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Mindful relationships, happy relationships

Mindful Relationships:  How a New Point of View Can Dramatically Increase Your Happiness

It’s amazing that we humans are so programmed to be social creatures when all we ever think about is ourselves (usually).

We expect others to accept and appreciate us as we are and yet we expect them to be the way we want them to be.  Not exactly fair.

We expect those close to us to know what makes us happy and do those things on a regular basis.

Whenever we make decisions about how to spend our time, money or energy, we consciously or subconsciously answer the question: “What’s in it for me?”

How happy are you in your relationships with friends, family and your significant other?

I have found a huge correlation between our personal happiness and how much we focus on others.

When we get all wrapped up in our own issues and wonder why someone isn’t beating down the door to help us, we get angry, bitter and resentful.  We blame anyone we can find for our problems.

The funny thing is, as soon as we stop focusing on our own issues and focus on how to make others happy, we get happier.

You have to give to get.  Reap what you sow.

Take a minute right now to notice how you feel about your closest relationship.

the good

What are all the things you love about the other person and the dynamics of the relationship?

Have you told the other person these things?  If so, how often?  If not, make it a point to tell them today.  They’ll never hear it enough.

Showing and verbalizing your gratitude for others in your life is a huge win-win.  They’re happy that you notice and appreciate them and their happiness makes you happy.  They keep doing the things that you like because you took the time to show your thanks.

the bad

What are all the things – large and small – that irritate you about the other person or the relationship?

If you just feel a general negative feeling, define what is creating that feeling.  What does the other person do that drives you crazy?

If that person did the same things around someone else, would the other person interpret it as irritating?

You are the backdrop against which you interpret other people’s actions.  Different backdrop, different interpretation.  Something that you find irritating might be fun and quirky to someone else.

the other person

Rather than thinking purely about yourself and how you see the other person, put yourself in their shoes.

Consider their background and life experiences.  Why do you think they do and think the way they do?

Consider your own background.  Why do you interpret their actions the way you do?

How we interpret their thoughts and actions is our choice.  We can choose to love and accept them for who they are or we can allow things to bother us.

Honest acceptance is a major key to happiness.  Not resignation but acceptance.  It’s not always easy but, like mindfulness, it’s a practice that must be practiced regularly for maximum benefit.

my story

My uncle used to drive me crazy with his barrage of judgmental comments.  It was as if nothing I did was right or good enough.  My interpretation was that he wanted me to be little smart boy who had to do things his way as long as I lived under his roof.  But I was over 30 years old and I didn’t live under his roof and hadn’t for a long time.

I would let every little thing he said get under my skin and make me angry.  I wasted a lot of time talking about this with my wife and I wasted a lot of energy on the whole ordeal.

Then I started to look at things from his point of view.  He grew up with a tyrannical mother and quiet father, neither of whom openly showed their love for him.  His mother constantly picked him apart.  In a misguided effort to gain attention, he became a bully.  To “fix” this problem, his parents sent him off to military school which only exacerbated the problem.

I started to see my large (he’s 6’8″), overbearing bully of a father as a sad and angry 12 year old boy who lashes out at the world because he’s not getting the love and attention he deserves from his parents.  He makes himself feel better by tearing other people down and beating them up.

And none of this has anything to do with me.

He’s just doing what he has always done.  I noticed that he does it to almost everyone he’s close to.

When I asked him to notice it and consider how it affects others, he felt threatened and got angry and defensive.  Questioning it is a threat to his very big ego.

Once I started seeing him in this way (as a 12 year old little boy doing the only thing he knew how), it became much easier for me to accept him for who he is.  He has no intention to change and I stopped trying to change him.

Given the negativity that exudes from him, I’ve made the difficult choice to significantly limit my exposure to him.  It has taken some time but it appears that he has finally accepted this.  He used to complain regularly about how I never call him but that has lessened.

We have light conversations once every month or two.  We make no point in visiting each other .And I’m finally OK with all that.

I’ve realized that I’m much happier accepting him for who and what he is.  I have tried many different ways of improving our relationship that all fell flat.  I feel like I’ve done all I can.  It’s a two-way street and he has to want to change too but I’ve discovered that change is extremely threatening for him.  So I let it go.

ask for what you want

If you’re not getting what you want out of your relationships, I have two questions for you:

  • Do you really know what you want?
  • Have you told the other person what you want in enough detail that they can deliver?

You may be thinking: “If they loved me, they would know.  If they cared for me, they would do what I want.”

Man or woman, none of us are mind readers.  You can’t expect someone else to always know everything about you if you don’t tell them.  We all change and we can’t expect others to fully comprehend our changes.

Take responsibility for your own happiness in your relationships.  If you leave it up to the other person, as well intentioned as they may be, you’ll end up disappointed.

simple steps

  • Tell those close to you what you love and appreciate about them.
  • Take some time to examine aspects of your relationships you’re not happy with.  How can you see things from the other person’s perspective?  How do you contribute to the issues?
  • Tell those close to you what you want in a loving way and how they can make you happy.  Follow up by asking them what you can do to increase their happiness.  Help them give you what you want.

You get what you give.  What are you giving?

Help me to help you by writing your comments to this article with your thoughts.  I genuinely value and appreciate your feedback.  I’m here for you. Thank you.

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