Usually we enter relationships hoping they will make us happy. We hope that this person is the right one, that we aren't repeating mistakes of the past, and that we will finally receive the love, support, companionship and admiration we've been waiting for.
Each person has a shopping list of hopes, expectations and secret demands he/she makes of their partner and their relationship. When these wishes are fulfilled, then they say they are happy.
This kind of approach to relationships usually brings disappointment. It fails to understand the important difference between happiness and joy, (or contentment).
To begin, happiness is always fleeting. It comes and goes. It has to. Just as night and day alter, happiness too fluctuates. Happiness depends upon circumstances. When things go well, we are happy. When we get what we want, when the sun is shining, when our boyfriend finally pops the questions these are moments of happiness. These moments are lovely - we cherish them in memory. The only wrong with this kind of happiness is when we depend upon them to feel good.
Joy is different. It doesn't come and go. It doesn't depend upon outer circumstances. When things are difficult, when our hopes are not fulfilled, it is still possible to feel joyful. Joy arises from within, not without. It is an attitude of mind that can be developed and nurtured. It represents the growth of the individual from a child to an adult, willing to take responsibility for the way they choose to respond. Joy is not a knee jerk reaction. It a positive decision we make about ourselves and others.
In a sense joy is a practice. It is not necessarily an emotion. Joy, being constant, is deeper than emotion; it is an orientation towards life and towards the people in your relationships. It is built upon actions, it is a way of being with oneself and others, no matter what happens. There are steps we can take and can practice daily, which allow joy to be present. Joy is a decision we make each day.
In order to find joy in our lives and our relationships, certain things have to be developed and others to be relinquished. A famous saying describes this beautifully, it says, "When we are children we play with toys. When we grow up, we want the real thing." The real thing is joy, not happiness.
Here are two, easy, beginning steps you can take, (and continue to practice), to find joy in your relationships.
l) Give Up Blaming The Other Person.
As time goes by it is very easy to find many things disappointing and wrong with the person you are with in a relationship. When we are upset, we attribute it to their behavior, something they've said or done wrong, or something they haven't done that we feel they should have. This is putting our well being in the hands of another. It is one of the most significant ways we destroy our own peace of mind and also undermine the other person.
Realize that each person has the right to be who they are at this moment.
No one made you their judge and jury. If you are upset or unhappy with their behavior, that is your response, it does not necessarily mean that something is wrong with them. You are creating your own unhappiness by blaming and disapproving of them.
Give it up. Just observe their behavior. Get to know them. Watch how they live their lives and what their patterns are. This does not mean you have to join them, stay in the relationship or get into a dance with them. In fact, this may be the wrong person for you, but give up feeling they have disappointed you. They were not put on this earth to please you. They were put on this earth to be who they are, to change, grow and find wisdom.
Say to yourself, this person has a right to be who they are, and I have a right to be who I am as well. They are not harming me by being who they are. This is their life they are leading. I have not been put on this earth to fix them.
In truth, it is your own expectations which are causing you upset.. When we do not put heavy expectations on the other, but are willing to simply discover who they are, blame dissolves more easily.
2) Learn The Art Of True Giving
There is a huge difference between really giving to another, and giving so you can get something back in return. When we give in order to get something back, (and secretly wait for it and demand it), this is nothing more than manipulation, and it quickly kills our joy.
Joy is based upon true giving. When we learn to give truly, it is almost impossible to be upset or sad. The giving itself is its own return.
True giving means, giving with no strings attached. It means giving something to the person that they need or would like, (not something that pleases you). In this form of giving, we take time to really know the person, and become willing to meet their needs. Some fear to give, feeling that they will be drained or stripped bare. The opposite is true. The more we give, the more we have. We have a sense of fullness and kindness, which is the basis for the development of joy.
There are many things that can be given besides physical objects. Many people need time, attention, acknowledgment, the chance to be right about something. Make a list of all the things you can give another. Also make a list of the things you'd like someone to give you. In this way you'll start to become more sensitive to what a person is really needing, and how best to give it, so they can receive it easily.
Practice giving freely. Do it in little steps at first. Let the car behind you pass you, let the person go first at the check out counter. Give someone a hand with their bags, open the door for someone at a building. Practice being there for another. The more you do it, the more your joy will grow.
(c) Dr Brenda Shoshanna/2005
Dr. Brenda Shoshanna, author of LIVING BY ZEN (Timeless Truths For Everyday Life) http://www.livingbyzen.com, is a psychologist, relationship expert, author and long time Zen practitioner who offers a brand new way of viewing relationships which removes stress and misunderstandings and allows everyonel to win. She is a well known speaker and the author of many books including Zen And The Art of Falling In Love, Zen Miracles, Why Men Leave, etc. She has an office in Manhattan, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about her and her books at http://www.livingbyzen.com, and at her personal website http://www.brendashoshanna.com