Tag: lasting relationships

The Freedom of Forgiveness

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“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
― Nelson Mandela

 

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”
― Oprah Winfrey

Forgiveness is not about pretending something didn’t happen, surrendering, accepting injustice, or being weak. It is about acknowledging what happened and moving past it, hopefully with more wisdom and enlightenment.

When we hold onto the feelings caused by a wrongdoing—anger, resentment, fear, hurt, shame—we keep ourselves imprisoned in that story. We relive the injustice and its effects on us, which prolongs the pain and can even cause it to grow. Releasing our feelings through forgiveness releases us from the story.

The following are some ways to facilitate the process of forgiveness:

Try to separate the facts from the story. Think of how your situation would be presented in a scientific journal. Only things that could be proven would be included, and anything not directly observed would be considered a hypothesis or prediction. Anything related to emotions, feelings, and hearsay would be useless to a scientist. This exercise can help untangle emotions from events to provide a more objective view of what happened.

Remember that this involves another human being. We all make mistakes. While being human doesn’t excuse us when we do something that is considered “wrong,” it is helpful to remember we all have faults, weaknesses, and errors in judgment.

Examine why you feel the way you do. Perhaps your feelings are tied to a previous betrayal, or the person’s actions brought up issues with which you are struggling but have nothing to do with this person. Knowing specifically what you are upset about and why can shed light on the real issue. It can also allow you to have a clear conversation with the person you want to forgive, if you decide to talk with them about it.

Make a commitment to forgiveness. Sometimes we say we want something, but don’t really want it or aren’t ready for it. To forgive someone and move on, we have to truly want to forgive that person. Give the same kind of focus and energy to forgiveness as you would a meaningful goal or intention. Imagine your desired future relationship with that person, or if dissolution of that relationship is in order, imagine yourself making peace with that decision and moving on in a way that is supportive to you. You may want to try Loving-Kindness Meditation.

Be gentle with yourself. Forgiveness can be difficult when the wounds are fresh. If you do not understand the reasons behind the injustice, or you can’t find any positive light from the experience, you may not be ready or willing to forgive. It often does not happen overnight, and it is also not something you master like a learned skill. Forgiveness is the subject of many spiritual teachings and can be viewed as a daily spiritual practice. Therefore, allow yourself to see forgiveness as a journey, not a destination you must reach. Try to release any self-judgment in the process. Forgiveness starts with you.


8 Loving Tips To Improve Your Relationship

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Do you feel a little distant from your romantic partner? Could your relationship with a family member be closer? Are you experiencing some friction with a friend? Here are some Loving Tips on boosting contentment and happiness in your relationships with a loved one:

Accept the person for all that they are, and all that they aren’t. To truly love someone is to do so for who the person is right now, not for their potential or who you want them to be.

Resist keeping score. Keeping track of what you’ve done for him or her and comparing it to what you’ve received in return puts the focus on competition, judgment and may lead to resentment. Instead place your focus on love, kindness and gratitude. When you give or are kind to a person, do so because you truly want to rather than thinking that they will then give to you or be kind to you. If you do something nice for them and then expect a certain level of gratitude from them, you are not coming from your heart but from your ego. When we come from our egos, all that we do is unconsciously or consciously self-serving. When we come from our hearts, all that we do both consciously and unconsciously is purely from love. On an energy level, people know when affection or help comes with strings attached, which will create tension, distance and resentment in your relationship.

Keep your mind open instead of “knowing” their next move. When you predict someone’s actions based on your imagination or past experiences, you might be setting the relationship up to fail. If they do what you expect, there is the possibility that you have now cemented your negative prediction, which may close off possible positive future outcomes. And of course, if they don’t do what you expect, you may not fully accept it because your ego wants to be right. There is a saying, you can be right or you can be in a relationship, but you cannot have both. It is best to consider this if you find your ego wanting to be right and blinding you to the positive change that your partner or friend has made.

Offer the benefit of doubt. Remember that they are human and things happen. Some are within their control and some are completely outside of it. When a loved one falls short of their promises—or our expectations—and disappoint us, allow them the opportunity to have their side heard. Instead of jumping to conclusions based on what you think you “know” about them, ask him or her what happened. Be honest with your feelings of how their actions affected you. When the conversation has reached a resolution, even if that means to agree to disagree, let it go.

Listen. This simple tip is often overlooked. We sometimes go on “listening autopilot” when a loved one speaks, either because we “think” we’ve heard it before, are preparing our answer, or just daydreaming about other things. Think of a time you knew someone wasn’t listening to you and how that felt. It probably didn’t encourage a closer relationship with that person. Now think of a time someone really listened to what you had to say, and how that made you feel. For more on the skill of listening: How to be an Active Listener.

Get permission before unloading your day. When you have the urge to vent to your loved one about all the “crap” that happened in your day, first ask if they are willing to hear it. This shows that you respect their time and their choice to take on the energy you will be passing along to them. You will be expressing to them that you are aware that they are emotionally separate from you and that you know they may have other things on their mind. Often when one person shows this kind of consideration and respect, the other person learns how to show it as well.

Make distraction-free time for them. It’s not the amount of time you spend with someone that brings you closer; it’s the quality of that time. Set aside regular time with them that is “distraction-free,” which means silencing and putting away the cell phone and putting all your energy and attention on being in the moment with them.

Let them know how much you care. Friends, family, and romantic partners are sometimes the last people to hear how much we love them. Although you might consider it a given that the person knows your feelings, everyone appreciates hearing a reminder. At least 10 years after my grandfather had passed on, a much older cousin of mine told me how my grandfather used to tell everyone how proud he was of me. I had no idea as he never told me. It was nice to find that out. I would have appreciated knowing this when he was alive.


Confusing Marital Statistics

The latest statistics on marriage in the United States say that 41% of first marriages end in divorce, 60% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages. This can be misleading.

They initially might make one want to work in couples’ therapy on their first marriage as it has a higher possibility of success. While this may be true, I wondered at what cost to the couple and the family. Please do not misunderstand me; I think it is wonderful for people to be in healthy working marriages. What I do not think is that staying together out of fear of being alone, ‘for the sake of the children’, or for financial insecurities is healthy. After reading these statistics I began to wonder why first marriages last longer.

Most first marriages occur when we are young and do not yet know who we are. As we mature sometimes we grow apart from our partners; developing different interests, values change too. It is not that we do not love or care for each other anymore, it is just that we would prefer a partner that shares our values and interests. Moreover, one’s sex drive does change as we age. It does not necessarily slow down but desires and tastes change.

Many first marriages are held together by a common goal of wanting, and having children. Parents want to be in the same home with their offspring. As children grow, the need for the parents to stay together may shift: the couple may notice that they have little in common. For some this is a time of re-kindling the relationship and developing new-shared interests.

Another thought I have had is that during a first marriage many people care more greatly for what their families and friends will think if they divorce. They themselves have a negative view of divorce and so assume that their family and friends will too. Sometimes this is so, but not always. Having no experience in leaving one life and creating another, divorce is very hard and scary for most people, especially for those whom have never done it before.

If a couple does choose to get a divorce they live through the initial hardship of it then grow and learn that they can build a new life. Often the new life can be more satisfying for them.

With age and the experience of a divorce most people will become less afraid of moving on and less tolerant of behaviors in others that they do not appreciate. So, a second divorce although equally challenging is easier as the fears that you will not be able to build a new satisfying life is no longer present.

If you are in a good marriage, whether it is your first or your fifth, and you are having a challenge; than a great couples therapist can be a catalyst in working out the knots.

Just make certain that this therapist is actually trained as a couple’s therapist and not an individual therapist that calls themselves a couple’s therapist. Individual therapists working with couples can actually do harm to your relationship as they do not understand that your relationship has a voice of it’s own.