How often in relationships with our lovers, family, and friends do we get frustrated because of something they are doing … or not doing? It can be so irritating! Why won’t (s)he take out the trash? Put the cap back on the toothpaste? Come to bed on time? Be a little more romantic? Call? Text? Stop calling? Stop texting? Get angry? Deal with his/her anger? Stop smoking? Stop drinking? Start drinking? Exercise? Come home? Doesn’t (s)he see how upset it makes me?
The little things become big things. What initially seems like petty arguing snowballs into one person becomes increasingly unhappy, complaining frequently, and the dynamic shifts to something more like a scolding parent and a misbehaving child. Both grow quite unhappy, and the relationship deteriorates. When we walk away, we often strike up new relationships with people who have the same tendencies, and we’re soon back in that unfulfilling pattern again. We may even decide in time that everyone is that way and either give up or settle into unhappiness.
Relationships can be the most frustrating aspect of our lives or fertile ground for honoring free will and exploring mutual respect. Let’s explore each of these individually and then put them together.
Every person is born with the precious gift of free-will and no one should or could take that away. We may think we know what is best for those we love from the outside based upon our own experiences and knowledge, but we cannot know the journey of their soul or what they came to Earth to experience and learn about. Even what can appear to be the darkest of paths has within it rich lessons and potential. It is not anyone else’s place to decide when we should have a different life or what that should look like. It’s quite literally nobody else’s business! We are merely here to love one another along this journey. At the point which we can no longer do that for another, we might want to explore why we have allowed our egoic judgment to outweigh our hearts. We may need to step away to get ourselves realigned or we may need to leave the relationship completely; that is a free-will choice only we can make. I will say I’ve found myself completely alone at one point in my life with only “being right” to comfort and love me, and I don’t recommend that path! The price we pay for being “right” is the sacrifice of love itself. Is it worth it?
Once we recognize that everyone has a free-will right to live his or her life exactly as he or she chooses, the next question may be, “but what about me and my happiness?”
Honoring the free-will of another is only half of the equation for mutual respect. The other side of this is loving ourselves enough to decide what we will and won’t tolerate, or what we call boundaries. Give and take and balancing these two is the very essence of relationship. I love you enough to honor your free-will choices, and I love myself enough to take care of my needs and desires, my free-will choices. Choosing to stay in this relationship, if I love you enough to do so, means I need to look at how I can take care of me while you act as you do. I can ignore what you are doing. I can ask you to meet me in the middle so I can be happy, too. I can find another way to meet my needs and wants that doesn’t involve you or violate my commitments to you. I can modify those commitments. I can meet my needs and wants myself. I may even ask myself why this bothers me so much and work on that, if I choose that path. There are many ways I can honor the ebb and flow that comes with a relationship without trampling on your free-will or my self-respect. Of course, I can ultimately end the relationship if that is the only resolution I can see, for today or for good. I may even discover my tendency to be drawn to these types of relationships again and again until I change the way I navigate them and find peaceful resolution, so maybe I should just start right here, right now.
Relationships reflect what we have come to deeply treasure and that which most irritates us. We learn and grow through every exchange with another. Seeing this unfold helps us make peace with our past and embrace the totality of this incredible journey of possibilities. Every other is an aspect of ourselves and our soul-in-skin human nature of learning to balance ego and spirit. Can we find peace and beauty in all of it and embrace the journey?
Sheryl Sitts, MPA, BA, Speaker/Broadcaster, Writer & Facilitator