Humans are social beings. While we may be very successful on our own or very independent in our lives, meaningful and supportive relationships seem to not only be beneficial, but necessary. Researchers have found that having a positive network of others enhances the quality and duration of our lives. This may be through good rapport with others at work, links with friends or positive bonds with family. At the same time these important connections can cause us stress, frustration and other emotions when they aren’t working (or aren’t working as we expect them to).
I’ve recently gotten married, so building close and meaningful relationships is ‘top of mind’ for me right now. If our associations with others so greatly affect our physical, mental and emotional well-being, how can we work to improve this from the mind’s perspective?
Mapping our Relationships
When we talk about networks of people, the network part is particularly true with the subconscious mind. If you’ve ever met someone who reminds you of someone else, that’s the linking, associative part of the deeper mind at work. Many times we are drawn to others who seem to be familiar in some way to us. That may mean that we pick a best friend who possesses the characteristics of a respected teacher or family member, that we hire someone who seems dependable like (fill in the name here). Or it may mean that we are attracted to those who may not benefit us now – those who hurt or undermine us – ‘and makes us bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of? (apologies for contextually misquoting Shakespeare).
There might have been someone you knew in your past who was continually attracted to a ‘bad’ boy/girl time and time again, even though the names might be different. It wasn’t that the person consciously wanted to exist in partnerships that didn’t work, it’s just that the mind comforts in the familiar which, in turn, becomes a pattern. The mind likes reoccurrences, and it tends to happen with our relationships. If they are good and helpful, that’s great, but if we keep drawing unconstructive relationships to us, then it might be time to break a habit.
You are, and you aren’t, stuck with them
While we may have legal or blood ties that make it more complex to dismiss a relationship, we actually do have more flexibility in our relationships than we think. If someone is abusing you or a relationship in some way, there are a few things you can do about it. It may be time to close the relationship if the cons are much greater than the pros – sometimes our interactions run their course and we can move on.
At other times, it may be a simple miscommunication – you and the other person may see the situation in completely different lights. Often talking about it (with the sole (sic) intention of being in the other person’s shoes) can put a relationship on track.
Sometimes it may not be the other person at all. Sometimes we project aspects of those in our past on those in our present and react accordingly (as we might have when we were younger and less experienced). In that case, it might be time to reassess the hold others have over us and find ways to break unhelpful associations so we can have current relationships here and now.
Loving the Person, not the Action
I know it’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again. We are (fortunately) NOT our behaviours. Granted, our actions and choices do tend to be reflections of what is important in our lives, and it may be true that ‘actions speak louder than words’, so it’s an interesting equilibrium to balance in our relationships. I know that I’ve made mistakes in my past with people in my life. Some I’ve regretted, some I’ve made amends for, some that have hurt others, and ones that have ultimately hurt myself. And like any exchange between parties, I’ve felt hurt by others as well. When do we accept or reject wrong-doings in our lives?
Sometimes it’s important to remind yourself of what you deserve – love, respect, and good things in your life. If you balk at that statement, you might want to go back to past ghosts who incorrectly suggested you weren’t deserving and change that to a picture that is more realistic. Sometimes the ordeals with others are really no big deal in the whole scheme of things (in 5 years, 10 years), while sometimes they need to be acknowledged as something to work on – either the other person’s actions, or your reactions.
What is Common Sense?
I spoke to my Aunt about a disagreement I had with my husband and she mentioned to me “remember there really is very little COMMON sense, often there’s nothing common about it at all!”, which I’ve found to be true. We are often working from our own set of rules and regulations, and assuming that others have similar personal directives. When they act based on their own personal accord, we see it in direct conflict with our own, very personal, common sense. Often times making explicit some of our lifelong assumptions can clear a situation up in the present, and can often enhance a relationship while minimizing a repeat of the same miscommunication.
Sometimes the confusion doesn’t even go outside ourselves – we have arguments about our actions or thoughts that are based on internalized rules of others made long ago. Questioning absolutes, looking at them from an outsider’s perspective, or doubting the legitimacy of our ‘truths’ can set us free from our interpretation of reality with others.
I know that I’ve bought some stocks in my time that went south, while others were very profitable. Yet the greatest investment I know is in people. I know in some companies who have experienced financial troubles, it isn’t the change in technology or production facilities alone, but in the involvement and allegiance (or lack thereof) of those in the firm.
Relationships are a lot of work sometimes and it might sometimes feel that it would be easier to go it alone. If you ever think about packing in your nearest and dearest, remember they could save your life. A study showed that in individuals over 70, those with strong friendship networks were 22% less likely to die in the following decade than those without. In the international community there are times when it feels that we have to start all over again and are reticent in rebuilding relationships, it’s well worth the investment in energy.
Someday… My Prince will Come…
What does that mean to you? Sometimes we look at those in our lives and see an individual’s weaknesses, not the hero in front of us. I know that I’m sometimes impatient in wanting the ‘happily ever after’ to have already happened. But what about the tale that comes before that famous last line? The tests of strength (body or commitment), the ups and downs, the betrayals and unexpected championing… the fable happens in the journey not the destination.
And I guess that’s what relationships are about – a connection in process. Sometimes I need to remind myself that, while I’m so excited to read the next chapter of my life, there’s a wonderful legend being played out right here and now.
Maybe, like the frog who is really a bound prince, we need to kiss the little warts in our lives, rather than focusing on ways to remove them. And even if they stay frogs for the time being, it’s a great idea to keep our lips puckered just in case. And you might, with a shift of perspective, have the prince or princess in your life already.
Happily Ever After (in different forms) is Already Here
What’s the one common denominator in relationships that work and those that don’t? The one thing is us – we are the constant in a sea of variables. Realising that we are the common thread in all our interactions should give us a greater sense of power.
We have the capacity to use the strengths and patterns we’ve perfected in our satisfying relationships to extend them to those that need work. The transformation of our relationships starts between our ears, and once we look at them differently, they tend to positively transform.
Every day may not be a sunny one, but rain also nourishes growth. As I write about relationships and think of those I have in my life (whether constant or intermittent), I realize how lucky I am. If you feel the same way, let them know, and it’s easier to see happily ever after as happening right now, and a wonderful work in progress…
Thanks for connecting,