Posted by: blondechief | November 2, 2008

Relationships

You don’t always have to get your own way to have the relationship you want.  We all have picture-perfect notions of what a relationship should be.  Disagreements on monogamy and kids can and should be real deal-breakers. Other issues, however, should not be non-negotiable.  There is nothing wrong with having your own views, but when they become non-negotiable, they can escalate into power struggles where nobody wins.  So what do you do when your mate doesn’t conform to your ideals?  The conventional answers are to (a) set clear boundaries in some cases, and (b) be willing to compromise in others.  This is excellent advice.  The problem is that most of us interpret this as (a)” I’m not going to love you unless you change” and (b) “Sometimes I’ll do what you want, but I think it’s dumb.”

Here’s another suggestion to contemplate:  Experiment with giving up your preference.  I know, this is a tricky thing to do.  I’m not suggesting you martyr yourself or become a passive-aggressive wimp.  Instead, try surrendering your preference as an act of power and big-heartedness.  You can give from a sense of emotional abundance, not poverty.  In Buddhist thought, there are four qualities that can turn “you owe me big time” into “I choose to give you my love.”  Called the Four Immeasurables, these principles show us how to neutralize anger and judgement without “giving in” or feeling like a doormat or a phony.  Even though they might sound super-spiritual, they are really just ordinary things that anyone can do.  Cultivate these Buddhist basics and you will greatly improve your relationship in the long run:

1.) Try Loving-Kindness.  This concept is not about being nice all the time; it’s about figuring out how to love beyond your pre-determined view of love. For example, you like to spend time together in the mornings over coffee and talking, and he likes to get up and depart early, instead of thinking “If he (or she) really loved me, he would spend more time with me in the morning, focus instead on your wish to love and be loved, which can happen at any time of the day.

2.) Try Compassion. Simply acknowledge that, just like you, he also wants to be appreciated for who he is. Instaed of “Why doesn’t he want to go out more and be social?” you can think. “I don’t want either of us to ever be forced into uncomfortable situations or feel out of our element.  Including both of you in the wish to be comfortable prevents you from setting up a you-against-him situation.  The goal is to love and accept each other as we are.  This way, you nurture a sense of openheartedness rather than impatience.

3.)  Try Sympathetic Joy.  Whereas compassion allows you to feel your partner’s pain, sympathetic joy allows you to share his happiness, too.  Say your partner wants to go on a trip with his buddies, and you feel left out, or less important than his friends, try instead feeling happy for something that genuinely makes him happy.  If you love someone, isn’t one of the greatest joys, seeing them excited and happy?

4.)  Try Equanimity.  As you probably know, nagging your partner about their habits never really works.  In fact, it tends to do the opposite while building resentment.  Equanimity, defined as the ability to remain calm and relaxed in the face of strong feelings, is the fourth and most important Immeasurable-with good reason.  Without this sense of composure, for example, loving-kindness could easily become martyrdom, and sympathetic joy would simply be patronizing.  By approaching the situation from an honest ( as opposed to manipulative) stance, you are better able to communicate your needs and have them heard.  Like the other Four Immeasurables, equanimity begets equanimity.  If you want more love and understanding, learn how to authentically offer these things to your partner-over and over again.  Open the gates of your own love, and you can have faith that the other person will do so as well.

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