Editor’s Note: Andrew Weil, M.D. is a world-renowned leader, best-selling author, and...
Most people envision an ideal intimate relationship based upon shared interests, open communication, mutual nurturing, and passion. When they’re unable to create this level of emotional connection, they conclude that they need to work harder to create “serious” relationships. It has been my experience, however, that lighthearted relationships are generally more desirable and longer lasting.
Although there’s no proven formula that applies to all relationships, embracing a few key principles in your heart will reduce conflict and enhance the flow of love. These seven “laws” are valuable in friendships and business relationships, as well as in families, marriages, and intimate partnerships.
1. My relationships are based on equality.
Relationships based upon inequality may survive but will never thrive. Love is the unity that comes from seeing yourself in another and the other in you. Despite inevitable differences in finances, education, physical beauty or IQ, your deep and unassailable self-talk must be, I am not above you or beneath you. We are different expressions of the same underlying being and are therefore of equal value.
2. My relationships are mirrors of myself.
If there is discord in a relationship, ask yourself how you may be contributing. Before blaming the other person, search your heart and see what you might be able to think, say, or do differently to shift the dynamics. If you’re seeking more attention, can you be more attentive? If you’re seeking more affection, can you be more affectionate?
Seeing others as mirrors of yourself empowers you to change someone over whom you have control (you), rather than becoming frustrated with your inability to change someone else.
3. My relationships have room for change.
It’s common for people to tell their partner, “You’re not the person I married.” Although this is usually hurled as an accusation, it’s a statement of reality. Everyone is carried along by the river of change, and two individuals won’t necessarily change in the same way at the same pace.
Look for ways your relationship can accommodate and celebrate life’s inevitable changes, while seeking to maintain the connection and commitment that transcends the field of change.
4. In my relationships, I let the past be past.
In every relationship, people experience conflicts or difficulties that leave a residue of resentment. These remnants of past battles are often used as armaments in the next argument.
Carrying the past into the present escalates the conflict but rarely helps us get our needs met. Make a commitment to not bring up past transgressions when dealing with a current issue.
5. In my relationships, I choose being happy over being right.
If you engage in a win-lose orientation, there will be times when you experience the fleeting exhilaration of winning an argument, as well as the temporary frustration of losing. However, neither winning nor losing translates into loving.
The alternative is to look beyond the obvious differences and seek common ground. Take a small step in the direction of the other person’s position and ask for a similar level of compromise.
6. I nurture my relationships with attention, affection, appreciation, and time.
Whatever we put our attention on grows stronger in our lives. Therefore, if you want a relationship to flourish, you must be willing to nurture it with abundant attention, affection, appreciation, and time. We demonstrate our priorities by how much of these vital ingredients we are willing to give.
7. In my relationships, I am prepared to communicate my expectations.
The more consciously you can identify and communicate your expectations, the more likely you are to create a healthy, evolving bond. If you feel uncomfortable because you’re not receiving a good return on your emotional investment, ask yourself what you need that you’re not getting. Then, express your needs in ways that maximize the probability of getting them met. This includes hearing what the other person requires and being willing to negotiate.
Commit to the power of love and don’t allow the accumulation of toxic emotions that constrict your heart. Instead, keep your sights on the loving being you can and deserve to be. If you listen to the wisdom of your heart, it will guide you into higher expressions of love.