Question 1/13 from Emily:

All the relationships I have been in seem to require a lot of work? While I think they are worth it, does it have to be that way?


Answer from SkillfulDoc:

Between resolutions, new beginnings, and holiday commercialism, we now enter the period, approaching Valentine’s Day, when our most meaningful relationships are brought to mind. And, in this regard, many questions surface: first and foremost, “What exactly defines a healthy couple?”  And, then there are practical questions, such as: “How do I ensure that I won’t loose my own self as I become part of a couple?” or “Should I continue to put efforts towards a challenging relationship in the New Year?”  Over the next month I would like to try something different by staying with the same topic; and will offer thoughts on each of these questions and others, specifically on how to apply my Skillful Living concepts to the relationships that matter most.


In my book, Skillful Living, I address the subject of relationships in depth by exploring varying aspects of our relationships including the different types of relationships that we have. Clearly, however, our most intimate relationships are the most challenging. Here I explore how to manage our ego for the sake of a relationship, balancing the need for space and our longing for togetherness and ways to cultivate synergy for mutual as well as individual growth.


Perhaps like nothing else, the condition of our primary relationship is the most accurate reflection on our health in general. The value of our relationships then as a window into our lives is immense. When it comes to identifying the benefits of a relationship in conjunction with the effort required, it is important to remember that relationships are fundamental to the fabric of life, and are a great way to measure our own growth. Healthy relationships are an indication that things are going well. On the other hand, unhealthy, dysfunctional relationships tell us that something is amiss.


Your question goes right to the point. While it might seem that some couples have it easy, more often than not things of such value take work. Instead, I would look at the challenges as the very vehicle that will raise you to the highest level and embrace them. The journey requires tremendous commitment and sometimes a brutally honest look in the mirror; but the rewards go well beyond the thrill of anything that provides immediate gratification.


Ultimately, one needs to explore the nature of true intimacy and develop a new contract with your partner that reflects this. As Khalil Gibran has so beautifully stated, the oak and the cypress do not grow in each other’s shadow. To truly love someone requires the right balance between space and togetherness.


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