Relationships are Hard Work

Experts frequently say and everyone goes along with it that relationships are hard work. That is certainly true when two people who are insecure, fearful, defensive come into contact. However, even though it appears that it is the relationship between a couple – and all relationships are couple relationships – whether that be lover with lover, parent with child, employer with employee, teacher with student – is what is hard work but the harder work within each individual is what needs to be done. The reality is that the difficulties in relationships mirror more serious emotional issues within each person and unless that inner turmoil is addressed the relationship will continue to be troubled. Whenever you find yourself working hard to resolve anything in your relationships – meanness, hostility, rigidity, irritation, disagreements, aggression, passivity – your work would be better placed within. When you work at resolving the conflict between you, you won’t be relating, you will be negotiating. What needs to be realised is that relationships that are not hard work exist in the experience of wholeness within. When you are at peace with yourself you are at peace with another; when you belong to self you bring that belonging to another, when you inhabit your own individuality you embrace the individuality of another; when you experience a deep inner solidity you don’t have to look for, demand or negotiate change in the other person. Relationships are best held by each person taking responsibility for self and his or her own actions. Once individuals commit to deepening their consciousness of their own unique being; their wholeness, their innate goodness, their power beyond measure to be responsible for their own lives, their individuality, relationships automatically improve, because they are sending new energy along the invisible strand that connects us all – unconditional love.

When individuals come for help for what they perceive as relationship problems – and this is true for conflict between partners, mother and child, father and child, teacher and student, manager and staff member, priest and parishioner – they, inevitably, blame the other person for the sad situation. Examples are ‘he’s so demanding’, ‘she’s so demanding’, ‘the child is impossible’, ‘there’s no pleasing that child’, ‘the student is just not interested’, ‘staff are not motivated’ and ‘some parishioners are so difficult.’

There is great wisdom in, one, seeing relationships as hard work and, two, seeing that it is the other person who is the problem. The wisdom is that in either case I creatively avoid having to look at the relationship within and the urgent need for inner holding. Wouldn’t life be so much easier if the other person – partner, child, student, employee, parishioner – ‘sorted themselves out and just behaved.’ Of course what the person often is not ready to see is that the other party to the conflict is thinking precisely the same thing. This situation is akin to a defensive merry-go-round, which many people do not get off. Once both parties in the troubled relationship are madly defensive themselves, there is no space, no maturity, no safety, no love for an improvement to occur.

I’m reminded of a four year old boy whose father was violent towards him and, subsequently, left and a mother who has little patience with him, even though she knows he has felt so rejected by his father. What she did not see was that the little boy also felt rejected by her. The resolution of this heart-rending situation is for both father and mother to seek the help required to launch them on an inner path for each to discover his or her own worthiness and wholeness. I assume it is clear to the reader that when the mother and father have possession of self, a realisation of his and her own wondrous inner being, then each will automatically be loving and patient with their traumatised son.  What is true for each of these parents is also true for each one of us.

Sadly, in our society, there has not been an emphasis on inner growth – which means bringing to consciousness a living out from our own inner being and consciously occupying our individuality. The consequences of such neglect are all around us and there does not appear to be any shift towards this crucial and fundamental responsibility. Children are reared, for example, ‘to be good’, ‘to be perfect’, ‘to be clever’, ‘to be hardworking’, ‘to be obedient’, ‘to be quiet.’ Education at all levels is about knowledge, points, achievement, jobs – but not about maturity which is completely an inner course. In the workplace, employees are seen as ‘resources’, depersonalised, frequently bullied and the words ‘profits before people’ echoes strongly in this regard. Nor did the Catholic Church see the sacredness and uniqueness of adherents to its religion and the legacy of this darkness continues to hit our headlines.

It appears to me that a forum on Fostering Individual Maturity within homes, schools, universities, other third-level educational institutions, workplaces, governments and churches is direly needed. If we can find a way for each person to have a fundamental unconditional love and respect for self and for others, then there is an alignment between mind, body and spirit. This inner richness is the basis for an enriched, emotional, social, political, religious and economic progress. Without such an epiphany the many difficulties we are now encountering – family breakdown, marital breakdown, religious dogmatism, political upheaval, economic recession, students and teachers under stress – will escalate.

Dr. Tony Humphreys is a Clinical Psychologist/Author and International Speaker.  His recent book with co-author Helen Ruddle, Relationship, Relationship, Relationship: The Heart of a Mature Society is relevant to today’s topic.