When you think about sustainability, what comes to mind—global warming, going green, doing your part to lessen your carbon footprint? How about relationships? We should compost old relationships and only get involved with organic people? Not exactly, no. Although the concept is intriguing, this would be implausible for most of us, given our cultural proclivity towards big “relationship footprints.” If you have had a few relationships you know what I mean, especially ones that have been a source of pain or suffering to some degree. (Some of which have compelled you to dispose of them by almost any means, organic or not.) But what of the ones you wish to keep, nurture and grow rather than watch die prematurely or unexpectedly? Given all the energy most of us spend putting ourselves “out there” on the emotional limb (oftentimes left with nothing more than a “seed,” or perhaps less some seed, as the case may be), let’s wise up and turn those seeds into wisdom. Let’s instead get on with how to make our lives fertile so that we can more optimally attract and create more healthy, fulfilling, sustainable relationships. Ones that have the greatest potential for an amazing harvest, for season after season to come.
Relationships can be complicated, given the myriad of unique nuances that make up any one individual, the layers of experiences that create the filters we each see reality through. The real enigma seems to be a matter of skill and planning—how to create a optimal climate for potential for growth within this human complexity. Just like plants, relationships grow and flourish under optimal circumstances and care as well.
Okay, enough with the plant metaphor. You get it (hopefully). The deal is that if we come to relationship broken up, with some serious unexamined baggage, expecting to attract great relationships, odds are the next one will end up much the same—in disappointment and regret. At some point, as I have said many times, you gotta be thinking, “Hey, maybe it’s not just them.” Friends and lovers alike, we need to bring our “A” game to the party and expect nothing less from our prospective playmates and potential soulmates as well.
Here are some pointers for how to sustain any great relationship (platonic or otherwise), once you have carefully selected who you want to be in it with:
- Respect Here’s a word. Know what it means? If you don’t, you have no chance at REAL, lasting intimacy (in my not-so-humble opinion). If you respect yourself, just double it. Don’t just talk about it either—this is an action item. Respect is not a feeling, it’s a way of behaving!
- Responsible communication You get to choose from every word in the English language (or whatever language you share) in whatever tone you choose to communicate your thoughts and feelings to another, so choose carefully. You have no one to blame if you don’t tell the truth or say what you want. My teacher says “We are always doing one of two things; creating separation or connection.” What is your intention?
- Integrity Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, as often as humanly possible. And don’t BS yourself. Nobody trusts a flake, nor does anyone want their vulnerable hearts to be in the care of one. If you love and respect someone, ACT like it!
- Compatibility If you are mad about the outdoors, can’t live without reality TV, are a screaming (or worse, Nuevo) liberal, or abhor people who over-accessorize or don’t keep up on current events, then you probably wouldn’t want to hang out with…me, for example. Just because someone has good energy doesn’t mean you do real life well together. Watch what people DO, not only what they say. Make sure they match or you’ll be sadly disappointed, eventually bored and even resentful. There are 7 billion people on the planet—check some more of them out and quit trying to make someone they are not!
- Compassion Walked a mile in their shoes, have you? I recommend before you think you know whatever you think you know about the person you say you love, one of the most loving acts of all is to try and understand as much as you want to be understood. Old adage for a reason. ‘Cause it’s a damn good one!
- Expectations The fastest way to get back to love in any relationship is to want nothing. Period. Try it. No one is responsible for your happiness or anything else, unless expressly agreed to.
- Consciousness agreements One of my all-time favorites. Let people know what’s important to you up front. As soon as possible, in fact. In any relationship the time to negotiate is up front, not after you are in deep! Don’t want to party a lot, but notice you keep giving in and feeling bad about yourself—but afraid to lose your friends if you stand up for yourself? Don’t want to have sex so much, but because you’re afraid they will leave, you do it anyway (see compatibility)? Two of my “needs” (if you can call them that) in a friendship is that a) we don’t make unilateral decisions about ending the friendship, and b) if we have a problem we bring it to the other person as soon as possible. What are your non-negotiables?
These tools and skills have helped me immeasurably over the years and I rely on them all today, as they are responsible for helping me maintain the loving, healthy relationships I have today! Remember, relationships take work, they are not just “add water,” and people are not disposable. They are precious blessings, and in their presence I feel blessed to keep on my path to becoming the best version of myself, as well as have the privilege to witness l those I love do the same!