The Key to Successful Relationships

What are the People in Your Life Telling You?
Think about the people in your life. Why are those particular people in your life and not other people? Why are people who were once in your life now gone? Conversely, why are people who were not part of your life in the past part of your life now? Is it all mere happenstance, or are the people in your life telling you something?

Geographical Overlap
It must first be noted that a lot of people in our lives are there mostly due to what could be described as geographical overlap. There are certain friends, family, and acquaintances we see all the time, not because they are our favorite people in the world, but instead simply because they are conveniently located. Just think, how many of the people who are in your life today due to geographical overlap would you go visit if they moved far away from you? You probably would not visit many, if any. And not only would you probably not visit many if any, you probably wouldn’t even make the effort to stay in steady contact through phone or email.

Shared Objectives
All relationships revolve around shared objectives. And not all shared objectives are very profound or significant. Two people may get together frequently simply because they live close to each other and share the objective of having company. Families may often get together simply because they share the objective of the importance of family gathering. At places like work, people get together due to the shared objective of operating a business and earning money. Those kinds of objectives bring people together but not necessarily closely together.

In general, the people we are most committed and close to are the people with whom we share an important objective. And a shared important objective breaks barriers. Which means that there is more incentive to transcend barriers like geography when a relationship is built, not of mere convenience, but instead of a shared important objective.

Multiplication: The Lesbian Sister of Biology
In most people’s lives, the closest relationships revolve around the biologically important objective of having and raising children. Parents share the objective of successfully raising children and the children share the objective with the parents of being successfully raised. So, parent parent and parent child relationships are often the closest relationships in people’s lives. And that is mostly just an artifact of biology.

However, biology is often not enough of an objective to keep people together longer term. There is a natural cycle of about two-years where romantic passion blossoms and then fades. Evolutionary biologists attribute this cycle to the amount of time needed to bond, successfully mate, and get a child born and grown enough that it is past its peak vulnerability. So, a relationship built on mere biology is inherently problematic and requires more important objectives than just procreation if it is to last longer term. The simplest shared biological objective for longer-term relationships is fully raising a child into adulthood and making more children, but those things still have limits.

Growth
We tend to attract people into our lives who are like us. And as we grow, our relationships change. For relationships to last, people have to share objectives and grow (or stagnate) together or they’ll grow apart. When I look at how all the people in my life have changed over the years, I see how I’ve grown, grown apart, and in rarer cases grown together. When I was a baby, the most important people were obviously my parents. And to this day I haven’t grown apart from my parents–I have instead for the most part grown with them and they have grown with me. But not all my relationships have grown—most have grown apart. Back when I was a kid and my primary objectives were to ride bikes, dig holes, swim, build forts in the woods, drive remote control cars, play video games, watch Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and so on, I had a certain group of friends with whom I shared those objectives. When my objectives turned to things like basketball, a new set of friends arose. When my objectives turned to playing music, another set of friends arose. Now my major objectives revolve around things like personal development and spirituality and new people are emerging with whom to grow and share those objectives. There is a danger in dynamism in that if you grow you’ll probably out grow too. So, if you want to grow and want close lasting relationships, you’ll need to find people to share the objective of growing with you.

Victims and Victimizers
It must be realized that not all shared objectives are very sane and admirable. If you look closely, you’ll find as a shared objective in many (most) relationships, a roller coaster of victimhood and victimization–where two people constantly project guilt on each other. In fact, if you get honest, you’ll notice that this shared objective is probably the most prevalent objective in all human relationships. These kinds of relationships are built merely to mend and break. They are a means of togetherness to emphasize separation. These relationships are sick, but there is an important healing lesson for people willing to deal with them and admit their true nature.

The Key to a Successful Relationship: Forgiveness
Regardless of the closeness, longevity, ease, or difficulty of a particular relationship, its success is determined by one major factor. And that factor is, do (did) you use the relationship to forgive? Regardless of the form of the relationship, if you use it to forgive, it is successful. And when I say forgive, I don’t mean the kind of phony forgiveness that says, you were wrong and guilty but I’m such a nice person that I’ll let you off the hook. Instead, I mean true forgiveness, which is the recognition that there is no one out there but your own thoughts and that to condemn another is to condemn yourself. Any sin you see in another person is something you made up yourself and judged as a means for separation instead of wholeness. Our relationships are an opportunity to heal ourselves of the idea that we are separate from others. By forgiving, we free ourselves from the roller coaster ride of victims and victimizers inherent to so many relationships, whereby we reinforce in ourselves the idea of separation instead of healing and wholeness.

People will come and go–some will grow, some will stagnate. The form is not what is important. So, you don’t need to stay in the company of jerks. But, you do need to forgive them. For successful relationships, your job is simply to forgive. Forgiveness is a mind thing.

Conclusion
The best design for a lasting and profound relationship is one built around the mutual objective of uncompromising forgiveness. But you must commit to forgiveness yourself before expecting anyone else to commit to forgiveness with you. And you commit to forgiveness by trusting in that often ignored part of yourself who is committed to wholeness. Hint: not your ego.

Exercise
Think of people in your life. What objectives do you share with those people? Are those objectives mechanical, admirable, sick? What shared objective might you want to start to implement with some people you know?

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10 Responses to “The Key to Successful Relationships”

  1. Tyson B on October 27th, 2007 7:55 pm

    Hey Alex,

    Random note: I would recommend placing a comment button on the main page if its not too much of a hassle. If you did that, more people would comment on your articles. Unless, I’m the only poor soul here :) .

    “There is a natural cycle of about two-years where romantic passion blossoms and then fades.”

    I’ve also read about this phenomenon but I have not experienced it myself and have not met any who have broken up around that period. Have you ever experienced this yourself?
    Do you have a link to a study on it? I would like to read more about it.

    Yes I agree with you and one of the biggest problems with relationships is that there are unions based purely on fear of separation. Fear referring to one’s caution or worry that they can’t or won’t be able to find another partner. This fear most likely stems from a lack of confidence in oneself. This lack of confidence also plays a part in using guilt as a weapon and the questioning of your partner’s faithfulness. With obvious exception (your partner humping everything with two legs/playboy/slut) the people who question their partner’s faith, are the most overprotective, are the one’s who have a lack of self confidence.

  2. Tyson B on October 27th, 2007 8:11 pm

    Me being picky again but I would view your view of “forgiveness”
    as “clarity/understanding” but lets not waste our time on semantics or me being pedantic. Although I did try to find things I disagreed with, the only things I disagreed with on your “main page” tends to be word choice.

    I’m glad you used the word “stagnate” in your article. I myself have been using that world and propose that a new word “stagnator” should be used to define a person who doesn’t try or care to commit to self-improvement.

    Actually, if you ever want to chat on MSN I can tell you my experiences of living abroad. Considering most of my friends are not English speakers, I may have some interesting anecdotes or information (based on my biased views ;) ). Living abroad, you clearly notice the amassing of unions based on categories quite different from those back in the US or anyone’s home country. For example, in America common attracting factors include Age, gender, hobbies, school, schooling, causes (vote for RON PAUL ALREADY!), political views, and sports. When you live in a foreign country…proximity in my opinion plays a bigger factor in bringing people together. Even crazier to some are friendships based on such trivial things (to an American) as speaking English (relates heavily to those who can’t speak a foreign language) and one’s home country. You have many people who are friends for the simple fact of being from the same country.

    To make it clearer. Imagine yourself at an event and suddenly a person introduces themself to you. Upon hearing them mention their American origins you consider asking them for contact information. That’s something you would not consider important when living in your home country for obvious reasons.

    In foreign countries you see friendships that are based on different objectives and on objectives that have no value in your home country.

    I’m going to post an article on Stagnators now on my blog.
    Your welcome to check it out.

  3. Alex Marchand on October 28th, 2007 8:43 am

    Thanks for the site feedback, I will put a comment link on the main page. You are currently one of about 100 or so people (wealthy souls) so far who regularly revisit the site. A lot of the people receive new posts as email or RSS and so never have to even come to the site–so they are less likely to comment or to ever even read comments. I enjoy comments from people who truly want to comment and share information and feedback, but the stats from most blogs say that most users (other than other bloggers) don’t care much about comments. Considering that a lot of sites I follow that have many thousands of subscribers average less than 10 comments a post, I think I’m currently getting plenty of comments statistically.

    That 2 year cycle stuff is stuff I’ve read in various science journals/magazines, but I’m not sure which, when, and where. I’ll have to see if I can find links to that study. I have experienced it myself and I’ve seen a lot of other people follow the pattern, but it seems to me to be something most people eventually outgrow. It seems to be something that tends to happen in relationships built solely on physical attraction and not much more.

    Yah insecurity and also, the people who over question their partners faith are often just projecting their own thoughts and actions of infidelity. It is the old, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

    I like the word “forgiveness” because to me it demands a higher standard than something as simple as “understanding.” Semantics…We all have our favorite words. ;)

    Those observations you’ve been able to pick up due to your living abroad are interesting. So much of our behaviors are born of what could be described as cultural hypnotic suggestion. And it is like we prefer to find people in the same trances as ourselves—it seems like home. Living in South Florida I’ve had a lot of exposure to Latin culture–seeing as Miami is essentially the northern outpost of South America.

    After I post this comment I’m going to check out your stagnator article.

  4. Tyson B on October 28th, 2007 10:11 am

    Thanks for posting the first comment on my lonely blog.

    “I enjoy comments from people who truly want to comment and share information and feedback, but the stats from most blogs say that most users (other than other bloggers) don’t care much about comments. Considering that a lot of sites I follow that have many thousands of subscribers average less than 10 comments a post, I think I’m currently getting plenty of comments statistically.”

    I’ve noticed this phenomenon on forums, groups, in addition to blogs as well. I think the reason for the disproportionate amount of readers/posters has more to do with a fear of writing, issues of confidence in posting, no opinion on the issue, does not care about the issue, or an opaque view that they are currently working out (hopefully!).

    I assume fellow bloggers are more likely to post comments or feedback because they have confidence in their opinions, an ability to express them in words (in one’s own opinion ;) ), and have an interest in the issue. Opposite to those who watch behind closed doors.

    I’ll look on my own for articles, research, on the TWO YEAR MARK. Yes, capitalization is appropriate in this case. Thanks for bringing it up though. Nothing beats awareness when the issue is an upcoming one. I think I’ve heard about it in some Evolutionary Biologist’s lectures though.

    Have you ever read or watched lectures by Steven Pinker? He has some interesting things to say about linguistics.

    It seems that every country has many enclaves lying within it. For example, those sharing Latin American and Chinese origins. Additionally, there are some enclaves in which the residents are placed compared to having a chance to choose where you want to live. For example, Native Americans and blacks in the ghetto.

    Another digression. An issue I’m curious about is how Japanese Americans have escaped all the stereotypes that plague other minorities in current society. This certainly was not the case pre, during, and a bit after WW2. As there were negative stereotypes towards Japanese in terms of character.
    Nowadays, most people view Japanese Americans as doing well off financially, educationally, and being law-abiding citizens.

    Again thanks for the comment haha.

    Tys

  5. Tyson B on October 28th, 2007 10:19 am

    Revising my last comment:

    Nowadays, most people view Japanese Americans as doing well off financially, educationally, and being law-abiding citizens. This might have to do with the Japanese being able to adapt to situations and technology in order to survive and progress (a major and well-known characteristic of the Japanese people). Meiji reformation and post-WW2 being clear examples.

    Compared to other minority communities the Japanese community was not strict on its members in terms of cultural pressures. This can be seen in the language abilities of children of immigrants. The ratio of Japanese Americans being able to speak Japanese is exteremly low compared to Vietemese, Korean, and Latin Americans in America. That could be an actual case of culture being a deterrent to adopting to a new country and advancing in that country.

    Tys

  6. Alex Marchand on October 28th, 2007 10:39 am

    Here are two articles I found that mention the two year romance studies.

    http://www.sensualism.com/love/brain.html

    http://www.sensualism.com/love/druglove.html

  7. Alex Marchand on October 28th, 2007 11:39 am

    Yah I enjoy Pinker. He doesn’t get too dogmatic about things and leaves openness to things beyond what his preferred models can explain. I enjoy the kinds of things he talks about because it is the study of the robotic side of humans—which is really all that science can study.

    And that is interesting how easily adaptable the Japanese seem to be. It is something I’ve never really thought about much before.

  8. Peter on October 28th, 2007 2:05 pm

    Interesting article Alex. As you suggest, there are different types of relationships and many different reasons for those relationships.

    Having just recently settled in a new country, I am being forced to establish and build new relationships – with my wife’s family, work colleagues, and just everyday friends. It’s an interesting personal experiment, and one that has made the points you raise all the more relevant.

  9. Addie G on November 8th, 2007 6:16 pm

    I have never heard of this 2 year cycle of romance. I can say that any relationship that ever meant anything to me would last 2 years and if it wasn’t going anywhere from there I broke it off soon after, so I agree with this 2 year theory of relationships because of my own experience.

  10. Shawn Flanigan on January 17th, 2008 2:16 pm

    Interesting article dude,

    I confess the main reason I got interested in this space was the people you listed as your favourite authors. As you aptley pointed out similarities in areas draw people together, in fairness though it’s much easier to get to know people you agree with than disagree with.

    Many people I know are brought together by their common interests but it’s not always the case. My only remaining childhood friend and I love to argue on politics, science, religion, spirituality and generaly disagree but even years later I still learn from his perception of the universe. I suppose there is a deep understanding of one another’s nature and it’s those relationships that can really help you grow.

    Oh yeah and dude fix your site it’s a bit messed up, but keep up the good work

    As for romantic relationships I dunno really, the don’t tend to last very long for me so can’t say either way. I really enjoy a good debate or discussion which after a while does not gel too well, especially since I prefer a good conversation to television any day.