Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

Investing in Love

Sep
30

What exactly is an investment?  An investment can be defined as the commitment of resources in order to gain a profitable return.  You may think I’m referring to investing from a financial standpoint, but in actuality, we invest different things throughout our everyday life.  We invest “items” such as energy, time, knowledge and even love and emotions.  With every investment, there come risks.  In terms of investing love and feelings, what exactly is being risked?

 By pursuing a relationship of any type, the risks include emotions, feelings, rejection and even love.  The question is whether or not your feelings and emotions are worth risking.  Is the person with whom you have this relationship worth the investment?

When entering into a relationship, a person usually has a good idea of what they are seeking from the relationship, but is probably unclear as to what he/she is willing to risk.  This lack of uncertainty may evolve from a person’s own insecurities or past experiences and may even be due to the clear realization of the return on investment (ROI).  We can define ROI as the ratio of what you’ve gained or lost against what you have invested into the relationship.

Also, when deciding whether to pursue an emotional investment, the other person’s goals must be taken into consideration.  The goals must match up to some degree with your own.  Take for example a guy and girl that have known one another for quite a while.  Over the years, the guy develops feelings for the girl whose feelings remain only platonic towards the guy.  There are two scenarios in this instance.  The guy may not know the girl does not have the same feelings (the risk) or he knows the girl has similar feelings, but he is afraid to pursue the relationship (investment).  He may choose not to explore the possibility of a relationship both because of the risk of being rejected and because of the risk of destroying the friendship.  The guy would then need to determine if a relationship with the girl is worth the investment because of the possibility of no ROI or an undesired outcome.

How does one go about determining if a relationship is worth the investment?  How do you invest in a new relationship if you’re “investment leery” due to past relationships?  The majority of the time you know when a relationship is a good investment or not within a few weeks.  You may even know sooner given you’ve asked yourself the right questions.  When contemplating an investment in a relationship, consider the following questions:

  1. What attracts me to this person?
  2. What is the sort of relationship I’m seeking with this person?
  3. Where do I want to be in five years?
  4. Why did my last relationship (investment) fail?

 The above questions can provide great insight in determining if your investment goals match up to your partner’s goals.  There are instances when a past investment has put a sour taste in your mouth and you may be gun shy to make another investment or even allow someone to invest in you.  Try to avoid this trap as each investment is a new journey and will have very different results.  Past investment strategies that did not produce a desired outcome may cause you to delay or even turn down an investment that may have a positive impact on you.  Don’t be scared to invest what you have to offer.  Resist the urge to make an investment to only gain instant satisfaction

Referencing the definition of investment above, it was stated that an investment includes the commitment of resources.  Commitment is a critical part in any relationship, but commitment in this context has nothing to do with being in a “committed” relationship.  In this case, commitment means to continuously and without hesitation commit your resources:  feelings, emotions or love.  It is simply how willing two individuals are to invest in the relationship.

If you have decided to take the risk and pursue a relationship, don’t be lazy and stop investing.  A relationship could be looked at like a 401(k).  The more you invest, the higher your return will be.  If you stopped investing in your 401(k), you wouldn’t be very surprised when you had very little money in it.  Relationships require a regular investment of:

Time – All about how much time you actually invest into the relationship.  Remember that you can’t save time, you can only invest it.

Commitment – All about how much of your resources you invest on a continuous basis (love, emotions, etc.).

Emotions – All about how you feel when you’re with your partner and how you make them feel.

Esteem – If your self-esteem has taken a hit in the past, it could take years before your investment “breaks even”.  Allow the investment to grow your self-esteem which, in turn, will grow your partner’s self-esteem.

Energy – All about how much energy the two of you invest in the relationship.  Extra energy may need to be invested when times are rough.

Loving someone is never easy due to the fact that many trials and obstacles will be encountered. The investment (relationship) is continuously at risk and sometimes these obstacles might make you feel like giving up. It will be tested as times passes. Risks will always be present.  Always remember though, to love and be loved in return, that is the best result in this kind of investment.

Love and Compromise

Sep
4

For partners to compromise in their relationship, they must first understand how to compromise. This is easier said than done. They must first agree that it is acceptable to disagree with one another as long as no resentment is held against the other. Also, lines of communication must always remain open as it is important to let your partner know how you feel. Help one another analyze the pros and cons of the situation as this will allow the two of you to be fair to one another. Feelings of resentment should never come out of a compromise so be sure the compromise is what you want when you agree to it.

We need to distinguish between a need and a want. Webster’s Dictionary defines a need as a necessity or a requirement whereas a want is defined as to desire or crave something. It is not our needs we have to abandon in a relationship but rather our wants possibly if we must compromise effectively. The basic premise is how do we love one another if we fail to love our selves through self neglect? Can we be free of needs? I really don’t think so. We need water and food at a minimum, but of course there are other needs. In my opinion, needs differ from person to person. One person may need love; another person may need compassion; and yet another person may need ongoing medical attention ;-). An abundant life can come from the fulfillment of our wants. What does all of this have to do with compromising in a relationship? It’s simple. We compromise to fulfill our needs and the wants are just icing on the cake!

Compromising is a basic skill that is for life in general and is an important skill that must be honed to be successfully used in a relationship. Knowing how and when to compromise is a key component to a healthy relationship that will stand the test of time. Without the willingness or ability to compromise, your relationship can be set up for failure. There are plenty of people that view compromise as a sign of weakness or that it makes them appear to be the passive partner in the relationship. That is not the case. First off, it takes two to compromise and secondly, you must make the correct compromise. If you don’t both compromise, then it’s not a compromise. You basically just gave in to your partner. If you suffered a loss or didn’t fulfill a need, then you made a wrong compromise.

Just like any other agreement or relationship individuals enter into, there are rules of engagement so to speak. It’s the same with compromising. Here are a few basic guidelines when compromising:

• Neither of you should experience a considerable loss during a compromise. You will be giving up a portion of what you originally “wanted” due to the nature of a compromise though.

• The compromise should be as close as possible to a “win win” situation for both of you.

• It is central to the success of the compromise that the two of you trust one another will not take advantage of each other during the compromise.

• If you or your partner does not think they will be able to live by the agreement of the compromise, then do not enter a compromise.

To reiterate, every successful relationship requires a fair amount of give and take of your wants. The key to this equation though is balance. Each partner should contribute equally and should receive an equal amount of enjoyment in return. This may seem like a simple concept, but it is one that couples struggle with everyday. Neither of you are ever going to want the same thing at the same time. But if you master the art of giving an inch, your partner is more likely to go that extra mile in return!

Love and Acceptance

Sep
3

In the early stages of every relationship, partners are usually ecstatic when they discover they share common interests. When obvious differences arise, these same partners abandon their previous convictions with the same enthusiasm. It is at these early stages in a relationship when that “new love” propels you forward to create similarities when none exist. To go a step further, the intimacy (both physical and emotional) is also effortless. Sometimes couples feel like they can talk for hours or even experience intense passion. As the relationship progresses though, the partners may find themselves preferring television over a conversation or the intimacy could even be on the decline.

Those couples that have been together for years have probably realized that there are differences between the two of them. Since they are human, and no two humans are alike, it is inevitable that differences were eventually going to surface. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Partners can be different but still be compatible if they are compatible in the areas that matter the most such as core values, parenting techniques, etc. Certain differences can actually complement one another though. For example, if you like to cook but you don’t like to clean and your partner does like to clean, then that’s a situation where the differences complement one another. Another example could be personality traits such as one partner is serious and the other partner is playful; or one partner is shy and the other is outgoing. On the other hand, differences can also cause much conflict. For instance, the quietness you once thought was charming can someday frustrate you especially when it takes all of your energy to engage your partner in conversation.

It’s at this point when couples begin to think about change. Something or someone needs to change. Finger pointing begins and couples often seek the help of a counselor. He expects her to change and she expects him to change. How can you change the unchangeable though? The answer is YOU CAN’T. You should accept that person for whom they are and learn to work with their differences as they are to learn to work with your differences. Most of us can easily see how we are different from our partner, but we do not know what to do with these differences. We are usually threatened by them though. We use them in arguments or even in power struggles. Therefore, we destroy or damage what might otherwise be a very fulfilling relationship.

A simple change in perspective, those very same differences can become a passage to the deepest intimacy a relationship has to offer. Differences can be transformed into the catalyst for change, ongoing adventure and personal growth instead of negativity and hurt. The differences will be painful at first, but with time and a new perspective (acceptance), the soul will open and new experiences will soon begin to occur. Work toward accepting the differences that exist. The art of acceptance is essential for a healthy relationship. Acceptance should be an essential tool that is always at hand in your relationship toolbox along with your willingness to compromise and negotiate!

In closing, practicing and mastering the art of acceptance will create a stronger, more fulfilling relationship. There are a few things to remember about acceptance. (1) You should always cultivate a mindset of openness. You or your partner cannot move past your differences unless you both consciously and completely open your hearts to one another. This means even the parts that you wish did not exist. (2) There are many roads to intimacy. The differences exist in how you and your partner get there. Notice I said differences? They do not imply a right or wrong method so you should suspend all judgments. (3) Acceptance is definitely not defined as submissive complacency. Basically, you are allowing yourself to co-exist with your partner peacefully given those circumstances that are beyond your control. (4) The road to acceptance does not entail lying down and accepting everything that your partner says or does whether you agree or not and never challenge your partner to improve. Relationships are built on compromise and change as time goes on. There may be something that your partner can change that would benefit the relationship and this should be encouraged. (5) Once you begin to accept the differences in your partner, you have taken the vital step toward appreciating your partner’s uniqueness. With practice, you will embrace the differences in your partner. It is these differences that make both you and your partner unique. And it is these differences that will make your relationship change over time and become stronger each day. Accept the differences and allow the change!

Love and Empathy

Sep
1

Empathy is another agent that binds a loving relationship together. Empathy can be both healthy and destructive for a relationship. Empathy allows us to form a deeper more fulfilling emotional bond with our partner. Empathy can be defined as the ability to feel and experience another’s emotions, moods or attitude within our own body as though it were our own feelings and sensations. It is sort of like compassion for another person, only empathy takes understanding and compassion to a whole new level. Empathy gives you an actual physical experience in your own body. This can be compared to watching your partner give birth. You can almost experience and feel every muscle and every pain in her body as if it were your own. This constitutes the ultimate act of love and complete surrender and can be emotionally rewarding.

Empathy can be said to be the building block of emotional closeness in a relationship. It is the foundation of the whole idea of “we” rather than just the “I” or even “you”. Less stressed is caused if you sense your partner feels how it is for you. You also feel closer and more trusting as well as more inclined to return empathy. Fundamentally, empathy is a skill that must be learned and honed and you can get better at it over time. Not only will getting better at it help your relationship, but it will also help with your parenting skills as well.

Once again, empathy is the ability to feel what one another are feeling. Compassion is deeply caring about one’s own pain as well as your partner’s pain. These two concepts are very inter-related in a relationship. People are born with compassion and empathy but as a child, if they are not shown either, they will tend to put up a wall and create boundaries. This child may even shut down when a parent shows compassion or empathy for others but not for themselves and ends up being walked on or potentially abused because of it.
Once one partner shuts down their empathy and compassion, they can do a great deal of harm to the other partner. This can include emotional disrespect or even abusive or physical violence. It is only when we feel one another’s feelings that we care about the effects our behavior has on our partner. It is through our empathy that we feel the connectedness with our partner and cannot and will not do them harm.

At times, both partners tend to shut down their compassion to conflict and then their conflicts are rarely resolved satisfactorily. One partner sometimes shows more empathy and compassion than the other partner, especially during conflict causing even more difficulties. If one person is able to maintain his or her compassion for the partner even when angry, but the other person shuts down, this creates an imbalance in the relationship. The more empathetic partner may end up feeling abused by the situation and may also be the one who usually takes steps to remedy the situation. Another problem faced in the relationship is when one partner deeply cares about the other person’s happiness and freedom, but the other partner, due to shutting down, does not support the other’s happiness. This can cause tremendous stress in the relationship as well as resentment between the two people.

It is only when both individuals can stay open to empathy, both for themselves and for others, even when they are angry or upset, that they can reliably care for themselves or others. Because caring ceases to exist without empathy or compassion, the partner on the non-receiving end of this may feel as if they are walking on eggshells.

I must point out that while bringing empathy and compassion to a relationship, you must also respect yourself enough to bring that same compassion and empathy to within yourself. You definitely need to make sure that the empathy and compassion you have for others does not mean you place yourself in such a vulnerable state to allow your partner to take advantage or to abuse and disrespect you in any way.

In closing, relationships achieve growth and balance when both partners are intent on developing empathy and compassion for themselves and for each other. Without empathy and compassion, there is no true intent to learn. Remember, it is only the one with an open mind that will accept how to learn to maintain empathy and compassion for both oneself and others.

Love and Tolerance

Aug
31

Although love is the binding agent that keeps a relationship together, there are a number of factors, both positive and negative, that affect how strong the love binds that relationship. One important element is tolerance. Tolerance can be defined as a fair, objective and permissive attitude toward opinions, feelings and practices that are different that one’s own. Basically, this is saying that to be tolerant is to have compassion for another’s feelings and ideas when they are different from your own. Exactly how important is this in a relationship? Should you have a low tolerance or high tolerance in a relationship?

In my opinion, tolerance goes hand-in-hand with respect. Respect in a relationship acknowledges that life isn’t always black and white and that for one person to always be right, the other person does not have to always be wrong. There can be times where there are areas of grey. Realizing this can always help the partners avoid unnecessary stressful discussions and arguments. If you respect your partner, allow that to reduce the workload in the relationship by limiting the challenges to those issues that are really important, not just differences in opinion. Is the house on fire? Are you having a heart attack? If not, then there probably are some areas of grey. Stop arguing! Have some tolerance of the other person’s opinions. Respect the other person’s opinions!

Displaying respect for your partner builds feelings of acceptance and reassurance. It helps to tear down any walls or barriers that may have been put up over the years. It also makes relationships lighter which could mean better intimacy in the long run. Naturally, there are things that couples do to one another that cause irritation or friction and possibly even embarrassment. This can be as simple as how your partner puts the toilet paper on the roller, or more serious such as the way he or she uses vulgar language in front of your small child. It is the tolerance in the relationship that recognizes that sometimes you each do things that drive the other crazy, but unless there are formidable consequences, you take a breather and let the irritation pass. One positive about developing tolerance is that benefits go both ways: You can each be yourselves without worrying that the other is going to take you to task. Over time, it seems that the relationship becomes stronger, or more adhesive, because the give-and-take attitude, or the tolerance, means that the irritation at some of these habits actually turns into a form of fondness for one another’s idiosyncrasies which creates a more loving atmosphere.

In closing, I must ask, why then have a low tolerance in a relationship? Having a low tolerance can only destroy the glue that binds the relationship together. It will annihilate the love that you both have worked so hard to shape. Low tolerance means you have no regard and little respect for the other person as well as their feelings and opinions. Tolerance and trust go hand-in-hand. A lack of tolerance will also create a lack of trust. This lack of trust will establish walls and boundaries between partners; a suit of armor per se will be put on be each person. These walls will then lead to less intimacy and less respect for one another. Destruction of the relationship is the final phase of the relationship.

Even though getting passed your partner’s irritations and aggravations may seem like a hard road or a huge challenge, in the long run, you will be rewarded not only with tolerance, but with your partner’s trust and loyalty. It will create intimacy and a strong bond or what we can call the ultimate love!

Love and Vulnerability

Aug
28

I have been doing a great deal of thinking about the relationship of vulnerability and love. Believe it or not, you are the most vulnerable when you are experiencing love. Years and years ago, I used to believe love was simply an elusive feeling, more of an ideal than a reality. Love was simply a fascination that you felt at the beginning of a relationship but never achieved in a way that was portrayed in the movies or in romance novels. In hindsight, I believe the “love” that I felt was merely a combination of physical attraction, a fondness for the girl’s personality and the security of being in a relationship. What I have since learned is that true love requires an additional ingredient more powerful than any other factor: vulnerability!

During my typical teenage years up until only just a few years ago, I engaged in the usual defense mechanisms of artificial confidence, hiding my insecurities and holding in my emotions both to protect my self-image and eliminate judgments from others. I wasn’t ready to reveal my true self on the basis that people might use that information to hurt or better yet, to destroy me.

Vulnerability plays an important role in any relationship. People need to feel needed. They need to feel they fill a special place in their partner’s lives that no one else can. They want to be missed when they are gone and celebrated when they return. Women forget the men have these feelings and the men forget women have these exact same feelings. One step further, emotional need can be said to be the willingness and the ability to allow vulnerability within you. Both men and women are guilty of confusing vulnerability with weakness. Let’s get this straight: VULNERABILITY DOES NOT EQUAL WEAKNESS! Individuals with true courage and strength will allow themselves to be vulnerable.

Emotional need is a requirement in any relationship. A relationship, without need, will only result in a superficial relationship at best. Need seems to instill in us the desire to carry on under certain circumstances where desire alone would not. It is not enough to love, desire and respect your partner through the hard times. You must also NEED them. For you to allow vulnerability and love, the part that I’m talking about letting down or letting go of is the perceptible hardness or resistance that we experience against another person or a situation. We usually experience this as a type of armor. This “self-armoring” can inflict a huge amount of pain and suffering to you. At the time, it may seem as if it is doing a world of good by keeping harm out, but in reality it is actually cutting you off from your own love. It creates a very rigid or clamped-down feeling that is not only uncomfortable but also cuts off any possibility of feeling something positive with the other person.

Vulnerability, even thinking about it can be frightening to some people. Actually, a person must be strong to allow himself to be vulnerable. Vulnerability allows others to know us, who we genuinely are. Vulnerability allows negotiation. It allows an opening between conflicting needs.

Unfortunately, many people have been raised from the time they are young to deny their vulnerability. Many were raised by parents who could not be vulnerable. Many parents believe their children’s poor behaviors are directed at them and become angry and defensive in their parenting behaviors. When children are raised by defensive parents, they learn how to be defensive. Adults who are on the defensive cannot allow themselves to be open and vulnerable enough to relate to another adult.

Being vulnerable is being open. To love others, we must be open. When we are open, we allow our hearts to feel. When our heart is open to feeling love, it will also feel pain when love is withdrawn.

Vulnerability is part of process of empathy. To empathize with someone we need to be able to feel them, to know what they are feeling. This is part of good enough relationships. Being open allows us to be affected by one another and is vital to connection. When we allow ourselves to be hurt and feel pain, we are much more likely to recognize another’s pain. Sensitivity is important in this context; sensitivity to ourselves and others. By allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, we understand humility.

Often, highly defended people have been so deeply hurt, they can no longer allow themselves to be vulnerable. Some may have been raised in a situation where everyone was defensive. Many who are highly defensive also become grandiose. Grandiosity, needing to believe we are somehow bigger, better, more important than we are, is an illusion. A sad illusion built on unrecognized and acknowledged pain.

When we allow ourselves to feel our pain, and work through it, we learn important lessons about ourselves and others. Our ability to empathize with others who are in pain, increases and we become better able to help them. We can be genuinely helpful when we can hear others. Only when we can fully listen to others, with every fiber of all our senses, can we be helpful to them. Respect involves listening.

Being attuned to others requires us to be vulnerable. We need to be able to allow the other to have control. We need to listen and empathize. Our ability to do that is built on our having felt and worked through our pain. Tempering a sword involves putting it into a fire and hammering it. A tempered individual is a vulnerable one. One who has allowed herself to go through her pain and healing process. As Marcel Proust said, “One heals suffering only by experiencing it to the full.”

In closing, if you really are vulnerable, you are loving. You can’t help but be loving. And if you’re very loving, you can’t help but feel vulnerable. If you allow yourself to feel, you heart is completely open.