Elements that Build a Strong Relationship
There are several things that can help make relationships strong and healthy. The first is to develop good communication. Learn to really listen to your partner and friends. The more you listen to the thoughts and feelings behind the words, the more you will begin to commune in your communication. Be attentive not just to the words, but also to the tone in the voice, the eyes, the expressions, and the unspoken thoughts of the other person. For partners, deep communication is strengthened if you can share times of silence together, and even more if you meditate together.
It is important to demonstrate your love and affection. Relationships are like plants, which flourish when given enough light and water, and wither when denied these essentials. Love and appreciation are like sunlight and water for a relationship. Men, especially, need to be more aware of verbalizing approval and affection. Connections grow stronger when people feel appreciated.
Unrealistic expectations are poison for relationships. Remember, it is only you, not others that can make you happy or sad. The fewer demands you make, the better. Give others the space to be themselves. There is a subtle law of magnetism between people. If you want a person to change, try creating a "magnetic opening" by modeling the right behavior. Don’t criticize what is wrong, but emphasize the qualities that you want to develop. Work with people’s strengths not their weaknesses. It is only when they feel secure that they have the ability to change.
Remember, always respect another person’s right to be himself, to think and feel the way he wants. Don’t try so much to change another as to bring out the best in him– think first how you can help strengthen a person and only then of how you can improve a situation. True intimacy develops only in an atmosphere of trust. Make no mistake about it – problems arise in relationships where someone can see no further than their own needs and desires. That is why meditation can be so helpful. Like viewing the world from a mountaintop we get a better perspective. Old problems seem insignificant and an expanded understanding seems natural.
Your bonds with others will be greatly strengthened if you share experiences that are uplifting and expansive. Things like walking in nature, helping others in need, or attending events where the mind is lifted above its normal level. When we are inspired, it is as if our auras begin to merge with our loved ones.
I don’t want to imply that we should avoid dealing with problems in our relationships. However, if we do this only by confrontation, it will be counterproductive. Here are some important guidelines for approaching issues.
Don’t speak or act from negative emotions. Train yourself to calm down before you discuss a problem. Negative emotions, like disease, are contagious and they block communication. If you are emotionally agitated, take a few deep breaths and then consciously relax the area of the heart. This doesn’t mean that you can’t express your feelings, especially where truth is involved. But your communication will be much clearer if you calm yourself first. Clear expression, done lovingly, can be very healing. At the end of this tape, I’ll give you a way to work with agitated feelings.
Don’t use the words "always" and "never," as in "You always do that", or "You never do this." This is one of the best ways to insure that a person will get defensive. Remember, other people tend to mirror back to you the emotions you project to them. It is best to start off a discussion by emphasizing points of agreement.
Don’t try to figure out a solution to a problem on your own and then present it to the other person as a fait-a-complet. One-sided declarations rarely solve anything. A true solution has to elicit the commitment of everyone.
The essence of overcoming problems is very simple. Look for solutions where everyone treat others as they, themselves, want to be treated. Or, in the words of Jesus, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Always ask yourself first, "Why did I draw this problem? What should I learn from it? What do I need to change in myself?" If you don’t get clear on these questions you will keep repeating the same situation until you discover what life is trying to teach you. Once you’re clear about what the real issue is, then resolve to make whatever changes you need to make. When you do this work on yourself first, you will help open the space for others make their changes.
Sometimes we face the same issues over and over again, often with different people. In the terms of yoga, these are "karmic patterns." Be thankful, not resentful, when these recurring patterns surface. Now, at last, you can begin to work on them. Our greatest enemies are those wrong attitudes that stay hidden and unrecognized in the shadows of our mind. After you identify what needs changing, it is best not dwell on the problem. Put your energy, instead, into working on the solution. Try to find the polar opposite of the problem and work on implementing that. If the problem is laziness, put out constructive energy. If it is selfishness, look for practical ways to give to others. And if it is continual conflict, find ways to create peace and love. Deep-seated karmic patterns are usually slow to change. Be patient with yourself and be patient with others. Prayer can be a great ally – ask to God to help you.