One of the common problems that I advise people on is that of interpersonal relationships. Not only couples, but even single people may have problems with their relationships. And the reason for this is that in current times, we may have not seen our parents model positive relationships in our childhoods. After all, from where do we first learn about relationships? It is from our parents. The way our parents relate to each other informs our understanding of relationships. It is by seeing their interpersonal dynamics that we conceive of what a good or bad relationship may be. If our parents did not have a supportive, loving relationship, and if we have not seen other people with positive relationships, then we may have misconceptions about relationships.
Moreover, there is generally no training to successfully navigate relationships. We are never taught, either by our parents or in school, how to relate with others, especially with a partner. There is no course to teach us how to be in a peaceful and loving relationship, what is needed for it, and how we can cultivate the requisite qualities. Yet we all hanker for peaceful, loving relationships although our concepts of such a relationship may vary. Whatever field of education we study, we are part of society. That is common to us all, whether we are doctors, engineers, managers, politicians, farmers, laborers, or caregivers. We all must relate with our fellow human beings, and generally, we also desire to be part of a close-knit family. But if I have never learned the art of relating with others, then I may function socially on a hit-and-miss basis, which leads to unhappiness and social conflict.
Impelled by Saṁskāras
If I do not know how to drive a car, then I cannot successfully use a car. I may start the car, which doesn’t require much skill. But once the car starts moving, then my lack of skill will cause the ride to be precarious; I may end up in an accident. I may then get out of the car and blaming the car, get a new one. But simply by changing the car, my driving skills do not improve. I need to take driving lessons from an expert. Of course, we all know that. Before we get behind the wheel, we take the driver’s training course. Indeed, we need a license by a state authority before we can legally operate a motor vehicle. However, when it comes to relationships, we have no such consideration. We think that changing partners will solve the problem. The relationship did not work out because there was a problem with my ex-partner. However, now I’m experienced, and I will find a better partner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. We may find a partner, but most probably, the next partner will be like our previous one. It’s like the saying—“old wine in a new bottle.” We have our saṁskāras from our childhood, and unknowingly they impel us to choose a similar partner.
A relationship binds two people. It is an interaction between two people, who are equal parties to the relationship. So, unless we look within ourselves, we won’t realize that we are fifty percent of the problem, and fifty percent of the solution. Otherwise, nothing will change. First, we must know ourselves and what our needs are. Why do we look for a relationship? Many times, people think, “Well, I’m single and lonely. I am bored, being by myself; I need a companion.” Therefore, to get rid of boredom and loneliness, we seek a partner. But we must consider that if we are bored with ourselves, then we may also be boring for another person. And it is quite probable that the partner that we find is also bored with themselves and feels lonely. We give to others what we have. So now two people, who are completely bored with themselves, get together and low and behold, love starts flowing. This, of course, is the dream which most people have, but it is never fulfilled.
Balance of Demands
The fact is that any relationship which is based on personal needs may not last very long. Once the need is fulfilled, be it physical or emotional, then the mind will search for something else; the mind has no lack of needs. It will go wherever it can fulfill its needs. So, either the relationship will come to an end, because one is no longer getting what one wants, or if the relationship continues, it is not going to be peaceful and loving. When we have a personal need in a relationship, then we are weakened; the other person may exploit us. These are the dynamics which go on.
I know of many relationships where one partner feels completely miserable and exploited but doesn’t think of ending the relationship because there is an intense personal need to fulfill. In the past, the need was fulfilled for some time but now the person lives in the hope that things will change, and good times will return. Sometimes the need was never fulfilled but one continues, hoping against hope. So if one has personal demands in a relationship that are not getting fulfilled, there will be negative emotions. Negative emotions destroy love. I don’t expect people not to have demands in relationships, but there should be a balance. Only a relationship based on sharing can endure. If there are only demands and no sharing, then such a relationship is pure hell. One feels suffocated; there can be no personal growth in such a relationship. It is difficult to find unconditional love in the material world, but at least there should be some sense of caring, sharing, and attachment at the emotional level. Any relationship which is based purely on physical needs cannot survive.
Different Types of Dysfunctional Relationships
From my experience, I see that loving relationships manifest in different ways. In some relationships, one partner dotes on the other and although it looks very nice in the beginning, after some time it becomes as if one treats the other person like a doll, trying to control his or her every move. One expects the other person to do everything as per one’s desire. Sometimes this is seen in the case of a mother towards her child. The mother doesn’t allow the child to have any freedom in the name of taking care of the child. Love, however, gives freedom. It is good to be concerned about the welfare of the other, but one should consider that the other person also has a mind and expectations.
Another type of relationship is when one partner always lectures the other. This is criticizing in the name of lecturing or educating. One should have a little confidence in one’s partner. Then there are relationships where both partners fight most of the time. Both are equally strong and critical. Then there is the relationship where one partner always manages to reject the other. When the other partner shows some loving exchange, he or she takes it in a negative sense. Then there is the partner who is so dedicated that he or she doesn’t care for oneself or his or her own personal needs and thus feels dissatisfied if there is no emergency or service to be done.
Awareness of Expectations
Whatever may be the case, one must be aware of one’s own expectations and the expectations of the person with whom one relates. If possible, one should discuss one’s expectations; otherwise, one’s partner may have no idea what one expects from them. Once the cards are on the table, then one needs to make some sacrifice and adjustment for the relationship to continue and prosper. Without sacrifice, tolerance, patience, understanding, humility, kindness, and compassion, there is no possibility of a healthy loving relationship.
Passing urine and stool is giving up of part of I. Donating wealth is giving up of my. We feel proud about the second, not about the first. Why? Because we are attached to the second. That means the problem is in the attachment and not in the object of attachment.
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