In relationships, the problem is not with the other, but with oneself—Sri Bhagavan.
How many of you reading this, are single, but are desperate to be in a relationship? And how many of you are in a relationship, but are desperate to be single?
When you’re single, all you want is to be in a relationship, isn’t it? So, you run around searching frantically for someone to love, look after and support you.
Because you think being a couple is easy.
You see your friends, family and the people around you in relationships and from the outside; they look so happy and loved up, don’t they?
So, you get lulled into thinking being in a relationship is a stroll in the park.
Sure, when you’re on the outside looking in, your friend’s relationships can appear easy, but honestly, this is not the case.
All Relationships Require Work and Attention
All relationships require work, attention, patience and tolerance from both parties and even the successful ones can be challenging at the best of times.
But many of us have romantic notions that there’s a “soul mate” out there waiting for us and we imagine that when we meet them, we’ll fall madly in love, get married, have kids and live happily ever after.
We believe this person will not only meet all our expectations, but they’ll fulfil our dreams and we’ll live a conflict-free, pink, fluffy, perfect life.
Sounds daft doesn’t it, but isn’t this what we think?
So, it’s with this premise that people go out in search of their perfect partners.
It’s no surprise that you get a huge shock when within a few short months of meeting the person you took to be the love of your life, your problems start.
Being A Couple Isn’t Easy
Your problems begin once your rose-tinted glasses have come off and you begin to realise being a couple isn’t as easy as you thought it was going to be.
Then you start wanting out.
You start wanting out because you recognise that your dream partner is anything but dreamy.
In short, they’re hard work!
Suddenly, you find yourself in a relationship that’s demanding—demanding of your time, energy, patience, compromise, compassion, diplomacy, trust…I think you get the picture.
All of which is much more than you were expecting.
You feel a rollercoaster of emotions where screaming, shouting, arguing, disagreements, impatience, anger and disappointments are the order of the day.
Well because you entered the relationship ignorant and unprepared for what it would really entail.
And because both you and your partner came into the relationship with your own set issues, issues that were already there when you met, but which couldn’t be seen.
Or maybe you could see them, but you rather chose to ignore them.
You Cannot Change Your Partner
Don’t we ignore the small niggles in the beginning, because somewhere in the back of all our minds, we believe our partners will change, or more to the point, don’t we believe we can change them?
Truth is, believing you can change anyone is just wishful thinking.
You cannot change your partners nor can your partner change you. It’s up to each individual to take the necessary steps towards changing him or herself and this goes for everyone, no matter who you are.
But ignorant to this truth, you judge and blame your partners for all the problems in your relationship.
What you fail to realise, is that your partner is simply a mirror of yourself and really, you’re just as much to blame for the problems in the relationship as your partners are.
If you take the time to check, you’ll see that you actually do the very same things you blame your partner for.
But you’re insensitive to this fact, so you keep blaming and trigging each other, which in turn leads to more and more arguments, conflict and the wish to escape the relationship.
Then you begin quietly planning your departure in your mind.
The problem here is, you’ve been led to believe that good partner relationships are easy, so if our relationship needs us to work on it, then it must be a bad relationship.
Successful Relationships Require Compromise
The question I want to ask is: where did we get this notion? Which misguided person told us relationships were easy?
Take a little time to reflect on your life now, going back into all the relationships you’ve had and I don’t just mean your intimate relationships here, I also mean relationships with family members, friends, work colleagues etc.
Have they all been easy and conflict-free? Didn’t you need to do some work or make compromises for the sake of the relationship?
I’m going to say that for probably 99.9% of us the answer is yes, we’ve needed to do some work for the sake of our relationships. Because the reality is, all relationships need work of some sort to develop and sustain them.
When it comes to all the important relationships in my life, past and present, I’ve needed to make many compromises, which oftentimes involved swallowing my pride for the sake of maintaining harmony in the relationship, when deep down all I wanted to do is let them go.
Long-Lasting Relationships Require Effort
The bitter truth is, for relationships to be successful, they require conscious effort to develop, grow and then maintain them.
And what I discovered is, when this effort was lacking on my part or lacking from the other, the relationship simply died.
I think you’ll all agree that relationships die without effort from both parties right?
So why should your intimate relationships be any different? Why shouldn’t your partner relationship require you to keep working on them?
In fact, I think it’s our intimate relationships that demand the most effort and work from us.
How can we hope to have lasting, meaningful, successful relationships without continued effort from both parties?
In any relationship, but perhaps more specifically in your partner relationship, your focus should be on trying to accept your partner as they are, rather than judging or trying to change them.
Stop Trying To Understand Your Partner
I’ve noticed that in my own relationship, I often wish my partner would behave in another way and I can get quite frustrated because I simply don’t understand how she thinks, which can create a lot of arguments.
However, having the awareness of my thoughts and inner frustrations, has helped me realise that many of the struggles I face in my partner relationship are due to my unconscious attempts to first understand and second, change my partner.
But think about it, how much can you really know about your partner—about their childhood, adolescence, adulthood or about their life before you?
Is it possible to experience the world as they do? Can you truly understand how they think or feel, and can you actually know what really goes on inside their heads?
Can you see what I’m getting at here? Is it possible to truly know and understand your partners at a deeper level?
I think the answer is NO, it’s not possible.
The fact is, you can’t conceivably unravel every small detail about your partner in order to fully understand why they think and behave as they do, even if you’ve been together 20,30,40 or more years.
Sri Bhagavan says when it comes to relationships, we shouldn’t waste so much time and energy in the futile pursuit of trying to understand the other but should simply try to accept them.
Easier said than done, but not impossible.
Acceptance Is The Key
Learning to accept your partners can be done with patience, tolerance and lots of self-awareness.
But how many of you reading this can get upset because your partner, for example, doesn’t clean up after themselves, leaves dirty clothes on the floor, eats with their mouths open, or picks their teeth at the dinner table?
And how many of you wish you had a partner who was more like you, who thinks, behaves and does things the way you do?
Quite a few of you, right?
But I ask you this, isn’t life more interesting with a partner who’s different to you? Sure, I agree it’s important to have common interests, but isn’t it also possible to be a couple whilst being different?
Can you learn to celebrate your partners’ differences rather than criticising them?
Complaining about how your partners think and behave doesn’t change them, but rather provokes and antagonises them further.
Instead of complaining, can you try to turn it around, so we see your differences not as a challenge to be overcome, but rather as curiosities to be experienced?
Because when you stop trying to understand or change your partners and instead focus on loving and accepting them as they are, flaws and all, the relationship dynamic dramatically shifts from difficult to smooth.
And I truly believe that every relationship as long as it’s not abusive, can succeed and flourish when given time and attention.
Here are 3 extra tips you can use to help you maintain harmony in your relationship.
1. Give Your Relationship A Chance
When your relationship starts to feel difficult or when you start to feel challenged, instead of looking for an escape route you can try to change the way you’re looking at the problem.
I think the key is to learn to give your relationship a chance.
And to accept that it’s quite normal in relationships to argue or disagree. Arguing with your partner doesn’t mean your relationship is bad, it simply means you have a difference of opinion.
Remember you are two individuals coming together with different life experiences and expectations, so it’s unrealistic to imagine you’ll see eye to eye on everything.
So instead of looking at your partners and thinking there’s something wrong with them, you can try to turn this on its head and instead look at yourself as the potential problem.
It’s so easy to blame your partner, isn’t it? But not so easy to see that perhaps you also have some part to play in creating the problems.
When you can stop blaming your partner and can begin to look to yourself, you’ll see that in fact your irritation, upset, anger or whatever it is you feel, has a route cause.
And this route cause, for the most part, has nothing at all to do with your partner and everything to do with you.
Seeing this is the key to harmony in relationships and requires your willingness to do the work required.
2. Learn To Put Aside Your Ego
Many of the problems you face in your relationships boil down to your ego. Often times your ego get in the way and cause you to fight unnecessary battles with your partner.
The aim here is to learn to see the challenges you face with your partner, not as a battle to be won but rather as a route to seeing then confronting your ego play.
Two essential factors that can increase harmony in your relationship is realising it’s ok to be wrong and it’s also ok to lose. Learning to see these as positives rather than negatives is freedom.
The victory you gain is in allowing yourself to back down in a conflict even when you know you are right. This is difficult I know, but the secret is to understand that you may lose the fight but you’ll attain much more mastery over your ego.
And the more you can put aside your egos the more harmonious your relationships will be, which is what we all want isn’t it?
3. Realise The Grass Isn’t Greener
When you’re having difficulties in your relationships, the grass can appear greener when you’re comparing your relationship with your friends.
However, the reality is, the grass isn’t any greener in other relationships, it just appears that way from where you’re standing.
Be assured that you’re not alone in your relationship problems, every relationship goes through difficulties at one point or another.
But every successful relationship can only be so, with continuous work.
So, when you see the challenges you face in your relationships as a means to develop your patience and acceptance not just with your partner but also with yourself, your relationships blossom, flourish and stand the test of time.