What Makes a Good Relationship Work?

HeartThere are those who give little of the much which they have – and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome. ~ Kahlil Gibran

What do you think is the most important ingredient for a successful relationship?
Would you say love? How about respect? Maybe you think it’s sex? Is it communication or commitment? Yes, all of these elements are critical. I find it hard not to put love at the top of the chart. In my mind, the others are subsets, or aspects, of love. Now, which of these ingredients is most essential for love? I got an e-mail from a friend recently and his vote is on giving. According to him, one of the biggest problems is that we generally “enter a relationship in order to get something…” This is so true.

Couple Romantic SunsetMy first response reminded me of a scene in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Little Violet: (commenting on George Bailey) “I like him.”
Little Mary: “You like every boy.”
Little Violet: “What’s wrong with that?”

What’s wrong with entering a relationship in order to get something?
I say nothing. In fact, if we didn’t get a lot of “somethings” from a relationship, I suspect humanity would have died off a long time ago. In a very real and practical way, we need a great deal from relationships. We need respect, commitment, security, and, yes, sex. The possibility of getting them makes a partnership really attractive, and that’s why we put so much energy into marriage. In addition, there’s the powerful lure of romance and infatuation. All these factors make relationships worth pursuing. If you don’t know how to receive, if your focus is too much on giving, you’re going to have relationship problems!

True as this may be, it still misses my friend’s point.
We often pursue and interact with others from a very selfish perspective. Much too often, we ignore that we’re in a relationship not so much out of a desire for mutual sharing, but with a motivation that screams, “Me, me, me.” I’ve been counseling couples for more than twelve years, and one of the main problems people cite in their marriages is communication. In order to help them, I give very specific and simple instructions to help them communicate more effectively. The essence of these directions is, “put aside for a moment what you think, and explore what your partner is saying.” Very rarely are couples able to follow the advice initially. Why? Because we find it much easier to focus on what we think and what we want rather than on what our partner thinks and wants. This is a natural habit, one that causes us no end of grief.

Fundamentally, most of us are willing to give.
What gets in our way is fear or concern that we’re on the short end of the receiving stick. Once this thinking takes root, problems snowball. We begin to withhold and become resentful; our partner reciprocates; and it’s downhill from there. What’s the answer? I suggest a healthy dose of giving with a dash of responsibility and receiving:

1. Put your energy into giving, but do it thoughtfully.

We tend to give what we want, but that isn’t necessarily what our partners want.

In his book, “The Five Love Languages,” Gary Chapman says, “People speak different love languages.” Forget for a moment how you want to be loved and figure out how your partner wants to be loved.

2. Ask yourself this important question: “Am I giving in order to get?” If you’re treating your partner with the attitude that your relationship is basically a “business deal” and you often hear yourself asking, “I do this and that for you, what are you doing for me?” – then you don’t know what it means to give, period. I’ll be blunt; you need help, go get a counselor.

3. Listening is an act of giving. Learn to listen to your partner; this takes practice; and it isn’t as easy as it sounds. See my article, Effective Communication and Listening. Your relationship will benefit a great deal if you make it a priority to “walk in his shoes.”

4. Figure out what you lack in your relationship and ask yourself: “Is this something I should be getting from my partner, or am I being unreasonable?” This question can be difficult to answer. Too often we make demands of our partners that are a projection of our own insecurities. To really figure this out you may need help from an objective friend, counselor, or minister.

5. Be clear about your own wants. Too often people ignore their needs with the mistaken idea that giving is always better that receiving. This is a fallacy that inevitably leads to resentment and heartache. In order for your relationship to flourish you must be on the receiving end on a regular basis. Practice taking responsibility for getting what you want. It’s up to you, it’s your life!

David Cantu
Life Coach Austin, Texas
Create a Good Loving Relationship – Approach it with a Giving Heart – Article © 2009

The Adventure of Life is to Learn – Be the Hero

The big question is whether you’re going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure…the adventure of the hero – the adventure of being alive. ~ Joseph Campbell

Why is saying “no,”
even to those we love best, so easy to do? Why is saying “yes” so difficult? The questions:Man Angry Look “What about me, what about what I want?” appear to be embedded deeply within us, even in the best of people. When we’re asked, “Will you do me a favor?” the response quite often is some variation of, “It depends on the favor, what do you want?” It’s as if we’re afraid that by saying “yes,” we may lose something or that the cost will be too much for us to bear. Maybe we fear committing to something we really may not want to do; so, “it depends,” gives us the leeway, or time, to come up with an excuse to back out – just in case.

Is anything wrong with that thinking?
Many teachings and sayings of cultures and religions are in apparent opposition to that notion. Examples include biblical quotes such as “Give and it will be given to you,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Despite these teachings, we frequently don’t operate that way. We apparently live in the time of me; perhaps this is how people have always behaved.
Certainly, many people take the idea of saying “yes” too far – people-pleasers. That’s an extreme. I’m talking about the rest of us.

Woman MaybeI see two problems with hedging,
with saying anything other than “yes.” The first appears minor; When we say “maybe,” we give the other person the message that “no” is a possibility. But, unless you’re dealing with a bully or someone out of touch with reality, the person is already aware that “no” is a possibility. Saying “maybe,” only underscores the fact. Saying “yes,” on the other hand, encourages and strengthens the relationship with that person. You are, in effect, saying: “You’re important to me and I’m confirming this by saying ‘yes’ without any need of explanation from you. Just tell me what you want.”

The second problem with hedging
is that it’s protective where protection is unnecessary. When you say “yes,” you’re saying to yourself and to the other person, “I’m not afraid; I can take care of myself. Happy PeopleI’ll give you what you want because I have confidence in myself that I have it to give and I’m willing to give it. It truly won’t cost me. If you ask something I can’t give or choose not to give, I’ll tell you and perhaps help you in some other way.” In other words, saying “yes” empowers you and builds confidence in yourself that you’re abundant and responsible.

Say “yes” today;
you’ll be stronger for it; you’ll be the hero of your life.
David Cantu
Life Coach Austin, Texas
Learn to Say Yes to the Adventure of Life – be the Hero – Article © 2009

Change Yourself Change the World

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. ~ Robert Frost

Every now and then,
Galaxy someone writes a book, prophesies a future, or reveals a truth of nature with startling insight and pristine clarity – books such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the prophets Moses or Edgar Casey, the revelations of atomic theory, forgiveness, relativity, or the unity of life and the universe. In a rush to maintain our notion of reality, we frequently vilify the messenger; later, people see the truth of the message and … the world changes.

The point isn’t about changing the world;
it’s about changing ourselves. In “Selections from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna,” author Andrew Harvey says, “We are all heading into a whirlwind of catastrophe, war, heartbreak on the one hand, and, on the other, of unprecedented opportunities for real transformation, on a massive, world-altering scale.” Isn’t that what humanityEarth has been experiencing for millions of years? We will continually face war, pestilence, and destruction on the one hand, and, on the other, the possibility of peace and transformation. That’s not news; it’s reality; and it’s not going to stop happening – ever! It’s change and evolution. We make a mess of life and then make it worse, or we learn and then make it better. Life happens and we screw up, or not; and then it happens again; each time we’re on the threshold of heroism, villainy, or cowardice. We have choices to make.

The point isn’t what happens on the world stage;
the point is, “what are you, personally, doing with your life?” The real message of the great men and women of history is not so much what they discovered, but the lives they led that opened their hearts and minds to those secrets. We each have within us that same spark of eternal wisdom patiently waiting to be ignited. Yes, life can be cruel and merciless; but it is also nurturing, benign, and lavish.Warrior Woman In “War of Art,” Steven Pressfield presents us with “a rogue’s gallery of” evils lurking within each of our minds to sabotage our every attempt to take life by storm the moment we take a single step in that direction. His word for these evils is “resistance.” The endless list includes resistance of addiction, procrastination, drama, and self-doubt. The truth is you can overcome them; but to do so you must be the warrior – vigilant, diligent, and bold. Then, and only then, do you taste the sweet nectar of the life of the hero. You will make dozens of choices today. Each one will serve either your passion, the life you were meant to live, or fear.

What are your dreams?
Are you living them? Do you want to be the singer in the band, run a marathon, own a bed and breakfast, take a year-long trip around the world, have six-pack abs, or be an interior designer? It doesn’t have to be an opus to change the world, but it has to be your opus.Man Running You have to work hard at it, that’s what it means to be the warrior. Are you telling yourself a story right now about how this is a nice idea, very poetic, but not reality? That’s Resistance! Fight it! That’s what the lives of Christ, the Buddha, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Aristotle were about. Daily, they fought the evil in their minds and, more importantly, they defeated it. They were authentic, they were true to themselves, and they were warriors. Take the road less traveled, live your opus, be the warrior.
David Cantu
Life Coach Austin, Texas
Change the World – Change Yourself & Live Your Dreams – Article © 2009

Bhagavad-Gita (from chapter 2)

Hell has three doors: lust, rage, and greed. These lead to man’s ruin. Therefore he must avoid them all. He who passes by these three dark doors has achieved his own salvation. He will reach the highest goal at last.