We are all looking for the perfect relationship and as long as we set up unrealistic ideals and project them onto those around us we will live our lives in quiet desperation constantly feeling disappointed when others don’t live up to our projected expectations.
If you're like most people, you probably buy into at least one of the common cultural myths, such as everlasting passion and the eternally romantic 'soul mate', which can mislead you in your most important relationships. These myths are perpetuated by stories, whether they're in childhood bedtime books, popular movies or the idealized romances that live in your own mind. Yet if you continue to believe in any of these myths, they'll run your life, shape your expectations and make you feel as if everyone else gets the fairytale but you.
So what is the truth about relationships, can you ever have your happily ever after, can love transcend the barriers of challenge and conquer all? We ask Dr John Demartini, human behavior specialist, philosopher, author and educator:
“There are three types of relationships:
A careless relationship is one in which you project and focus on your own values without considering your partner at all.
A careful relationship is when you think in terms of your partners values without considering you own. This relationship often feels like walking on eggshells because the one-sided nature ignores the needs of each partner and creates tension in the relationship.
The third type, a caring relationship is one where you communicate your values in terms of theirs. You think of both sides simultaneously, expressing your love for yourself and each other. The definition of caring is when you know someone well enough to know their values and caring enough to express your values in terms of theirs. Whenever something supports your values, you take away the rules, and when something challenges your values, you set rules. Nations do it, companies do it and you do it in relationships. You set up rules when your values feel threatened.
So what are our values and why would they have such an impact on communication and relationships?
What are values?
Firstly to clarify that values are not referring to your morals and ethics, they are literally the things that you hold as most valuable in your life, you ‘value’ them. Your values arise from and are therefore determined by your conscious or unconscious voids (what you perceive as most missing). What you perceive as most missing (void) in your life therefore becomes what you perceive as most important (value) eg: you only seek: money if you perceive you are lacking money, health if you perceive your health is compromised, knowledge on child rearing if you perceive you don’t know enough, travel if you feel confined etc. Your underlying private voids drive your overlying public values. Fulfillment means filling full your perceptually empty voids.
The hierarchy of your voids determines the hierarchy of your values. The hierarchy of your values determine how you perceive your environment (what you selectively attend to) and how you act upon your world (what you selectively intend to).
The more important a value is - the higher it will be on your hierarchy of values and the more discipline and order you will have associated with it (steadied, focused – attention surplus order). The less important a value is - the lower it will be on your hierarchy of values and the more indiscipline and disorder you will have associated with it (unsteadied, scattered – attention deficit disorder).
The value of values in relationships
Anything you perceive as supporting your higher values you will label as “good, or terrific”. When you perceive that what you value is being supported, you elate/warm up. Anything you perceive as challenging your higher values you will label as “bad, or terrible”. They depress you and cool you down. The art of communicating your values in terms of other people’s values is called “caring” when it is applied inside close relationships and “selling” when applied outside.
Anyone you perceive as supporting or living according to your higher values you tend to lift them up and place them on a pedestal and make them a hero or an authority. You tend to inject their values into your life and attempt to live according to their values more than just yours. This leads you to experiencing internal moral dilemmas and a need for outside motivation to keep you “focused” or going against your own values wherever there is any distinction. You end up injecting their values into yours and hear yourself using imperatives like “I have got to,” “I should,” “I ought to,” “I am supposed to,” “I need to.” This results in a state of disempowerment.
Anyone you perceive as challenging or not living according to your higher values you tend to lower them down and place them in a pit and make them a villain or subordinate. You tend to inject your values into their life and have them attempt to live according to your values more than just theirs. This leads them to experiencing internal moral dilemmas and a need for outside motivation to keep them “focused” or going against their values wherever there is any distinction. You end up projecting your values into theirs and hear yourself using imperatives like “You have got to,” “You should,” “You ought to,” “You are supposed to,” “You need to.” This results in a state of disempowerment.
You encompass all things and so does everyone else. You’re kind and cruel, generous and greedy, boring and exciting and more. When you embrace that you carry every character trait, both positive and negative, dark and light , when you embrace your duality, only then are you ready to experience unity.
Soulful relationships are ones that are whole - where each person seeks to understand and honor the other just as he or she is. Just as you have all traits so does your partner, expecting them to be one sided beings is unrealistic and will lead to frustration, anger and a withdrawing from your partner when they inevitably express the other side. It is wiser to ask the question “where do I have the trait I am judging my partner for” and “how does my partner expressing that trait benefit me in my day to day life”. As long as you answer I don’t have that trait and it doesn’t benefit me when they do it, you will be caught in a stance. As soon as you breakthrough the limitation of your perception you will move into the dance which will assist your relationship to grow in maturity and mutual appreciation.
The very greatest relationship we can have is the one that gives us both support and challenge. If we got nothing but support we would not have a relationship, because if any two people are exactly the same then one of them is not necessary. We need that balance of support and challenge, of positive and negative feedback, in order to grow and evolve.
The biggest cause of relationship breakdowns are the unrealistic expectations people have about what relationships are all about. Many men and women have and live according to unrealistic romantic fantasies; you only have to watch the big Hollywood movies to see what fantasies we buy into. Some women have them about the knight in shining armor (often resembling Brad Pitt) who scoops them up in his arms with a rose in his teeth and carries them off to his castle/penthouse for mad, passionate lovemaking. When they end up with a guy with a big belly who scratches his butt and is just being a guy, they punish him for it because he doesn’t match their fantasy. On the other hand men have a fantasy that the girl is supposed to be beautiful, sexy, nurturing, and stay 30 years old for the rest of her life. They punish or leave her for being human. It costs them love if they stay and money if they go. If we live by unreal or impossible fantasies we’ll experience the extreme highs and lows of the emotional swings instead of balanced love.
What if the partner you are with is not your soul mate? While the answer ‘find a new one’ may spring to many a mind Dr John Demartini suggests there is no need to look anywhere other than your existing relationship to find true love and fulfillment. Make a list of what you most value and make a list of what they most value (email firstname.lastname@example.org for the Demartini Value Determination Form*) and then ask yourself how what you value or love assists them with the thing they value in their life and vice versa. When you see how they are assisting you with your dreams and that you are assisting them with theirs you will feel a connection and an increase in your perception of your relationship’s worth that will assist you opening up to and appreciating both yourself and the one you are with.
So the secret of happily ever after is the erroneous error of one who lived in a fantasy. The truth is you can be fulfilled ever after with the support and challenge of a partner. Remember when you learn to love the one you are with they turn into who you love. We all want to be loved and appreciated for who we are and it is wiser to take the time to see the perfection of the one you are with as the truth is that no matter what they or you have done or not done both you and they are worthy of love.
Dr. John Demartini is a human behaviour specialist, educator, author and the founder of the Demartini Institute.