Monday, November 2, 2009

How to create healthy relationships.

Post 359 - Last week's posts explored the connections between happiness, joy and love. All of these depend on having a healthy relationship with yourself and with others.
Each of us enters into these relationships with ideas and expectations about what we want based on a variety of factors, such as how we were raised, what we see in the media, how our friends behave, and our own previous experiences. Holding on to unrealistic expectations can cause our relationships to be unsatisfying and to eventually fail. Getting close to others, and sharing our joys, sorrows, needs, wants, affections, and excitements is a risky business and some of the common fears that can stop people from getting close to each other are:

• Fear of becoming known as we really are.
Opening ourselves up to others and their reactions isn't only difficult for us, but it puts a demand on others to do likewise.

• Fear of pain and dissapointment.
Hurt, pain, dissapointment, and loneliness aren't comfortable feelings, but they're human. Without the risk of experiencing them, we can never experience loving and being loved.

• Fear of losing our freedom.
Can you risk giving up some of your freedom to care about someone without them wanting to take it all away? How can you be both close to and separate from someone at the same time?

• Fear of being a taker as well as a giver.
It's difficult for many of us to be receivers. Yet if we don't, nobody else can experience the joy of giving to us.

• Fear of judgement.
People are reluctant to disclose themselves because they fear the moral judgement of their friends, family, colleagues, and even the law.

• Fear that showing love and affection isn't a proper thing to do.
This is especially true for men, but it's not restricted just to them. Some people are convinced that this is a sign of weakness rather than a sign of courage.

However, there are many rewards when we learn to communicate effectively with others and can risk sharing our own feelings while respecting theirs:

- We learn how to get close to other people. Getting close means we can need someone else and they can need us as well. When we feel discouraged or upset, someone is there to comfort and care about us, and we can do likewise.

- We learn to have faith in ourselves, to have faith in others, and how to be faithful to others. This lets us live fully in the present and to have meaning and purpose for our own existence.

- We become more sensitive to ourselves, and can make conscious choices about how, when, and where we wish to share our feelings. We know when we're experiencing love, joy, anger, etc.

When people are asked what's the most important ingredient in a relationship, communication is almost always at the top of the list. I remember my father telling me many years ago that in marriage, communication isn't about the relationship, it is the relationship. Yet we're rarely taught how to communicate effectively. Communication normally boils down to either expressing ourselves or responding to others, and each of these is quite different. I'll explore them tomorrow.

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