I remember as a child my parents always arguing and not only my parents but also that of my friends parents. It was the “norm” and in due course, whenever my friends and I would enter into relationships they would always seem to proceed in the same manner.
As a matter of fact, you read in magazine and newspaper articles, relationship experts explaining how a healthy relationship almost inevitably consists of healthy arguments. As I sit and write this article now I can hear ironically my neighbours in the house next door, through the thin walls, shouting and screaming at each other as a small child cries out in anguish and pain. On that note I’m quickly going to move into another room to concentrate. Two seconds please.
That’s better. Peace and quiet and it is this peace and quiet that I am going to refer to in this article and how to live in a loving, compassionate and mindful relationship. I will be inviting you to transcend what is deemed the “norm” in relationships so that the very dynamics that you have with your partner will change to a more mindful loving coexistence, if it is not already so.
This article is an invitation to move outside of what relationship experts deem normal and sane to have “healthy” arguments in a so called loving relationship and to see that in actual fact the so called “norm” that many couples participate in is actually a dysfunctional way to live your lives with each other. You may feel a reaction to what I have just written and if you do then I invite you now to investigate with me why you feel so strongly against these words. I promise you your relationships can change and be different from anything you may have ever experienced.
LIVING OUTSIDE THE “NORM”
I have lived with my wife now for nine and a half wonderful years and we have lived in what experts and many friends and strangers would deem a dysfunctional relationship. That is, we do not live in what is deemed the “norm” for in all that time we have lived together we have never engaged in an argument.
I know what some of you may be thinking; that maybe we have supressed our anger to avoid arguing and conflict or live a truce of uneasy peace by avoiding each other when we have problems but it is quite the opposite and the way we have managed to create a successful mindful relationship is a gift I wish to share with each and every one of you. This is not to make anyone feel ashamed or that they are not truly in love with their partners or to make you feel like because you do argue that my wife and I are somehow superior.
This is an invitation to show you that there is another way. What we have been programmed by society in general to accept as being the cultural norm, as in healthy arguments, you can discover in your own relationships that they no longer have to include any argument whatsoever and can be wholly saturated on a daily basis by the flavours of peace, mindful loving, compassionate choices and what in Buddhism they term deep listening.
OUTSIDE THE PERSONAL BUBBLE OF LOVE RELATIONSHIPS
Let us move away from personal relationships for the moment and look at our friendships and the relationships we have with work colleagues. If in work for example you were to have a big argument with someone you have an upset or grievance with this behaviour is not seen as normal. Most likely if this behaviour cannot be resolved then usually there would be a third party that has to intervene such as another work colleague or someone at a management level. It is not seen as being healthy to argue over situations at work.
Most likely if you were always getting into arguments with work colleagues and then moved to the level of verbal violence such as shouting and swearing on a continual basis then the outcome if some form of intermediary didn’t work, the member of staff would probably lose their job. Relationship experts would not deem this behaviour normal.
If two strangers become verbally aggressive with each other in the street for example, arguing and shouting, again this is not seen as normal behaviour. Even if two friends are arguing it is generally seen as dysfunctional but for some reason, the more personal a relationship becomes like our love relationships we have been programmed to have a different view and almost normalise our dysfunctional behaviour as simply as something that just happens in relationships. Which as you will come to see doesn’t have to be true anymore for you.
THE TURNING POINT
Mindful loving and compassionate relationships involve simple processes that at first may seem difficult due to the habitual programming and beliefs you have developed around relationships. The turning point is in recognising that first and foremost that any relationships in need of change in your life, the first relationship to look at, which is the most intimate of any relationships you will ever have, is the relationship with yourself.
The key to any successful relationship is to first get your own house in order and during any personal relationship you ever have with anyone, even when you begin to lead a more peaceful and less erratic life, the secret is that your main and first job is always to recognise that you are working on yourself. Without peace in your own heart you cannot expect to live in peaceful coexistence with others. Yet relationships can never be about trying to change another person and when you begin to live your life more mindfully, relationships may break down and people may outgrow each other leading to its end.
Yet what can also happen paradoxically is that when you are in a loving, mindful relationship, the greatest changes between the two of you is a loving bond that becomes unbreakable.
Many relationships break down due to a lack of mindfulness. It is being able to listen to your partner openly without any judgements or strong emotional reactions when they raise a concern or objection about some behaviour or habit you may have. Of course this doesn’t mean to say that they are always correct and that you have to change, as we have already discussed, a relationship is not about trying to change each other. But lets face it, there are times when we behave stubbornly, less lovingly and compassionately in our lives and sometimes it is hard to face those inner challenges and demons that are pointed out to us. Sometimes our partners may have us down to a T.
Lack of mindfulness can lead also to arguments over situations such as financial matters for example but the same principles still exists in how we resolve these issues with our partners.
And this is where we learn to begin to work on ourselves. To not only practice deep or you could say mindful listening with a partner, which means being there fully and present in the now, being there for them. But in talking openly with our partners about any concerns, or fears, or frustrations either of you may have, mindful listening is also about listening to our own inner emotions and strong reactions that may arise within us through past and current emotional pain and any thoughts that correspond to those feelings.
This is where you need to be authentic with your partner. To be able to engage openly and truthfully with each other without reacting through shouting or arguing. To be able to listen to each other and talk openly, allowing each other the space to reflect and speak their mind and express any emotion they may be feeling without any judgement or hurtful comments, without either partner being defensive.
With this kind of open and compassionate dialogue you may at first find this process very difficult to not want to interrupt, to justify, to defend your position. Some of you may feel sulky or feel like you want to just storm out of the house. I invite you to stay with the process. If you have a disagreement about something there is no need to argue, there is only a need to come to a mutual understanding.
A REFLECTION OF EACH OTHER
Coming to a mutual understanding does not mean that you have to agree on everything but what it does mean is that you are able to be authentic with each other and rather than curb the truth or even lie you are able to express how you feel about any situation and learn to resolve it mindfully through empathy, compassion and loving kindness. You are a partnership.
To help guide you through the process of any relationship you may be a part of, the most important aspect as I have already stated is to work with yourself first and foremost. To learn to listen deeply within, to learn to see the deeper aspects of oneself. To see that your emotional reactions to people, events and situations in your life and your thoughts around these experiences no longer have to be dealt with by the way of old habitual and repeated behavioural, conditioned patterns.
It is learning to live life in the present moment, to learn to die to the past so that you no longer relive events that are now only thoughts in your mind, dreamlike. To let go of longing for a future that has not yet arrived. But to learn to be here fully in this moment and engage with life, true to what is, surrendering peacefully and responding creatively with compassionate action and loving kindness where life requires it of you.
When you begin to live your life mindfully and listen to the call of your own heart and spirit then you will become a reflection of life itself, for you are life in the deepest part of your being. And it is this beingness, expressing gratitude for life that a peace and joy arises.
SHARING A DEEPER LOVE
And it is in this subtle peace and heartfelt joy that you will be able to share this warmth, this way of being with your partner. And this is where we come back to relationships with others. For relationships with others is really a relationship with yourself. For in truth you are a reflection of each other. Here to support each other on not only a human level but also on a soul level, even if your partner may not quite know this or understand or remember this way if being yet.
For it is not about trying to change them or make them remember, it is about being in this moment and responding mindfully and in doing so you will find that person will slowly begin to reflect back to you all that you are, warts and all.
In truth and authenticity, in compassion and loving kindness, in deep listening and understanding, this can be your way in any relationship in your life. But it always starts with you without any need to change what is, because when you just be, in the moment, if you live from your authenticity, then you will respond to what is in the very freedom of your being and loving heart, from peace and it is that peace that you will come to operate from in all of your relationships. A true love affair not only with your partner but with life itself.