Guest blog by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D
Author of The Feel the Fear Guide to Lasting Love
The power is yours. Whether your relationship simply needs some fine-tuning or whether it is in serious trouble, you will be amazed at how much relationship-healing you can do all by yourself. And if you are not in a relationship, there are many ways of approaching members of the opposite sex in a new and welcoming manner.
So how do we begin? Here are ten suggestions:
1) Expand the purpose of your relationship. As I see it, a relationship has two important purposes-a Practical Purpose and a Higher Purpose. The Practical Purpose of a relationship is simply to have someone with whom to share our lives. Traveling the road together can be a joyous experience. But sometimes problems with money, sex, children, work and the like can make the journey together very difficult. It is for this reason that we need to have a Higher Purpose.
The Higher Purpose of a relationship is to learn how to become a more loving person--despite what problems come up. It is our using all the problems as a vehicle for seeing what we need to work on within ourselves to keep love in our heart. Too often, without remembering our Higher Purpose, we begin longing for the initial bloom of love and the downward spiral begins. We blame our mate instead of realizing that this is a great time for learning and growing. Anger and resentment build. And for too many of us, we can safely predict that the end is near.
If, however, we focus on the Higher Purpose, that of becoming a more loving person, the outcome can be very different. Problems can become a plus instead of a minus. We learn, we grow, we are filled with creativity, we take responsibility, we feel strong and our love for our mate grows. There is no question that it is through our Higher Purpose that we ultimately experience the exquisite beauty of real love.
2) Handle the neediness. Neediness is an emotion created by fear and is one of the prime destroyers of love. It stands to reason that if we are feeling needy, consciously or unconsciously, we are always trying to manipulate our mate with the desperate hope that they will make us feel whole. Neediness causes us to protect ourselves at the expense of our mate, to close our hearts, to judge our mates and blame them for our unhappiness, to become angry, resentful and defensive. Not a pretty picture!
But when we feel whole...when we feel strong...when we feel we are a part of the hugeness of life...we can be safely vulnerable always knowing … that no matter what happens, we will handle it all. In this way, our neediness disappears. We are fulfilled. And our ability to love with a sense of confidence and joy radiates throughout our being. We become a magnet to all that is good in this world...and that includes a truly wonderful relationship.
3) Radiate a positive and loving energy. Science is actually proving that feelings are contagious. This means that if you think and act lovingly, your partner will actually "catch" that loving energy. You become a model that evokes love in your mate. And the whole nature of the relationship begins to move in the direction of love.
Of course, the opposite is true as well. If you think and act un-lovingly, your partner will "catch" that un-loving energy. You become a model that evokes conflict in your mate. And the whole nature of the relationship moves itself in the direction of conflict. And you know where conflict leads…often to the end of the relationship.
Bottom line: If you are feeling resentful, negative, disdainful and the like with your mate, work on changing your energy to one of love, appreciation, and caring. It can make all the difference in the world.
4) Pick up the mirror instead of the magnifying glass. What does that mean? The magnifying glass represents our symbolically pointing a finger and blaming our mate for our unhappiness. The mirror represents looking inward and taking responsibility not only for our actions but also for our REACTIONS to what is going on in the relationship. The mirror is self-awareness, and self-awareness is the first step toward positive change. A few examples:
The magnifying glass: I am angry he is not making more money.
The mirror: Why am I blaming him? It's my own fear that is stopping me from creating money all by myself. I have to work on my fears.
The magnifying glass: I am angry because of her taking time away from me to spend time with her friends.
The mirror: Is my life so limited that I can't function without her for a few hours? It's time for me to take responsibility to create more balance in my life so that I don't feel empty and needy when she is not around.
5) Become the mate you want your mate to be. First make a list of all the characteristics you want your mate to have. It could look like this: loving, thoughtful, warm, considerate, caring, appreciative, romantic, generous. Now for the big challenge...pick up the mirror and begin developing these qualities in yourself.
You may be someone who resists this challenge. But how can we ask our mates to be something we have been unwilling to be ourselves? Also, as you just learned, loving behavior is contagious. Just incorporating all these loving qualities within our own being can dramatically alter the thoughts and actions of our mate. Also, remember the Higher Purpose of your relationship...and that is to become a more loving person. This is a perfect opportunity to do so. Your goal? Maximum caring and minimum need. Powerfully loving, indeed!
6) Validate your mate. We have to learn to notice and openly express thanks for the beautiful things our mate does for us. (And if you can't find anything to thank him for, then why are you there?) It makes our mate feel so good when we let him know the things we appreciate about him. And it encourages him to continue doing beautiful things.
Remember that every relationship has its good and every relationship has its bad. By focusing on the bad, we starve. By focusing on the good, we thrive...allowing us to creatively and lovingly deal with the bad. So begin right now by appreciating all that your mate does in your life. Don't let another day pass before you say "Thank you for being in my life. I love you." Say it today...and say it often.
7) Don't be passive when it comes to love. I think it's really important to keep in mind that love is an emotion but just as importantly, love is an action. The question you need to keep asking yourself is, "What am I doing to keep love alive?" Action is key when romance is involved. It's also a way of keeping us conscious! We need actions to help us keep our focus on how blessed we are to have our partner in our life.
I suggest you do just do one thing daily as a way of honoring your mate and your Higher Purpose, that of becoming a more loving person. It may take time to push through any resistance you may be feeling, but keep pushing. Eventually you will get yourself on the side of love.
8) There are times to "lie" lovingly. You sit down to dinner together and you want to complain about the fact that your mate was late coming home from work. Knowing that he/she is in the middle of a lot of pressure at work at the moment, it would be irrational and punishing to say, "It really makes me angry that you came home late today." Instead, with clenched teeth, if need be, let what comes from your mouth be loving, even if you are not feeling loving. Say something like, "I'm so happy when we are together. I love you." You will most likely get a loving response back. And the miracle of such an approach is that your own tension will melt and you will feel that beauty of the moment instead of being the one to destroy it.
9) Stop gender bashing. You've probably been guilty of telling (or at least laughing at) jokes about members of the opposite sex-even when your mate is in the room. Don't do that. What seems like "harmless" joking may actually be working against your efforts to move out of the realm of "selfish" love and into the realm of "real" love. When you participate in the bashing of members of the opposite sex, you are behaving in a hurtful and unloving way. Remember, if you don't love, respect and admire the opposite sex, you won't, by definition, love respect and admire your mate.
10) Celebrate the wonderful fact that many of the old "selfish" reasons for being in relationships are gone. Women are learning how to take care of themselves financially. Men are learning how to cook, clean and care for children. Take advantage of the opportunity to nowbe in a relationship for much more fulfilling reasons than in earlier times. It's no longer about survival; it's about learning and growing together; it's about supporting each other's dreams; it's about the wonder of walking the walk and talking the talk. These are beautiful components of real love, in which men and women help each other to become whole.
Yes, the power is yours. We can all make the decision to live our lives with dignity, love and caring, and to push through the inner fears that keep us from being a loving person. We all have that choice. No matter what the state of your relationship, it offers you an incredible opportunity for learning and growing. It is definitely worth all the effort you put into it. Why? A loving relationship feels sublime and brings you great joy; it makes life sweeter and easier. You delight in your ability to give to your mate; you feel abundant as you take in the love that he gives to you. Just sharing the journey with someone you love…it doesn't get any better than that.