Each relationship we have is paradoxically all-important and completely unnecessary. Understanding that paradox can save a world of heartache for us and our loved ones.
First, I want to acknowledge that relationships are the most important human experience available to us. I realized in my twenties that the meaning of life is not about what happens to people; it’s about what happens between people. Learning to connect with each other, to experience empathy, to step outside our own experience, and to experience love in all its forms — these, I believe, are the experiences for which we became human. One thing I have always told clients is that it’s worth throwing away ten great things if it helps create one great relationship.
As our first crop of Relationship coaches are nearing the end of their training, I’ve been impressed once again by the way relationships open us up to growth and healing in every area of our lives. That said, I also believe that our culture makes us attach to relationships that are destructive at both a personal and inter-personal level. Whenever we believe that our happiness comes from some other person, we are in grave danger of turning that person into a demigod and losing ourselves, or trying to force our loved ones to do more than any other human being has the power to do for us. We think that the people we love should make us happy, make us feel loved, help us face the world, take away our loneliness, and in a thousand other ways, do for us the emotional work that we can only do for ourselves. I’ve watched so many clients discard one relationship after another because their continued unhappiness was “proof” that they had not yet found the right person.
During one of our Relationship coaching calls, Master Coach Terry DeMeo mentioned that when she was trained at Byron Katie’s nine day school, she kept insisting to her husband that “it can’t all be about your business and my business. There’s got to be an our business” If this were true, relationships would be almost hopelessly fallible. But the fact, as Terry finally concluded, is that if we always tend to all our own business, and allow other people to deal with their business, relationships thrive. If you commit this month to meeting all your own needs, and that you cannot force your loved ones to be anything but what they are, you will find your own life becoming much more peaceful and your relationships finding their optimal pattern, whether that means increased intimacy or the acceptance of distance. Not all relationships can “work” in the way we think they should, but all your relationships are happening for you, not to you, and no matter what the other person does, you can be sure the relationship will get you where you need to go.