It can be easy to complain about what it is we feel our relationships with others are lacking. In our work relationships, it might be the essence of genuineness; in our sibling relationships, it might be a sense of openness; in our intimate relationships, it might be a feeling of closeness. It truly depends on what we are seeking that determines what our expectations are for the relationships we create in our life. As well, our willingness to allow space for another within the relationship also determines how nuanced and dynamic they are allowed to be.
What do I mean by “our willingness to allow space for another”? When we have a predetermined idea of how a specific relationship is supposed to be (and we all do, for nearly every relationship we enter into), we often only allow the other person that much flexibility to be within the relationship with us. When their actions or lack of actions contradict our expectations or our desires for the relationship, often our judgments and criticisms begin to come forward, affecting the engagement we are able to share with them. These reactions tend to minimize the feeling of safety within the relationship, and thus they start to impact the level of vulnerability shared as well. It’s that vulnerability, where we speak the truths of our emotions and thoughts, that help define the connection we will allow with another. It’s important to note that this is not just for intimate relationships but all types of relationships.
How much are we listening rather than sharing about ourselves? While every heart-invested relationship involves a give and take, it’s important to recognize that, as Tony Robbins often states, “Relationships are where we go to give to others.” There might be a little voice inside you that just yelled out, “But what about what I need?” Well, the truth is, all that we genuinely need we can bring forward in ourselves and our relationships then serve to enhance it. Let’s say you are feeling bad about some weight you’ve gained. If we fail to take ownership of our body and our health, no matter how many times a co-worker says “You look nice today” or a partner says “You’re beautiful” the chances are those glimmers of heightened positivity will fade. Only we can make them real for ourselves by believing them too do they have a lasting impact. And that means, knowing we’ve taken ownership of ourselves and our life.
So, back to the giving. When we listen to hear, we listen differently than just being polite or passing the time. We are invested. We are curious. And, if you’ve ever been listened to like that, you know that it’s easy to tell the difference. So, what do you know about your partner? Not their history, per se, but their now? What joys have uplifted them recently? What about those joys impacted them so deeply? What part of them grabbed onto the emotions of that joy and held it dear? Is it still with them? How are they expressing that joy in their life today? You see, there is always more to hear. There is always a way to find a deeper understanding of each other. Notice how I did not say… “Well, I had joy once too, and it impacted me this way, and I manifested it in this part of myself, and I lived it in my life through…” Because listening doesn’t involve sharing anything more than our hearts and our curiosity.
When we are focused on others, those things that we complained about, based on our own expectations, likely will feel less pressing. We’ll have a greater sense of the whole, if you will, of the relationship we are engaging in. It’s these encounters that can also allow us self-reflection; where we can recognize the judgments that bubble up in us initially before we drop in to be present for another. We can notice that we were annoyed with our co-worker for something we value, but that they were completely unaware of. That they were not intentionally trying to annoy us. We can begin to see them more clearly because we allowed ourselves to invest in them. This is true for all relationships, I believe.
As we approach Christmas, where everyone around us is experiencing the joys and stressors of the holiday, consider how you might set aside your expectations, or your compulsion to share, and allow yourself, and others, the space to be in connection with you. There is a richness in these types of relationships that is sure to fulfill our needs, as well as those of others. ’Tis the season of giving and receiving, and I hope yours is magnificent.