Relationships are essential to life. Even the most radical of introverts – a yogi sitting cross-legged in a secluded mountain cave – is only there because of relationships:
- He could only be here because of his parents’ relationship with each other.
- He could only be there because of a relationship with a teacher.
- He has an essential, unbreakable relationship with the earth, water, air, and the sun, all of which offer sustenance (plant or animal) as a byproduct of these elemental relationships.
- He has a keen drive to realize self and God.
- His self-development is only perceptual “self” development, for each one of us is essentially a cell of a larger organism called humanity. My relationships are your relationships and your relationships are my relationships.
Typically, when we participate in a relationship, be it personally, professionally or spiritually, there is a give and take flow of energy between parties. When that give and take is balanced, the relationship is balanced, and harmony is expressed. If the flow of energy is imbalanced, as it so often is, disharmony is inevitable. To exemplify my point here, let’s look at a typical boyfriend~girlfriend, husband~wife, or parent~child relationship.
We all share in the experience of life together through relationships. Typically, relationships follow the Law Of Attraction, which essentially states that like attracts like and opposites attract. What that means is that you are most likely to develop meaningful relationships with people that are similar to you in their core values, yet are opposite to you in skill set (or sexually). For example, the wife in a relationship may be very mathematical/logical or left-brain dominant, expressing that disposition as a bank manager. The husband may be very creative or right brain dominant, expressing that in his work as a musician. The division of chores in the relationship will usually fall naturally into the pattern of their skill set. She is likely to manage their finances, offer consistency and reliability when following up on household tasks, and maintain regular communications with friends and family. She is likely to provide the structure that allows the creative musician type the freedom to not worry about what seem like mundane acts of survival to him. He is likely to decorate the home, be the explorer, and offer spontaneous acts of change, such as the introduction of new and interesting food items, exercise or outdoor adventures, and is probably the more creative of the two in bed. She will learn from him how to go outside of her box and he will learn how to get inside the box of logical, consistent, stabilizing behaviors from her. He is likely to offer the nonessentials, such as spontaneous acts of play and discovery, or entertainment that allow them to recharge, while she offers the essentials of management, financial energy accumulation and routines that stabilize the flow of energy in their relationship.
Typically, in a relationship where both participants are happy, there is a balance of energy expressed as contribution between them.
Because we all have tendencies toward laziness in the areas of our personality that are undeveloped (often called our shadow), if we allow ourselves to slip into shadow behaviors, there is naturally going to be an imbalance developing in the relationship. For example, if he works too much as a musician and begins to get too tired to recover and maintain an optimal hormonal balance, his sex drive will diminish. Soon, she is waking up realizing that she’s not been nurtured sexually in weeks, which will naturally trigger her ego to look for a rat in the relationship. If she doesn’t say anything and just continues to live with it, then soon, with his onset of fatigue, his health diminishes making him more and more left-brain dominant. This is a natural survival reflex in the body that results a loss of spontaneity, willingness to shop, cook, and participate in the essential nonessential activities with her… “Not tonight Honey, I’m too tired…”.
Soon enough, she realizes that what was once a balanced, fun relationship is now becoming a labor of love. She is now having to shop, cook, do all her usual work and management tasks for the family, and in addition, she’s now bored to death and sexually unfulfilled! If asked what percentage of energy she’s putting into the relationship, she may say 70% or more. To the degree that either party puts more than 50% into any relationship, they lose themselves! That’s the 50% rule. If you and your partner were 50-50 and now it’s 70-30, that means that someone is carrying an additional 20% of the load. If this is an occasional event and there is a natural flow of imbalance from one to the other over time, it is experienced as normal give and take. If the imbalance is chronic, the relationship is akin to a car tire that is out-of-round. The more out of balance the tire gets, the more damaging it is to the car and the more dangerous it is to both driver and passengers.
If an imbalance in any relationship progresses, the overburdened partner begins to feel resentful. If they are unable to express their truth openly, passive aggressive behavior is the common result. This often shows up as mood swings, critical comments, pointed jokes, and progressive indifference toward the under-contributor. Soon enough, spats turn into battles that often begin with harsh judgments of the other. If balance is not mutually restored, one or both partners typically seek to find someone else for a connection. This seeking for a connection generally starts as a subconscious attempt to restore the nonessential in their life. She finds herself another man to play with who can deliver the goods of spontaneity, while he looks for another partner willing to provide the stability he once had. Sadly, both partners will blame the other.
Maintaining and Restoring Balance in Relationships
The flow of energy in all relationships is from “I” (self) to “WE” (other) to “ALL” (more than two). This means that in order to be authentic with the other in a relationship, you’ve got to become very clear about your needs. Once you are clear about your needs, everything to do with who you are, you can effectively communicate them to your partner in any relationship. You will also know what questions to ask them to determine their needs. Only with that knowledge can either party determine the level of compatibility that exists between them. Typically, most people start with looks, see if the sex is any good, and only later after the initial excitement wears off does the relationship really begin. This is the exact point at which it also really beings to end if not managed effectively!
Maintaining the balance required to sustain a healthy relationship begins with your core values. Your core values determine who you are, and where and how you will invest your time, energy and money. Core values include your commitment to exercise, to the kind of foods you eat, what level of responsibility you are willing to accept or not accept in any relationship, be it personal, professional or spiritual. To be committed to living a healthy lifestyle is a core value. So too are recycling, conscious management of resources and caring for the planet. The religion you practice exemplifies your core values. But perhaps the essence of core values is that they are only real to the extent that they are in practice. Core values stated but not lived are not core values.
When I’m coaching my clients, the most common problems I’m helping people through are relationship problems. Most frequent of all are marital problems followed by religious challenges and then business challenges. Most problems related to relationships with other people boil down to values clashes. Rarely ever does either party have established core values, which means they simply run the software planted in them by their parents, society and culture. This isn’t a great idea and you can see this when you honestly evaluate the state of the world today - very few people are genuinely happy!
The road to a healthy relationship begins by understanding your “I” values. Once you’ve established your ”I” values then what I call a “we tree” becomes essential to any successful and happy relationship. In PPS-speak, producing a “WE” tree means that you sit down and discuss your value needs with your chosen other. Creating a ”WE” tree together means that you and your partner agree on the core values that will frame your joint time, energy and use of resources. This one drill has both saved relationships, and made it crystal clear as to when a relationship should be brought to a conclusion because it is obvious that there is an inability to live in harmony with one another’s core values.
Even when people DO agree on core values at the “WE” level of experience, there may be conflict because of the way that those values are expressed. This is due to what is referred to in psychology as values memes. A values meme is an idea that expresses an individual’s operating values system with regard to two primary factors:
1. The demands of the external environment on the individual.
2. The demands on the environment created by the individual or any group of individuals so impacting the environment as to require specific behavioral modifications to survive.
While values memes are one of the primary topics covered in PPS Success Mastery Lesson 2 – Self Management, I’ve put together an audio seminar on values memes that allow you to get entry-level training in this important information technology. Learning what values memes are and how they work can radically improve the ease and efficiency with which you navigate relationships.
The Other 50%
Once you’ve got mutual core values established and you’ve developed a working understanding of values memes, the lines of communication are much more open and coherent between partners. Only now can either party really be confident that their partner in the relationship really understands them.
At this point in your personal, professional and spiritual development, you and your partner can offer yourselves fully and participate in your relationship within the agreed upon value structure. There are, however, a number of common ways that people often go astray from their agreement. For example, if you become too controlling, you steal your partner’s fire and risk demeaning them. If they allow you to express such over-controlling behavior, they lose themselves to you and the ego will often conjure up ways to even the score. If they let you get away with it, then they are contributing to and reinforcing your dysfunctional behavior. They’ve become an accomplice!
In a similar vein, sometimes one or the other partner will carry the relationship. When we carry people in relationships, we allow them to avoid their own growth. Sadly, as people do this, there is often a strange combination of expressions that emerge. The ego of the person carrying the relationship feels empowered or inflated because of how capable of controlling it is, yet at the same time, people in this position typically complain about the weak one!
Truly healthy relationships are created out of a willingness to give and take. There need not be a scale with which you measure your partner’s participation. You will both know that the relationship is working because there is what I refer to as flow. Things flow well in general. When things flow well, there is always a level of awareness and a willingness to work through challenges. When people can learn, grow and share together, they come to truly know what love is, and that’s what life is all about. Remember, two halves equal a whole!
Relationships are not only personal, they invite us to embrace a profound journey into a life bigger than oneself. After all, my relationships are your relationships, and your relationships are my relationships. Whether you're on your own or in a relationship, I hope that you will continue to open yourself to loving and being loved, and become 100% self-responsible in your endeavor.