each other, or that you are always supposed to be in agreement about what is fair or whether you or your partner is doing his or her share.
What matters is your intention to base the relationship on a fair exchange, and you trust each other that this is so. You can use mindfulness to stay present in a partnership relationship and to acknowledge "what is" rather than what your ego wants to be true. Your practice can help you avoid defensiveness and getting caught in fear, and help you give up being controlled by your needs.
When the partnership model fails, it is because one or both partners aren't in touch with their own emotions or because of unrealistic expectations. The relationship deteriorates into dysfunctional cynicism, and bargaining takes over as both partners try to protect themselves.
From the perspective of using romantic love as a path to spiritual development, the partnership relationship model is ultimately limited, because your happiness and sense of well-being are based on having your ego needs met.
You are not establishing an independent, inner relationship to the love energy that is associated with Spirit. The dharma teaches that everything changes, including relationships - you get sick, or the other person is injured, or your needs change.
Something will happen that will cause your ego to take a loss, and you will not have prepared yourself by establishing a more lasting basis for happiness. Trust in Love The second option for a healthy relationship includes some or all of the healthy exchange of the partnership, but is based more on the idea of love being connected to Spirit. I call this option "love and ego at the center.
They studied a set of marriages over a 4 year period and coded the conflicts they observed. You just trade in one set and get back another. My husband and I have our set of perpetual conflicts, including a different pace of arguing, possibly attributable to our different MBTI types. What a lesson in patience!
Approach versus Avoidance Goals Impett and colleagues recently published a paper about 3 studies where they looked at romantic relationships in terms of approach versus avoidance goals: Whereas approach social goals direct individuals toward potential positive outcomes, such as intimacy and growth in their close relationships, avoidance social goals direct individuals away from potential negative outcomes, such as conflict and rejection.
Sharing Music Their work builds on prior work by Gable and others, extending it by looking at the interaction between the goals of both members of the dyad, looking at satisfaction over longer periods of time, and exploring the role of positive emotions.
Take a woman high in approach goals and a man open to her influence, and you have good conditions for marital success. Here are some of the outcomes of the three studies described in the paper.
There was too much going on to describe all the outcomes here. People who were high in approach goals experienced greater relationship satisfaction both in the moment and over time; people high in avoidance goals experienced a decline in relationship satisfaction over time. Having a single member of the dyad high in approach goals can keep the relationship satisfaction high for a short time, but over the longer haul, both partners need to be high in approach goals for the relationship to thrive.
In contrast, it takes only one member to have strong avoidance goals to bring relationship satisfaction down. Experiencing more positive emotions on a daily basis does appear to be part of the explanation for the association between approach goals and higher relationship satisfaction.
Positive emotions help people soothe themselves and each other, reducing the negative arousal that makes it hard for people to hear each other during conflict.