Last night I had a conversation with my dad about relationships. I find myself to be in an interesting position in which I personally have very meaningful and fulfilling relationships with my family and friends while both my baby boomer parents are struggling to find meaningful relationships in their lives.
So what makes a meaningful relationship anyways? I personally believe that different people would have their own personal opinions of what they think a meaningful relationship should entail but I also believe that there are several very fundamental elements that cannot be ignored.
Most meaningful relationships start with the conscious of subconscious choice to have a meaningful relationship. In terms of romantic relationships, many often begin with a discussion of commitment by asking the question, “is this an exclusive relationship?”. Some may not bother to ask this question, but I think it is a good idea to ask.
Friendships may be more ambiguous because I don’t suspect any of you would go around and ask your friends how committed are they about being friends with you. However, enduring friendships requires a huge amount of dedication and commitment to maintain because people get entangled in their own personal obligations as time goes by and most friendships cannot withstand the test of time. The enduring friendships that last a long time often involves people actively trying to keep in touch and continuously learning and growing together.
Mastering Your Self Awareness
Self awareness is one of the most essential components to having meaningful relationships. This is because birds of a feather flock together and if you are a bird that doesn’t know what kind of feathers you have (or if you even have a feather) , you don’t know which birds you can flock together with. This becomes particularly important in romantic relationships when two people to spend a very long time getting to know each other. It is hard to share yourself with someone else if you don’t know yourself…
There are many ways to increase your level of self awareness. I find journaling and writing to be very beneficial in recognizing how I am feeling and thinking. In the past, I have written myself out of problems with great success. Of course, a problem can only exist if I think there was a problem. I also spend a lot of time asking myself the question “why?”. Questions like “why am I feeling this way?”, “why did I just do what I did?”, “why am I feeling annoyed?”…etc.
Another avenue of becoming more self aware is to attend personal development courses and seminars. Personal Development courses are particularly effective if they include exercises and dialogue amongst course participants. I have attended two personal development courses so far since 2006. I attended the Landmark Education in February 2006 and it has transformed my relationship with my mother (whom I didn’t get along with prior to Landmark Education). I was also able to create a very fulfilling romantic relationship that is literally conflict free. I must admit that I do still give my husband trouble, but I think he has accepted that as a part of being with a woman. I also attended the Millionaire Mind Intensive and it was hugely beneficial in terms of examining my relationship with money and also aligning my relationship with money along with my husband’s relationship with money. After all, money can be a big trouble maker in any meaningful relationship.
Applying attention into gaining a greater sense of self awareness and personal growth is a life time pursuit because we are always changing. I once had a discussion with one of my extended family members about having deep meaningful discussions between spouses after many years of being married. The answer I got from one of my extended family members was this, “We’ve been together for so long and we are done with talking about the meaning of life because we have talked about that stuff already.” I was thinking to myself “Hello! Are you kidding me? Have you not changed at all in the last 10 years? Have you not spent time learning more about yourself and your significant other? Do you even care if he/she might have changed his/her values and beliefs over the years?” Geez, after writing that I really hope none of my extended family members will view my blog. Regardless of whether or not they will read my blog, I am not going to shy away from being authentic about how I feel.
I cannot stress the how important it is to be authentic. My dad was saying that in the Chinese culture, it is common for people to disregard the importance of fully disclosing their feelings and thoughts. I have never heard him tell me “I love you” or “I care about you.” He seemed to think that expressing these thoughts and feelings are not important because he didn’t see any point of stating the obvious. Thankfully, I have not inherited this cultural tradition and my husband and I continue to verbally express our love for each other on a frequent basis. But this did not come naturally for us — I literally had to ASK for it. When my husband and I first confessed our love to each other while we were dating, I told him that I would really like to hear him express his love for me. I could see that he felt very uncomfortable about the request because he didn’t want to sound “artificial”. Personally, I don’t think those 3 sacred words can sound artificial if that is actually how I feel. To this day, my husband often says “I love you” before he rolls over and falls asleep and also periodically throughout the day. Can you believe I actually had to ASK him to show me he loves me? haha
What keeps most people from being completely authentic with each other to avoid dealing with strong emotions and confrontation. This I believe, is the killer of most relationships. People stop telling each other what they truly think and how they truly feel in the interest of avoiding conflict. Perhaps those who are less self aware doesn’t even know how they truly think or feel, but for those who have some level of self awareness, being authentic is so important to having a meaningful relationship. I know for myself, if I have something important in my mind that is bothering me, I cannot carry out any other meaningful conversations until I have communicated and resolved what is bothering me. Some people might have become really good actors over the course of their lifetime, but I can guarantee that being a good actor does not lead to having meaningful relationships. If you know that every potential conflict is an opportunity for growth and deeper understanding, wouldn’t you feel elated every time a possible conflict arises? You would be practically cheering in your heart saying “It’s time for more growth!”. I can just hear my husband saying, “OH BOY…” if he ever reads this.
Choose Wisely between Having Love and Being Right
There is no righteousness in love. Righteousness is a result of a dichotomy, when you choose to be right, someone must be wrong. Face it, we all have Egos and egos LOVE to be right! While we can consciously try to identify our egos and eliminate them, our egos are like lifeforms with a survival instinct and they will always try hard to remain alive, even if they have to go into hiding for awhile.
Have you ever been made wrong by someone? We must have all had these kinds of experiences and personally, I don’t find being made wrong a very pleasant experience at all. But that is exactly what we do to our love ones when we try to be RIGHT — we are inadvertently making them WRONG. Love is about giving and accepting of your love ones for who they are. In the face of LOVE, there can be no WRONG; therefore, choose wisely between having love and being RIGHT.
I may have touched upon the element of communication in the Authenticity section, but I want to give “communication” its opportunity to shine in this article. While having authentic communication is integral to having meaningful relationships, I do believe there is great value in communicating your needs and feelings.
Communicating my needs was something I had to work very hard on. As I was growing up, I had always dreamed about having a fairytale-like relationship where I can find a nice, handsome man and live happily ever after without much effort at all. I assumed that my Prince Charming would understand and cater to my every need and I would be treated like a princess. However, my last 7 years of being in the dating scene (before I got married 6 months ago) has proven otherwise…
Have you ever hear someone say or imply that “if you love me, you would_________”? I certainly heard that before and I was guilty of believing in such a fallacy. I began by assuming that everyone is as intuitive as I am and they should know what I want without me having to ask for it. Let me give you an example…
When I first met my husband, I struggled with my expectations of how I should be treated. My husband and I have a big height difference, he is 6’7”, I am 5’4” and shrinking. When I am carrying something in my hand, I often wish that my husband would help me carry something like a gentleman “should”. I also noticed that he didn’t hold the door for me and there has been some occasions in which I had the door slammed in my face. Of course I have my own hands and eyes and I can hold the door open on my own if I really wanted to, but I have been around many well trained men and I have almost lost almost all of my own ability to hold the door open when a guy is around. You can only imagine how shocked I was when I didn’t have my things carried for me and the door opened for me anymore (Oh, poor May…).
Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I realized that I would really like my husband to open the door for me and help me carry my stuff and the only way to get around this issue was to TELL HIM. Initially, I found it rather embarrassing to have to tell a guy to open the door for me or carry my shopping bags because I just never thought I had to. I finally gathered the courage to sit my husband down and said, “you know, I…I…well…I need to tell you something important.” Once I had gotten his attention with a tear in my eye I finally said, “I would really like it if you could hold the door open for me. I feel ignored and unloved when I am carrying some groceries while you have nothing in your hand.”
Guess what I found? My husband was so tall, that he didn’t even notice I was carrying something. He never really knew that opening doors was important to some women because his mom always opens her own doors and he has always been around women who doesn’t care about having doors opened for them. His dad would probably tell him not to bother because people are perfectly capable of opening doors for themselves. But what I noticed about myself is that I feel loved and taken care of if he shows a simple gesture of opening the door for me or helping me carry the groceries. From then on, the door was always open before I even get close to one and I get to walk empty handed while he carries my stuff. If he only knew what he can do to make me feel pampered, he would go out of his way to do it. If he only knew…
While my requests were pretty earthly requests, I wouldn’t be able to get what I wanted if I didn’t clearly communicated what I want. Even after almost 2 years of being together, I had to recently tell my husband that I would very much like a birthday present in order to get one. But I was glad I took the initiative to communicate my desires clearly because I got an AWESOME birthday present!
I am sure I still have more to say on this very big topic but the rest will have to wait. Feel free to submit your comments or any personal suggestions on how you have created meaningful relationships.