Relationships: An Integral Part of the Human Experience
As humans, most of us yearn for fulfilling relationships. They provide unlimited ways for us to learn, grow, thrive, and have fun!
Yet, as we know, relationships aren't always a "bed of roses"--especially romantic ones. They don't make themselves, nor do they continue happily on autopilot once they begin.
In this one-of-a-kind book, bestselling authors don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. and HeatherAsh Amara share their seven secrets to healthy, happy relationships:
Understanding and enacting these principles can help you at any stage in your intimate partnering, whether you've been with someone for many years or are currently single and want to prepare for a relationship.
The authors make clear that the principles in this book aren't secrets because they are hidden away, but are more akin to undiscovered focal points that can lead to deeper, more meaningful connections.
Part of the secret, as you will see, is in the art of putting these ideas into practice day after day and year after year.
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About the Author
HeatherAsh Amara is the founder of the Toltec Center of Creative Intent, based in Austin, TX. She studied and taught extensively with don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, and continues to teach with the Ruiz family. She is the author of The Toltec Path of Transformation. Her website is www.toci.org.
Read an Excerpt
The Secret of Commitment
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
— Henry David Thoreau
Think back to a time when you were a teenager — when so many of us are our most awkward, vulnerable selves. Our hormones surge into overdrive. We're bursting with new desires and locked down by old fears. Will I be seen? Will I be understood? Will I ever be loved? During this time, we often convince ourselves that if we could only find a special someone who will be our partner, all will be right in the world.
In our first forays into relationships, for better or worse, many of us make a series of commitments that can set the stage for serious difficulties later on:
We commit to keeping someone special happy.
We commit to telling our special someone what they want to hear.
We commit to looking and acting a certain way, all for the benefit of our special someone.
We commit to being the person we imagine that special someone wants us to be.
Of course, you can see where this is going. Each of these commitments is how we seek approval, attention, and love. But every step we take in this direction moves us farther away from the fundamentals which all human beings require to be happy and healthy: honesty, contentment, self-acceptance, and self-love.
And yet we make these teenage commitments almost universally. And that's okay. They are part of how we grow up and discover ourselves, and they can provide a good jumping-off point as we start our early journeys of self-discovery. The problem is that many of us continue to bring these old ideas and practices into our mature relationships, even when we're in our twenties, thirties, forties, or beyond. If we don't replace those early ideas with another way of doing things and different kinds ofcommitment, we can find ourselves in real difficulty later on in our relationships.
You may be reading this and thinking, "That's not me, I don't do that." But the habit of altering who you are for someone else can be subtle and hard to break, even for those of us who have been doing inner work for years. Look deeply into yourself. Are there ways in which you look to your special someone, or potential special someone, for clues about who you should be and how you should act?
Domestication, or the ways we are encouraged to behave that society finds acceptable, has played a big role in the development of the idea that we need to commit to changing ourselves to make someone else happy. The media endlessly portrays this type of behavior as normal, necessary, and even advantageous when it comes to finding that special someone, particularly a special someone with whom we would like to share a lifetime commitment. Think of the movie Jerry Maguire, in which Tom Cruise as Jerry says, "You complete me."
When he says this, we see the character's underlying belief: if he is complete only through his relationship with his beloved, then he is otherwise essentially incomplete. However, in our view, and in the ancient wisdom of so many others, each of us is already complete, right here and right now. In fact, there is nothing else we need to be other than who we are in this moment. The goal of happy and healthy relationships is to form a true partnership where you share the joys and pains of being human.
With that in mind, consider this radical idea regarding commitment: What if that special someone you commit to — no matter what else or who else comes along — is you?
The real secret behind commitment in relationships is that it all starts with a commitment to yourself. This is foundational, because if we don't honor who we are, it is impossible for us to truly honor another. Most of us, whether we have been in a relationship for twenty years or are currently looking for one, need to learn how to truly, deeply, fully commit to ourselves, no matter what. But what does that really mean? And how do we do that?
Committing to yourself begins with dropping the ideas that you must change in order to be loved by someone else and that you need someone else to be complete. Anytime you are seeking to complete yourself through being accepted by another, you are actually leaving yourself. While this may seem to work in the short term, such as when a relationship is brand-new and everything seems magical, the truth is that you are only kicking the can farther down the road. That is to say, you're putting the problem off rather than dealing with it, which will only cause it to resurface in the future. At some point in our lives, we all must face ourselves directly and learn to embrace what we find.
This commitment to yourself continues by releasing judgment in favor of compassion, letting go of feeling victimized in favor of being honestly vulnerable, and shifting your focus away from who you think others want you to be and toward finding out who you are now.
We'd like to share with you three tools that are foundational when it comes to committing to yourself: breaking up with your judge, breaking up with your victim, and claiming what you want more of in your life.
Breaking Up with Your Judge
Have you ever noticed that unhelpful voice in your mind? It tells you that you aren't good enough and discourages you from trying something new because you might "fail." When it comes to relationships, it's the voice that reminds you of past mistakes and then berates you for making them in the first place. It's your own voice, of course, but this is the part of you that we call the judge.
The judge often comes out when you are fearful, lonely, or regretful or are experiencing any variety of other negative emotions. The judge will also speak up in response to external stimuli, such as when you see a scene in a movie that reminds you of a past relationship "mistake" or you're around someone who reminds you of an ex. In these moments, the judge will rush in to remind you that you "failed."
Statements such as "if only I hadn't divorced/married that person, my life would be better now," or "if my body looked more like his/hers, then I would be happy," are common judgments that many people tell themselves, though these can certainly vary from person to person. Pronouncements such as these are from our judge, and they are never helpful in terms of developing a happy and healthy relationship with ourselves.
What many people don't realize is that how you speak to yourself affects your relationships with others. As an example, consider the following scenarios.
Jan is a busy professional who takes great pride in the work she does for her clients, but when things don't go well at work on a given day, she berates herself for it, often without realizing it. The judge voice in her mind tells her that if her work isn't perfect then it's not worthy — and if her work isn't worthy, then neither is she. This often causes a spiral of similar thoughts, all starting with whatever went wrong at work and ending in attacks and insults against her very self-worth. This self-flagellation darkens her mood considerably, and then she comes home from work to her unsuspecting partner. Because she created so much negativity in herself by listening to her judge, she often snaps at her partner or is in no mood for fun.
When Jan began to notice her internal judge and the effect it was having on her mood, she changed. She committed to supporting herself rather than judging herself. Her partner was the ancillary beneficiary of her improved mood, and it was all the result of her committing to herself first and foremost.
When you listen to and believe your inner judge, you are more likely to judge your partner, too. Imagine this: You and your partner have made a commitment to save toward a goal. Your judge crafts acontrolling set of rules about money, praising every penny you pinch and admonishing you for spending on anything that might not be a strict necessity. It sets the tone for the rules to be followed, whether or not you spell them out together. You tell your partner you want them to "quit spending money on frivolous things," and your judge approves this message. After all, you are being clear about your needs and expectations, right? But with this kind of message, sooner or later your judge will be on a collision course with the well-being of your partnership. No one can live up to the demands of your internal judge — not you and not your partner. The judge quickly loses sight of the positive values of your decision together — the warmth of shared goals, the giveand-take of communication — and replaces them with its own "factual" version of events. This is a recipe for resentment.
Our judge is also the resident enforcer of our domesticated ideas of perfection. When it comes to committing to ourselves fully, one of the key pieces that many of us struggle with is feeling unworthy. How can we commit to ourselves when we are so imperfect in so many ways? The judge in us helps to create an image of perfection that we use as a measuring stick against ourselves: "this is how I am" versus "this is how I should be." This split that occurs in our minds leads us to reject or abandon ourselves until we can achieve perfection. We tell ourselves, "if I could only look this way" or "if I can achieve this," only then will we be okay enough with ourselves to accept ourselves.
Because we rarely live up to those "perfect" expectations, we end up rejecting ourselves over and over again. (And even if we do manage to live up to the image of perfection, most of us simply use that occasion to raise the bar even higher.) This starts a vicious cycle, as our self-rejection leads us to fear that we will be rejected by others. We hope somebody else out there will help us feel connected, loved, and complete, but we are also simultaneously terrified that they will reject, abandon, or judge us (because we have already done that to ourselves). In order to mitigate that risk, we commit to changing ourselves into who or what we imagine they want us to be. The problem is that we lose ourselves in the process.
How do we break this cycle? Committing to ourselves starts with accepting and loving ourselves exactly as we are right now. It is as simple, and as complex, as that. We let go of who we think we are supposed to be, who we wish we were, and who we think others in our life want us to be. Doing this is the first step in coming home to ourselves.
Commitment to ourselves continues when we make the decision to break up with the judge. This isn't easy to do. For most of us, our relationship with our judge is one of the longest relationships we've been in!
The Importance of Compassion
Breaking up with the judge starts by noticing when it speaks. For so many of us, our inner dialogue is incredibly negative, especially in the area of relationships. We're so tied in with our judge that when they speak (always in our own voice), we mistake the judgments for facts and we punish ourselves accordingly.
Take a look at these statements and notice when you have said something similar to yourself recently:
* "I'm so stupid. I can't believe I did that again!"
* "My legs/hips/thighs/fill-in-the-blank are too fat! I am not lovable."
* "I'm such a failure. I'll never get this right."
These are just a few of the ways that our inner judge speaks, and when it does, we often don't even realize the damage we are doing to ourselves in the process.
Sometimes our judge shows up in disguise, posing as a "helpful friend." For instance, if you aren't paying attention, your judge can sneakily turn any spiritual and self-help practice into a tool for self-flagellation. We judge ourselves for not being compassionate enough, forgiving enough, or self-loving enough. In this way, we can turn any positive principle for transformation into a tool for rejection, with our own judge leading the way.
But here's the thing: this breakup won't be about trying to silence or force the judge to go away, because that self-directed bullying is really just more judging. Using this kind of technique, you would be judging the judge — which is still judging!
The first step to release yourself from the power of your judge is to take a step back, witness your judge's behavior, and have compassion for it rather than condemning it. When you create a little separation between yourself and that negative voice, you can begin to have deep compassion for how you have treated yourself. Instead of listening to the inner hatred, fear, and self-sabotage and accepting them as facts, notice them as judgments. Just noticing them is a step into a new way of being, one based in acceptance, support, and love.
Once you notice your judge, rather than fight it, simply say to yourself, "I'm not going to treat myself like this today. I'm going to love myself instead, including my inner judge." Then remind yourself that you can choose to bring your attention again and again toward the type of relationship with yourself you want to grow — that of your own best friend, one who is completely committed to you. In this way, you will be using the judgments that arise as a cue on when and where to redirect your attention to love. This won't be silencing the judge; the judge will still appear, but each time it does, you will notice what it says with compassion and choose instead to turn away from judgment and focus on love.
Remember: changing your inner relationship with yourself takes time. As you start to notice the moments in which you're not speaking kindly to yourself, do your best to ask, "What would I say to my best friend, or someone I love dearly, if they were in this exact situation?" We will tackle some of these judgments again in a later chapter on healing, but for now simply notice them and begin the breakup process by choosing to love and encourage yourself.
Breaking up with our judge allows us to shift our relationship with our most negative inner critic. When we move on from rejecting and berating ourselves, we finally have the opportunity to listen to the voice of our true needs and desires. But before we can move on to claiming what we really want, there's something else we still need to do: break up with our inner victim.
Breaking Up with Your Victim
Now that you've found your judge, it's time to locate your victim. Don't think you have a victim? Well, the truth is that you can't have a judge without a victim, and you can't have a victim without a judge; they are two sides of the same coin. While the judge is that critical voice that says things like "you're not good enough" or "you'll never be loved," the victim is the part of you that listens, believes, and feels bad as a result. It takes the blame and the beating without standing up for itself. Breaking up with your victim starts by questioning the rambling pronouncements of your judge rather than believing them without question.
The good news is that any work you do to break up with one will help as you work toward breaking up with the other. In addition to noticing when your inner victim accepts what your judge is saying without question, you might also become aware of any long-running stories of victimhood that you have adopted. One common story, for instance, goes like this: "If only this or that hadn't happened, my life would be so much better now." The victim believes this story so thoroughly that it no longer seems to be a judgment at all, but merely fact.
Past regrets are one of the biggest sources of fuel for our victim nature. As we work to limit the influence of our victim, it's a good practice to call to mind any past events or decisions you made that you now regret. The process of reframing these "bad" moments can be very helpful in releasing your victim and committing to yourself.
Choose one experience you'd like to reframe, and think of all the reasons why that choice or event was somehow good for you. Please note that this can be a very difficult practice if you've been through an abusive situation, but the point here is to reclaim your power by remembering that good things have come to you, even as a result of painful experiences. For instance, if you have experienced divorce, your reframed list might include things such as "I learned that I can rely on myself, that I have my own back."
Another trait of the victim is when we shun responsibility, acting as if we have no role in a situation and placing the blame on others instead. However, part of the beauty of committing to you is that you get to take a piece of responsibility for everything that happens in your life. You might balk at this idea, but when you accept responsibility, you reclaim your power by realizing that at the very least you have a choice in how you respond to life's situations.
We may not choose our circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them. This is especially true in relationships, in which so many of us tend to play the victim of a partner who isn't living up to our expectations (especially when we think we have done so much for them!). This is an example of those old teenage commitments we discussed previously; our tendencies even as adults to try to change for other people — to be, say, or look as we imagine they want us to. When our partners don't respond in kind by trying to also change themselves, then they aren't playing along! When they behave in a way we disapprove of, we say they aren't even trying. They aren't trying to change who they are the way we are changing who we are. We get mad and play the victim: "How could they do this to me? I have done so much for them!" So many of us have done some version of this strange dance in our relationships. But we don't have to continue in this way any longer.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Seven Secrets to Healthy, Happy Relationships"
Copyright © 2018 don Miguel Ruiz Jr..
Excerpted by permission of Hierophant Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Foundational Secrets 1
Chapter 1 The Secret of Commitment 3
Chapter 2 The Secret of Freedom 31
Chapter 3 The Secret of Awareness 57
The Transformative Secrets 87
Chapter 4 The Secret of Healing 89
Chapter 5 The Secret of Joy 127
Chapter 6 The Secret of Communication 165
The Nourishing Secret 205
Chapter 7 The Secret of Release 207