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Compassion and Diplomacy

Krista (my wife) and I were talking last night about relationships. One of the things we've been working on in our own relationship is how to keep it healthy and strong. When we first met seven years ago, neither of us knew how to be healthy in a relationship, let alone have a healthy relationship.

It is a significant challenge to keep a relationship open, honest, true, loving and healthy. The reasons are numerous and all eventually come down to the fact that humans are ego-centric and therefore selfish. We only care about our selves when we are young and it takes a great deal of effort on our part or on reality's part to expand our field of caring.

When people come together in a relationship its almost always for the wrong reasons and with the wrong true intention. I use the expression true intention because often people don't realize their true intention relates more to getting what they need than offering what they have.

In modern times we call this co-dependence. We seek others to fulfil our needs and desires, to feel whole and complete and then we bargain by holding their needs hostage to get our needs met. Its the old Tit for Tat story retold in often more subtle ways.

Krista and I have learned alot about our selves and each other through this process because we decided very early on that we want a healthy relationship. Of course when we first tried to define healthy our instinct was to play the old Venus and Mars card and say, "If you give me this, I'll give you that," but that's not healthy, that's co dependence. We didn't know it at the time, we had to play the game with each other for a few years before we realized that we were doing it. Our happiness became subject to what the other person was doing, to their mood and to what we were getting from each other. After a few blow ups and arguments we realized that we had false expectations of each other and were not growing closer together but actually farther apart because of the competition for "love" (love defined very poorly here).

We fell into the same sort of co dependence that we had each had in previous relationships. But luckily for us, our needs aren't very compatible. So we always feel like our needs are not being met by the other. For most couples that's the death knell for the relationship. For us it became the trumpet heralding our rise in awareness. We had to become aware of the unhealthy needs and wants to overcome them to make our relationship last. We by giving up our needs and burning through the perceived pain of not having them met, we grew closer and stronger to each other. We tore down our own wobbly foundations and together built a new foundation based on love, respect, caring, honesty and healthy intention.

It sounds grand doesn't it?

Its harder than it sounds, trust me. Its a daily thing: moment to moment. Its really hard with kids, because kids raise the whole skill level of the situation. At first the kids came between us because we had different ideas of how to raise them and there was a natural resistance toward compromise within us both. It didn't take us long to figure out that we must compromise or one of us must give up the conflicting ideal to insure that the children don't cause a wedge by our reaction of resentment. Resentment is the enemy of the relationship.

Last night I got to thinking about what are the most important qualities to develop for the purpose of having healthy relationships. What I came up with is the title of this blog post.

Compassion for others allows us to accept bad behavior and not be bothered by it. That's what compassion does, it makes us immune to the action of others. Compassion for ourselves is critical as well, that's how we stop feeling sorry for ourselves and stop hating ourselves.

Diplomacy is the art of listening to someone's communication in what ever form they express it (from mumbling to crying to pouting to screaming) and groking their wants, needs and ideas. Diplomacy also finds a way to unify positions and find a common ground on which to stand.

With those two skills we can be healthy in any personal relationship. That's not to say we would be, though, for it to be healthy other qualities are needed. The most important of which is an intention of being healthy. With out the healthy intention all work ends up being used as selfish means to an egotistical end.

To summarize: Its hard these days to have healthy relationships. Simply put, the only way we can be healthy is to grow up the three and half year old within us. We do that by finding compassion for ourselves first and then allow that compassion to spread to others. The compassion allows us to become diplomatic and once we have those skills we can begin to tear down the walls within us that prevent us from being healthy and having healthy relationships.