As we move into February, our thoughts turn to Valentine’s Day and those precious love ones who are so important in our lives.  Relationships can bring us our greatest joy, but can also be the source of our greatest trials.  Much advice comes to us from many venues, telling how we should “handle” these often challenging partnerships.  We try to manage, manipulate and even  control ourselves and our partners in order to keep these connections safe, secure, and functioning. Unfortunately , manipulation and control never seem to produce the results we want to achieve.   In many  cases the exact opposite of what we want seems to occur for us and our significant other.

There are ways to create healthy, trusting, and loving intimate relationships. Ways that support us and our partners with “freedom and self-esteem”.  One teacher that, I believe, brings a healthy, realistic approach to living and working in intimate relationships is Dr. David Richo PhD, therapist and Buddhist teacher. In this blog, I will share some advice from his unique and thought-provoking book:

HOW TO BE AN ADULT IN RELATIONSHIPS.

1. TRUST  in a lively energy between the two of you…
We must know and trust ourselves in any relationship we want to be healthy.  We want to be able to count on ourselves to come through for us.  It is important to understand, that we can never fully trust another person, as no one is trustworthy all of the time. Continually forgiving, showing flexibility, and compassion for self and the other are vital required elements for success.

2.  Knowing  how to GIVE and RECEIVE…
These qualities are necessary in all healthy relationships.  We affirm that in a healthy intimate relationship, giving and receiving of love in all its many facets come from desire, not from need.  Give the other person the gift of knowing you: who you are, what you want, and your true vulnerability.  Listening to your partner’s request is to pick up on the needs and feelings behind it.  You can be serious or playful without hurting  the other, being sarcastic, or ridiculing.  You can be intimate without always being sexual.  Finally, giving and receiving are done in equal freedom, without keeping score.  Decision-making is done equally and freely as well.The relationship is kept joyful, respectful, and loving. Even in conflict, neither partner shrinks the other’s boundaries of self-worth.

3.  Showing ANGER with loving intent…
Closeness brings with it aggression, affection, loving intent, and hate.  Our work is to accept human nature (ourselves), while choosing not to act this out if harmful.  Vigilance for our feelings, judgments, and biases, is important in monitoring our own behavior. The more conscious and aware we are of our hidden motives, the more successful we become at doing this well.

People who hate and retaliate have a tattered sense of self.  We can commit ourselves to someone, while maintaining personal boundaries.  We can be angry, yet still love and show respect, even in a conflict that is being worked on over time.  Contradictory feelings can be healthy.  Hanging on to an issue, or even the relationship itself, causes prolonged suffering for both parties.  Both partners get to decide freely what is tolerable or acceptable for them to stay engaged.

4.  Making a free COMMITMENT to the relationship…
The bond in the romantic stage is tenuous.  The bond after conflicts and resolutions is stronger and more stable.  Our relationship is no longer dependent on whether we still get along all the time.  The day to day commitment is to: address, process, and resolve issues and keep the agreements that arise from this.  We stay in a relationship as long as we and our partner are engaged in the relationship effectively.