By Dishna Karunarathna –
We have travelled from Stone age to Space age to Smartphone age.
Technological advancements have made possible unimaginable conveniences to elevate our living standards and comfort levels.
So has there been a corresponding progress in our quality of life and wellbeing? Are we happier than our forefathers were? Take a moment to think.
Harvard happiness study of 80 years, one of the longest studies in the world on adult life, has revealed that quality of our life and happiness is largely attributed to the quality of our relationships.
Close relationships more than money or fame are what keep people happy, the study revealed .Those ties protect people from life’s discontent and help to delay mental and physical decline. People who are happier in marriages and other close relationships at age 50 were healthier at age 80.
So, on this Valentine’s Day, I request you to reflect on your relationship with your partner, parents, children, and loved ones. Are they rewarding and fulfilling? Or do you feel trapped in your relationships and going through motions of life and calling it a life? If you feel there is room for improvement or it is time to renew your relationships, here are five practices from relationship experts you could try out.
Remember and respect the differences
* Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus
John Gray explains that biologically, psychologically and neurologically men and women are as different as different planetary species. These differences are initially the large part of the attraction. But as the magic recedes and daily life takes over, we forget that men and women are supposed be different. As a result, our relationships are filled with unnecessary friction and conflict. Love is magical, and it can last if we remember our differences.
Gray explains that men value power, competency, and achievement, whereas women’s sense of self is defined largely through her feelings and the quality of her relationships.
When a man is confronted with a problem, he tries to withdraw into the “cave” of his mind and find solutions individually. A woman’s good natured but unsolicited solutions and advices on how to improve his behaviour can actually lead to resentment. Simply if you follow him in to the cave, you will get burnt. Give him the space he needs.
On other hand, when a woman has a problem, she usually requires responsive attention and care, not necessarily the solution. Just as a man is fulfilled through working out the details of solving a problem, a woman is fulfilled through talking about the details of her problems.
These principles are generic and may not be totally applicable to your relationships. But remember that we are wired to be different and compatibility is more important than chemistry in a long-term happy relationship.
* Generation Gap
Our families and workplaces constitute of generations from Baby Boomers to Millennials to Gen Zs.
Whilst it is not an exact science, research find distinct differences between characteristics of generations in terms of lifestyles, values and beliefs, spending patterns, priorities shaped by age and prevailed socioeconomic political, technological and health conditions. We have to accept these inevitable differences and make adjustments.
For example, our children are born and growing up in an “always on’’ environment of Internet explosion. Technology is intrinsically linked to their education and lifestyles, which is not necessarily a bad thing. They will be exposed to screens wherever they go. Smartphones have become their preferred mode of communication. We have to instill self-discipline instead of imposing rigid screen time controls.
Understand that they are more adapted to be an indoor generation. Instead of telling them what we did when we were young, help them to realize that connecting to nature and engaging in physical activities is just as important as connecting to the Internet and, is possible even in this hyper connected world.
Gray notes that if our happiness is imagined to be well, filling 90% of it is our own responsibility. Your partner can contribute only to 10% of it. In other words, create your own happiness. Internalize your happiness without outsourcing it, even to your partner.
Our lives from daily commute to two career marriages have become highly stressful. This can take a toll on our intimate relationships, if we depend on our partners to make us happy.
It is very important to create healthy space and independence in your relationships to make time for self-care ,family, friends, hobbies, education and career growth which make you energetic and positive. Create individual goals in terms of a health, career, education etc. Reward yourself for short term and long term wins. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
Put big rocks first in the Jar
As Stephen Covey explains, the jar represents your life. The big rocks symbolize what’s truly essential in life: the things that matter most to you. Pebbles are important, but not as essential as the big rocks. Sand represents the minutiae of life like time spent on social media etc. If we don’t watch carefully it can easily fill up the jar. These priorities are subjective; for one person career will be a big rock, for another it would not. But ensure your health and your loved ones are a number one priority in your life. Make quality time for your family, not what is left after an exhausting long day. Create Family Traditions like having meals together, cooking together, or watching movies together. Anything would count, as long as you do it together with love and attention. Happy memories are the best legacies we can leave our children. As Mother Theresa said “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family” .
Communication can be either destructive or constructive to a relationship based on approach and timing. Even our partner, no matter how intimate the relationship, cannot always decode our innermost feelings. Communicate your feelings, expectations, grievances in a direct but positive way. As Dave Wills notes “n every disagreement with your spouse, remember that there is not a winner or a loser. You are united in everything, so either you will win together or lose together. Work together to find a solution you both win”. Your loved ones deserve the respect, courtesies, and kindness you bestow on your clients and business partners. Resolve your differences positively. In the words of Jane Wells “Let your love be stronger than your anger. Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little rather than to break’’.
Learning to Let Go
Even after your very best efforts, if a relationship remains toxic to your wellbeing maybe it is time to part ways. Of course, it is not as easy as it sounds. But sometimes holding on does more damage than letting go. Make peace with your unresolved feelings. Learning how to leave people alone and go on with your life is a needed skill you must master. One wrong relationship does not define you. It means you deserve better. If you want to fly you have to let go of the things that weigh your down.
One last request from me: all people you meet in the walks of life deserve your respect. Love is a verb, an act, a responsibility. Life can change in mini seconds. Sometimes we may not understand the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. Year has just begun. So set few relationship goals and work towards them. We all have heard this verse “If I have known it was the last time, I would have hugged you tighter, held you closer and told you I love you once more‘’. I have written this with the hope that you will cherish and nourish your relationships today so that you will have no such regrets in your future. Whilst past cannot be changed, present is a gift that is ours to create.
May your life be a glorious journey of love. Happy Valentine’s Day..