The quality of our lives will always be determined by the quality of relationship we keep.
Enter Your Details
Keep up to date with my recent posts.
Over the years, I’ve recognised a pattern in how healthy relationships aren’t based on what we can get from them but are based upon what we can invest into them.
This is one of these back to front ‘life principles’ that is true, whether we agree with it or not. Culturally, it’s normal for most people to put their own needs first in a relationship, and at the same time, it’s also cultural for marriages end in divorce within the first three years.
Could there be any correlation between selfishness and today’s high divorce rates? Yes. No. Maybe … but only when the finger of blame is pointing at everyone else apart from ourselves. Right?!
I can remember my mum sharing a valuable life lesson with me when I was young. She told me how the only way a relationship will last the test of time, is when both parties in a relationship bring 50% each to the table. She called this the 50/50 relationship principle.
Unfortunately, my parents got divorced after 28 years of lifeless marriage. Their main reason for staying together was to ‘protect’ my younger sister and me. It goes without saying that I questioned the 50/50 relationship principle. It’s a crock of shit, to put it mildly.
In the context of any healthy relationship, if either party is unwilling to bring anything less that 100% to the table, it’s only a matter of time until the relationship reaches turbulent times. I call this the 100/100 connection principle, where two people in any relationship give each other 100% all of the time for continuously deepening connection, intimacy, mutual understanding and trust.
In 2008, I was living in New Zealand throughout a challenging season of my life. I was travelling the world looking for the purpose of life, meaning in my own life and connection with other like minded people. It was lonely. As I moved from town to town, meeting anyone other than other transients was rare.
I landed in a place called Queenstown, in the South Island of New Zealand. I picked up employment as a marketing consultant, and over time, even began meeting new people. But I didn’t have relationships of depth, and no-one to meet up with on weekends for anything other than beers.
I got to know a hairdresser, who I’d visit every few weeks. It was nice going somewhere where I felt recognised and where someone remembered my name. She was also Scottish so we shared some common ground. A few months later, I received a call one day from a guy who said he was my hairdresser’s husband.
He’d recently moved to the area and was hoping to meet some new people. This phone call was like music to my ears. He asked if we could meet for coffee, as he had stumbled upon an ‘opportunity’ that he felt I might be interested in.
For the first time in years, I was invited to another person’s home for dinner. This was a huge deal for me at the time. So one evening, I drove around to their house for a meal, we sat down and spoke for hours about home, the calibre of Scottish football, life goals amongst other fascinating topics.
It seemed that for the first time in years, someone was genuinely interested in getting to know me. I wasn’t going to say no!
As the weeks evolved, it transpired that my new found friend was an avid pyramid marketer. I was working in sales and marketing at the time, so someone like me was his ‘ideal’ kinda guy.
To cut the story short, my new friend wasn’t so much interested in me, but more interested in getting me into ‘his team’ of other high energy pyramid marketers. The relationship wasn’t based on connection or trust but was more built upon the potential of financial profiteering and monetary greed. This became very transparent very quickly.
Two years earlier, I had recently moved to Perth, WA, while in a constant battle with gut-wrenching anxiety, soul-destroying depression, alcoholism, cocaine addiction and a bad gambling habit on the side.
My funds were running out quickly, as I desperately attempted to maintain my destructive lifestyle (which ironically, was the only thing holding me together at the time). One Sunday morning, hungover, I went to Cottesloe Beach, one of Perth’s award-winning beaches at the time. On my own, I hoped to meet some young new backpackers or anyone who would give me the time of day.
As I lay on the beach, virtually broken from the night before, a couple of English guys approached me with a Bible in hand. One of them knelt down and nervously asked me if I knew if the Lord Jesus Christ.
I didn’t know how to respond. I stopped having imaginary friends when I was 7. They asked me if I wanted to be saved. In response, I kindly asked them to “fuck off and leave me alone”.
Just to be clear, this was possibly one of the loneliest seasons I had ever experienced in life. I knew no-one. And here I was, lying on the beach, dehydrated, half-drunk from the night before with a couple of Jesus loving Christians trying to convert me. The guys persisted until I gave them a last and final warning to leave me alone … or else!
Being a former soldier, it’s fair to say that ‘collective temperament’ wasn’t a strength of mine. The guys grew in confidence, their pushiness persisted, I lost my temper and punched one of them in the nose.
They immediately jumped up; they apologised for upsetting me, and they left. For the next 45 minutes, I lay in the sun, frustrated, reflecting on what had just happened. I beat myself up, tore my self-esteem down, and couldn’t work out why I behaved the way that I did. I was disgusted with myself.
Sickened by my actions, I packed up my bag and began walking back to where my car was parked. Within a few minutes, I discreetly walked past the English guys who had previously approached me, I lowered my head, hid under the shade of my baseball cap and hoped to go unnoticed. As I passed, I noticed how they were part of a large Christian group with cool boxes, rugby balls and beach cricket sets.
I was emotionally gutted. This group of people, similar to me in age, were so ‘into’ each other, and I was so alone. At this stage of my life, if those guys had just offered to join me, or even ask me to join them – without the Jesus chat – I would have jumped at the chance. If they’d offered me some water or even invited me to play beach cricket with them, I’d have signed up to whatever cult or religion they were part of on the spot!
At that stage in my life, I didn’t care about religion, I wasn’t interested in business or making money. I was lonely and just wanted some friends.
Today, my life obviously looks very different from how it did back then, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way have directly influenced the path I’m on today.
Over the years, I’ve learned that healthy relationships are the most valuable, meaningful and fulfilling of life experiences. Unfortunately, there’s no current mandate in western society that teaches people how to do relationships well. So we learn from our friends and family members who aren’t always the greatest of role models for us.
Building better relationships is like building a house. In the same way that houses need strong foundations, relationships need strong foundations also. Where house foundations are made of iron reinforcement and concrete, relationship foundations are made of unconditional acceptance and trust.
Unconditional acceptance says, “You are not me, and I am not you. You get to be you in this relationship, and I get to be me. I have my interests in life, and you have yours. You are the expert of your life, and I am the expert of mine. Let’s agree to respect where we both currently are in life.”
Just to be clear here, unconditional acceptance doesn’t involve having to accept someone’s destructive or inappropriate behaviours, but rather; it means that no-one person in a relationship tries to manipulate or convert another. Unconditional acceptance lays the foundation for trust, friendship and eventually intimacy.
If one person assumes that he or she is living life in a more ‘correct’ way than another, this is both disrespectful and degrading.
Unconditional acceptance shows another person that regardless of what they do or what they say, the end goal of connection is more important than the short-term goal of ‘being right’. This is the 100% that I was talking about earlier – being 100% unconditionally accepting of another human being.
Without a foundation of unconditional acceptance in our relationships, we are not free to authentically be who we are around others. So moving forward, build better relationships by becoming the kind of person for others who you always wanted for yourself. May you offer other people the opportunity to experience what it is to be unconditionally accepted.
Because, while unconditional acceptance isn’t a cultural norm, it is culture changing. So if you can see that there’s room for improvement in the relationships that you keep, become the change that you want to see happen. While you can’t control how other people are to towards you, you can control how you’re willing to be for them.
It’s only when we remove the option of disconnection from our relationships that we create an environment where we can commit to authentically being ourselves.
If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!
Also, you might find my other Free resources helpful? Why not have a look…