Saturday, November 28, 2009

How to Have a Soulful Relationship

Over the years, there have been countless books written on relationship development and improvement. Many of those authors have touched on the subject of injecting soul into a relationship, but that’s a tricky thing indeed.

After all, what is the soul? How does it differ from the mind, or indeed the heart? Some might say the soul is that indefinable something that makes you who you are.

Having a soulful relationship, therefore, would mean having a relationship where you, and your partner, are free to be yourself, without fear of recrimination, or judgment, and to have your partner do the same. It would also mean feeding your soul, by doing the things you love, either as a couple, or on your own.

Easier said than done in this modern world, where divorce is no longer a scandal and multiple marriages are the order of the day. So just how can you inject a little soul into your relationship, feed your soul, stay happy, and committed? We don’t claim to have all the answers, but here are a few ideas from the experts.

10. Love Unconditionally

This is the basis on which any soulful relationship is built. Unfortunately, it’s also the most difficult to achieve.

While in theory, maintaining love for your partner regardless of what happens in your life, what they do, say or omit, should be possible, after all, we have that kind of love for our children, don’t we? However, the reality is that a marriage or relationship is a partnership, and when something happens that unbalances this partnership, whether it’s a job loss by one partner, and affair, or an accident that leaves them disabled, all too often, we simply cannot continue to love as we had before.

What we can do, however, is attempt to love unconditionally. Everyone has their deal breakers, and no one is saying you should forgive everything. There are some things that are just unforgiveable, and will stay that way, but if you examine every event, occurrence, statement or issue with a more careful eye, you may find that they are not worth the amount of fighting, arguing or effort you put into them.

If it’s not something you know will still be bothering you a year, or five, or ten years down the line, or if it’s something that was no one’s fault, like a job loss, or accident, consider letting it go. You’ll feel much, much better than you would had you fought about it.

9. Know Yourself

How can we ever expect to truly connect with another human being, if we have never truly connected with ourselves?

If you really want to connect with your partner, and enjoy a soulful and happy relationship, you first need to make sure you know yourself. What do you believe? What is most important to you – money, family, career, or something else? What is your greatest goal in life? What makes you angry, sad or happy? Until you can answer the important what’s and what if’s about yourself, you will always find it difficult to truly connect.

Figure out who you are, how and why you react as you do to the situations that occur in your life, and what you really want, and it will be easier to let your partner know, and figure out what they want. Otherwise, instead of togetherness, you might end up with two lives lived in parallel, never truly meeting – a recipe for disaster.

8. Give, and Take, a Little Space

There’s an old saying – absence makes the heart grow fonder. That saying is as true today as when it was first coined.

Too much togetherness can kill a relationship as quickly as too little, so make sure you cultivate your own interests, friends, and social life, and take time, just for you, every once in a while to enjoy them, while allowing your partner the same.

By doing the things you love, you feed your soul, and in doing so, and allowing your partner to do the same, you will bring more soul into your partnership. Whatever you do though, whether it’s listen to music, play a sport, go shopping with the girls or anything else, make sure it’s something that your partner would approve of.

7. Care

Ever heard the saying it’s the little things that count? That’s where caring comes in. If your partner is sick, take them tea or soup in bed. When they’re worried or tense, give them a massage.

All too often, we think love needs to be a big, showy expensive performance, when the truth is, a little caring, combined with the knowledge that you’re thinking about them, are concerned about their happiness and well being, and want to do everything you can to help, makes all the difference.

It could be something as simple as picking up the dry cleaning if you know they have to work late, but showing you care is guaranteed to bring the soul back into your relationship. Make a point to be considerate and caring, and see how it works for you!

6. Respect

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Aretha Franklin sang about it, we all pay it lip service, but how many of us really make sure we pay the important people in our lives respect?

Honesty and respect go hand in hand, so lying automatically cancels out respect, no matter how polite and considerate you may be, so remember that when you’re making an effort to respect your partner. Make a point of treating them exactly as you would like them to treat you, and you should find that you have a trouble free, soulful relationship.

When in doubt, remember what the bible has to say: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” While you’re at it, why not apply that principle to everyone you meet? Treating people with respect is the very best way to earn respect, and you’ll be a lot happier all round if you have less conflict in your life.

5. Forgive

The fact is, when someone does something bad, hurtful or inconsiderate to you, you have two choices. You could choose to bear a grudge, allowing the sin they committed to fester in your heart and mind, poisoning you against them, and the rest of the world, for the rest of your life.

Or, you could choose to forgive them for their human foible, and move on with your life. Clearly the former is the far more destructive option, since, instead of putting their crime behind you, you begin to focus all your attention on it, to the exclusion of everything else. The result? They may blithely move on with their lives, while you live in abject misery.

Of course, in a relationship, when the misdeed is serious, like adultery, it’s impossible to simply walk away, and let them get away with it. If you don’t receive a sincere apology, and you feel the deed warrants it, you could always approach the courts for justice. But don’t let the deed, word or other crime of another ruin, or rule your life. If you do, you remain the loser forever.

If you have hurt your partner, by accident or knowingly, the only thing to do, is to sincerely ask for their forgiveness, and own up to your misdeed. Remember – small lies lead to bigger ones, until it will seem that your life is one big lie, and you are lost. Better to bear the brunt of their anger than the guilt.

4. Encourage

If you think about it, why do humans form relationships? To have a companion, someone to share their hopes, dreams, problems and joys with. A partner. The word says it all.

What better way for you and your partner to enjoy a more soulful relationship than by encouraging each other to achieve your goals and dreams. However, that encouragement should not mean that you fix everything for your loved one. As much as anything else, they should have the pride that comes from standing on their own two feet, and if you fix everything for them that would never happen.

Rather than being a substitute parent, focus on being a cheerleader, boosting their confidence, and convincing them that anything they put their minds to is possible, and remember, there’s nothing ,more demoralizing than being told by someone you love that your most dearly held hopes and dreams are out of your reach.

If your beloved does have some dreams that are, to your mind, a little ambitious, encourage them, and help them see that even the biggest hopes and dreams are achieved one small step at a time.

3. Communicate

Usually the number one rule in relationships, it’s pretty high on our list too. For a relationship to be soulful, you need to communicate with your partner.

And we’re not talking non committal grunts, or monosyllabic replies over the breakfast table here. You need to share your hopes, dreams and fears. If something in your relationship is making you unhappy or mad, get it out in the open. Never miss an opportunity to share your feelings, but remember to do so with respect, and taking into account that people are entitled to a difference of opinion.

If you’re not comfortable communicating on your own, face to face, or need some help getting started, consider seeing a couples counselor, or write each other notes. As long as your thoughts are heard, you’re making progress.

2. Enjoy

Too often we’re caught up in daily life’s minutiae, and we forget that we’re supposed to enjoy being together. The easiest way to do that is to share things you both love. Cook a great meal, or go to a restaurant you both love. Take a short trip together, even if it’s only to a neighboring town. Walk on the beach, go dancing, or watch a movie together, curled up on the couch.

Whatever you have in common is what brought you together in the first place, so make sure you make time for it, no matter what your schedule looks like. Or you could find something new that you love to do together. There are probably many things on both your lists of things to do in this life. Why not compare lists, and pick a few to try right now? Eventually, whether it’s bungee jumping together, or enjoying a specific cuisine, you’ll find something that brings both of you joy, that you can share with each other.

Joy is a rare thing in our hard, fast paced modern world, and when we can get it, we should grab it with both hands. What better way to find it, and keep it in our lives, than to rediscover all the things we love to do together, and them actually doing them?

1. Learn

Remember the first few weeks or months of your relationship? The delight you took in learning about your partner, their hopes, dreams, fears and passions? The wonder of uncovering the secrets of their personality, along with a hefty dose of biochemical’s, were what gave you that tingly feeling, that wondrous giddiness that comes with new love.

So, it’s been ten, or twenty years. Do you really think there’s nothing new to learn about your partner? Do you really think they haven’t changed, even a little, in those years? Make the effort to learn about your partner all the time – you might be surprised what you find.

Then again, you could make learning something new something that brings you closer together. Maybe you’ve always wanted to do something. Make it a couple project. Sign up for classes, and then go. Together. If nothing else, it will give you something to talk to each other about, and usually, once you start talking, it’s easy to carry on.

Make it a point, today, to find out something new about your partner. Ask them a question. Listen to the answer. Take note. Eventually, you may remember what it was that gave you those butterflies!

by Luther Avery  

Soulful Relationships -- Excerpts from Chapter 8 -

Unconditional Love

* There's no middle ground with this-love is either unconditional or conditional, and the latter is simply bartering attention to get something you want.

* If I love you unconditionally, you do not need to earn it, pass any tests, win any contests, or in any way deserve it. If you did need to prove your worth, you have tenure only until someone more worthy comes along-bluer eyes, whiter teeth, better cook, etc.

* Unconditional love says, "You can be who you really are, and share your deepest thoughts, fears and feelings in absolute surety that I won't judge you or stop loving you. We may agree to disagree on things but I will never reject you, for I am committed to your well-being and growth."

* When it comes to growth, how can one person support another? By criticizing, nit-icking, and pointing out flaws? Obviously not, but that's how most parents approach child-rearing; "Eat all your greens or mommy won't love you." That's flat-out manipulation but we carry that into adulthood, with "love" as a reward for a well-prepared meal or a promotion.

* Many people use "love" to coerce a mate into conforming to their opinion of how the mate should be (just watch a few movies on the Lifetime Channel). Such "love" forces the mate to contract and shrink into a little box, often with the justification, "I love you and want only what's best for you." This really means: "… what's best for me." On the other hand, unconditional love encourages expansion and growth, which brings us to how love really works.

1. Love Allows

* First, in a soulful relationship, love allows itself to flow. Love isn't a "doing" thing, but an allowing thing. Imagine love as water, and you're a hose. How big a hose are you? A tiny tube used in an irrigation drip-watering system? A standard garden hose? A fireman's hose? Or a huge pipeline? This obviously determines how much love can flow through you, which increases with practice. Next, are there any kinks or blockages stopping the flow? As an adult, your flow rate depends on how you were loved in the womb and then as a child. If, in those early years, you picked up some kinks and blockages, you have some work to do, as we saw earlier.

* Love also allows the beloved to be who he or she is, without seeking to change him or her, except for encouraging growth. We all know that it's impossible to change others; only they can change themselves but plenty of people do try … and end up exhausted and frustrated. It's about as pointless as mud-wrestling a pig---it's hard slippery work, and besides, the pig likes it.

2. Love Cares

* Love cares about the happiness of the beloved and constantly reminds him or her of how special and important he or she is to you. Love says, "You are valuable to me; I care about you and will do whatever I can to ensure your happiness."

3. Love Respects

* When you respect those you love, you honor them, are honest with them, let them be who they are without trying to change them, and want what is in their highest and best interest.

4. Love Forgives

* All of us incarnate to learn, grow and explore, and we inevitably screw up somewhere along the way and hurt someone else. If someone harms you, you have two options: (1) you can hold a grudge, or (2) you can forgive. Clearly, the first harms you further and gives all your power to the very person who harmed you, allowing that person to determine how you will feel.

* The second option allows you to move on, free of other people's energy, knowing that "they will get theirs" in their life review. You'll also live longer and healthier. However, the other person doesn't just walk away. They must be made to understand how you were harmed by their actions and offer a sincere apology and promise that it won't happen again. If they are spiritual, they will be eager to learn the consequences of a hurtful word or deed … otherwise there's always the court system. And if that deed stemmed from malicious intent rather than an innocent accident, the apology had better be good.

* If you're the miscreant, it's essential to own the deed, without finger-pointing or blame. Fess up and accept the consequences of your actions. And preferably apologize before you're found out. Suppose a friend confides a secret in you and you have too much to drink and blurt it out. Apologize before word gets back to your friend, who may then still have some respect for you.

5. Love Encourages

* Most of us have untapped strengths and potentials, and only discover these when slammed by some major Life Challenge. And if we run around "fixing" things for our friends and loved ones, we're simply enabling their victim-ness. Instead, love encourages others to find the strength and courage to tap their own potential, confidence and abilities to grasp life by the horns. Love en-courages others to explore the grandest expression of who they can be. And rather than nay-saying, love says, "Go for it! You can do it!"

6. Love Challenges

* Love's final gift in a soulful relationship is to challenge the other to rise and stretch to achieve a goal or blast through a self-limitation, and thereby grow. Love's encouragement reveals the strength or ability; love's challenge calls it into action. Love says, "You have the vision of your grandest expression, so now become that expression."

Given that love allows, cares, respects, forgives, encourages and challenges, the trick is to blend these ingredients in just the right proportion, or things won't balance. And the best way to avoid imbalance is communication. Ask, "How does it make you feel when I encourage you to find a better job?" or, "How does it make you feel when I dare you to ______?" Finding the right mixture of allowing, caring, encouraging and challenging is not easy, and both partners must communicate openly and frequently … for that, too, is part of growth.