We are tribal people, pack animals, gatherers, and joiners. Solitary confinement, removing one from others, is a punishment or a tactic used to break people. Certain religions shun members who act outside approved behaviors as punishment for their supposed infractions. People are exiled from their country of origin. We don’t do well, as a species, when we are on our own for extended periods.
A therapist once spoke about helping people who had recently undergone an arduous boat journey to escape genocide. She expected to hear about the trauma of not knowing if they would survive, or the long, hot days at sea, but what she heard, on several occasions, surprised her. People wanted to talk about their relationships, not their endurance hardships. “He hardly even noticed me. He was looking at her.” “When we got to shore, she bolted, without a second glance at me.”
Relationships are important. While we don’t need to depend on any one person to meet our needs, especially when they don’t want to, we can expect that our need to feel a part of a pack, group, or family can be accomplished, and we can always have better one-on-one relationships. Once we pass the initial honeymoon phase of any relationship, when the fizzle wears off, we must take genuine heart action and become a giver of right actions.
We can’t wait for others to love us; we must become love in action, and in that giving we receive all the love we give. The St. Francis Prayer (I know. It’s widely accepted that St. Francis did not write the prayer, but it’s still a dynamite prayer!) says it clearly, “O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”
Here are ways to build healthier and happier relationships with those who are close to you. Some of these are appropriate for friends and family and some of them are not. All of them are helpful in special love relationships.
- Smile at your mate/partner/spouse 5 times a day while looking them directly in the eye. This sends a signal to your loved ones that you are okay and that they don’t have to worry about you. Our loved ones often take responsibility for how we feel, and if they never see us happy, they feel guilty, mad, or afraid. Smiling is an amazing spiritual practice, so why not share that smile? This also conveys a unit of recognition; we all like to be noticed and to receive that confirmation of existence.
- When your loved one leaves for work or to run an errand, say goodbye. Acknowledge their departure. Give them a hug or a kiss goodbye. Greet them when they return with a hug, a kiss, or a greeting. “Hi. How did it go?” Consequently, tell them when you are leaving, announce when you get home, and touch in with them.
- Greet your mate when you wake up (if they are already awake). Give them a good morning hug, kiss, or a wave. If they wake up after you, greet them when you see them. “Good morning!” Be cheerful.
- Tell them you love them, one or more times a day.
- Give your significant other at least five hugs a day.
- Tell your significant other something you appreciate about them, every day.
- When your partner talks to you, pay attention. Don’t look at your cell phone and tell them you can hear what they are saying. Be present. Acknowledge what they’ve said so they know they have been heard. Nod your head occasionally, saying “I hear you” and say “yes” when appropriate. Ask questions to be sure you understand, or repeat back what they have said to show you heard them.
- Hug 5 to 10 minutes a day while lying down. Don’t force your mate to do this. Do it only if it appeals to your mate. Forcing compliance erodes trust and pleasure in our relationships.