In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d write a post about what I know for having relationships work. I am writing from being married for 33 years. A lot of my success I owe to a gentleman named Werner Erhard. He led a day-long event in 1978 entitled “Celebrating Your Relationships.” It formed the basis with which I transformed all of my relationships. Attending seminars by Werner Erhard, and est in the 70’s (no longer exists), and Werner Erhard & Associates in the 80’s (it no longer exists), and in the 90’s and 2000’s Landmark Education (a current and international entity) has helped me create relationships that work.
That would be my first point. To have relationships work, it requires you being open to outside coaching; being willing to give up everything you know about relationships and willing to learn from another’s experience. It is a full-time job. It requires work. It isn’t natural to have relationships work. It isn’t normal to have great relationships. Once you begin to put in place ways of “being and acting” which create it working, then the experience of it being natural, and flowing is available. However the moment you stop creating, stop working, and take it for granted, it can all fall apart.
So I am going to condense everything I’ve learned into this blog. My intention in writing this is NOT to have your relationship(s) work. Only you can cause that. I am writing this blog to enroll you in the possibility that relationships (no matter how bad) can all work. If you get this is possible, then there is the chance for you to create them working.
First, you need to ask yourself one question, “why am I in this relationship?” What is the purpose of the relationship? What is our shared interest(s)? What are we working on together? If you have no inspiring answer to this question, then perhaps the relationship should be dissolved. Without purpose, without a reason for the relationship, then it devolves into what Werner calls “an entanglement.” It is something you are stuck in. It is something you are trapped in.
What are some shared purposes a relationships can have? How about, insuring the success and happiness of your partner; that your partner, is successful, is happy, is prosperous, and is loving their lives. When you take this on, and have a relationship which is about the other’s success, then you have a life-long commitment to fulfill on each day.
Now this might bring up the question, “but what about me?” What if they aren’t devoted to making me happy? Well, that would then mean that the purpose of the relationship is to make yourself happy. YOU DO NOT NEED A RELATIONSHIP TO MAKE YOURSELF HAPPY. You can be happy on your own, and having casual and temporary partnerships to pursue happiness. The moment that is accomplished, you can be free to move on, and to the next relationship. Kind of a gypsy of life, of free spirited relationships. This is not a “committed relationship.” I am calling these “Gypsy relationships.”
However, the moment you create a permanent, committed partnership, that gypsy-spirited relationship, that singular purpose, that narcissistic reason for existing needs to be abandoned. The only way to have a committed relationship work is to have it be about something bigger than just you.
Now, to have a really powerful relationship, you can also create the relationship being about everyone and everythng outside of the relationship, itself. Two parents can have their lives be about their children. Then when the children grow up and move out, it is time to create another shared purpose. Maybe it can be about the shared purpose of “saving the whales.” “Lowering the carbon-footprint.” “Banning genetically-modified food products.”
It is simple. If you don’t create a purpose, or reason, or mission bigger than the relationships itself, or yourself, then all of the work, and problems, and upsets, and frustrations become about the relationship. It’s a choice you get to make each day. What is your life about? Is it going to be about who left the toilet seat up (or down), who leaves the cap off of the toothpaste, who leaves their dirty laundry on the floor, who doesn’t wash the dishes, who doesn’t take out the garbage? These mundane, boring, and insignificant issues get blown-up and out-of-proportion when the relationship is about itself.
How can there ever be world peace, if a relationship between just two people does not work? It is only possible if individuals are willing to each be the cause of each of their relationships working; then their families, groups, companies, neighborhoods, organizations, communities, and society.
By-the-way, these principles also work on the relationships of two countries, or two political parties, or two religions. Imagine a world, where we are committed to our neighbors success, happiness, and prosperity? Now that would be “a world that works for everyone, with no one and nothing left out.” (Again I tip my hat to Werner Erhard).
Even the visionary, futuristic, fictional universe of Star Trek has alien worlds at war with eachother, no matter how technologically-advanced they are, we still have the Terrans at war with the Klingons, and the Romulans, or centuries later, the Ferengi… Not even our most imaginative fiction-writers could imagine a universe at peace. Of course, it is logical that these screen-play writers needed to create villains and adversaries to make the television and motion pictures “entertaining.” Without conflict, the shows would have been boring.
Perhaps, having relationships work is a fundamental which must be the focus of existence at every level.
Maybe, just like the writers of television and motion pictures we create adversaries and conflicts to entertain ourselves on the “cosmic” level. Perhaps if our lives are not about something greater than our personal lives, that is where all our energy will be spent, on solving our petty, interpersonal relationships. My thought is that Gandhi didn’t spend too much time on the problems with his wife. They were both absorbed with a bigger challenge, the freedom and sovereignty of India as a nation, independant from British colonial rule. Any extraordinary couple when closely examined had a greater purpose, which allowed for them to be extraordinary.