The following are my notes and insights I had while reading the short book "Some Thoughts About Relationships" by the author, traveler, and minimalist, Colin Wright. He organizes the important aspects of areas within relationships into categories based on the idea of policies. We can all benefit from creating healing interactions by understanding what he believes to be imminent within a healthy, rewarding, and inspiring relationship. The idea is to develop personal policies so that you can assume that the relationships you form hereafter will be in alignment with your values. Values are beliefs, goals, desires, and lifestyles.
Through this self-work, I have come to discover many of my own habits that have brought flourishing happiness between myself and those that I love. I have also discovered some of my habits that have led to painful, confusing, and broken connections. The purpose of this post is to act as a reminder for myself, and for anyone wanting to strengthen their relationships, that it is an ongoing practice and that we all deserve the harmony and love that we crave.
"I don't need anyone to rectify my existence.
The most profound relationship we will ever have
is the one with ourselves."
- Shirley MacLaine
Rationality is the primary foundation of any strong relationship. This policy is about acknowledging cause and effect. Irrationality is to rely on a story, a mind-made concept, with no assessment and no necessary change. A need to be crazy-in-love, head-over-heals, not thinking, and just leaping are all irrational concepts. It keeps discussions of values and solutions far out of reach. A rational approach to values, solutions, and discussions is with assessment and with consideration of everyone that is involved. The rationality policy holds primacy and should be considered first and foremost. Rational relationships are mindful and intentional.
FRIENDS FIRST POLICY
If rationality is the primary foundation, friendship is the structure of a stable relationship. This policy asks you to keep dynamic expectations that are built from the bottom up. All relationships (professional, romantic, acquaintances, and so on) should have friendship as an interwoven goal. Maintain friendship by conducting simple meetups that are not burdened with unnecessary baggage, concerns, or expectations. Friendship is the sprout of a seed; the direction of each branch of its figurative tree needs and depends on that sprout. Building a friendship first allows all parties to feel comfortable being their "real" most legitimate self. This starting point allows you to build something valuable and structurally sound. If you are to date, date for friends ("friend dating") so to not interrogate and interpret a meetup as a "marriage interview". Date your current friends and partner(s) in the same way. This allows all parties to enjoy themselves and to value the person they are with for whoever they might be.
If rationality is the primary foundation of a relationship and friendship is the structure, communication is the mortar. Communication holds a relationship together with three main parts. The first part is knowing that every person speaks their own language. Ask for clarity and explain what you mean in words, actions, and/or expressions. The second part is acknowledging goals and expectations. Maintain a flexible stance to enjoy the benefit of both seeing what happens and of having a mutual understanding of the other. The third part is having routine exchanges that are reliable and clear enough so that all of the cards are always on the table.
Leave no trace of negative effect on all that you come into contact with. It is fine to date someone who is at a different point in their life, as long as you leave them at least as happy and healthy as you found them, and ideally even better. Everyone is better off if we actively help our partners grow. All parties benefit because they have had a positive, growth-oriented experience for the prosperity of future relationships. This policy asks you to never lose sight of the bigger picture of your health and happiness and that of your partner(s) during the intersection of the human beings involved.
"THE ONE" POLICY
The absurd idea that there is someone out there who is customized to make you whole implies that you are not capable of being complete on your own. It also implies that everyone other than "the one" or your "soulmate" is only just a stepping stone toward grand fulfillment. Healthy relationships are those that celebrate the wonderful coincidences and randomness that brought such a person into your life. Do not limit yourself and do not limit others. You are "the one" and everyone else is a potential, hopefully wonderful, addition to that fated situation. Born complete, die complete, time with others in between.
ALL OPTIONS POLICY
Understand that there is no single moral upstanding golden model when it comes to what relationships should look like. Examples of some models include, but are most definitely not limited to, the traditional heterosexual standard, reversed roles in that model, equal roles in that model, homosexual frameworks, polyamorous themes that allow for variations of roles, or separate from a partner or partners akin to long-term dating, and so on. Many options are legitimate as long as they serve you and your partner's (or partners') needs. Borrow properties from models that make sense for an "us-shaped" relationship model. Anything and everything is worth considering. It is about finding what is right for you.
Cheating is simply the act of breaking the rules. Each relationship has different rules explicit or implicit, addressed or assumed. Assuming is a bad idea; get clarity on rules, expectations, and consequences before taking uncertain action. Breaking the rules hurts someone that you care about in an attempt to get something that you want without yielding to the repercussions. This is a coward's approach to fulfillment and it is just as bad as staying in a relationship that is making you miserable. If cheating is desired, end your relationship or have a conversation with your partner(s) to see about adjusting the rules first. Rules are made to be followed and exist for a sense of security for all that are involved.
Addressing the scenario openly with your partner on how you both will respond if the relationship should end before it is an issue can be liberating. It will ensure you know how to act if things start to crumble. Doing this ahead of time may bring you closer, but if things start to crumble and an exit policy has not been discussed, rational communication is highly unlikely at that point. A preset plan of action keeps all parties concerned with the overall well-being of the other instead of with irrational revenge toward the other. It is the hope that this policy won't prove necessary but the benefit of having this discussion shows that you care about keeping healthy qualities and not hurting one another, no matter what. When the dynamics between two people have changed, the connection is still valuable, do not degrade the value with the fleeting feeling of vengeance. Also, an ex's new partner does not represent a judgment about you. You are not apart of their situation anymore and your ex's decisions do not have anything to do with you. Your situation is and should be approached the same way: it is solely yours and about you.
INTENTIONAL OPENING POLICY
This policy asks you to give space, an opening, or an invitation to your partner(s) to use or not. If they do not take the opportunity do not worry and drop the issue. You have given them and can keep giving them a well-paved path toward their goal. If they do not take the hint stay open, non-judgmental, and allow them to skip the opportunity. This policy is about keeping all communication channels open and it also asks you to be aware of various hints, patterns, or unspoken behavior that is intentionally given by your partner(s).
I'LL TELL YOU POLICY
This is an agreement that if something is wrong, you will tell your partner. This is to dissolve any assumptions of wrongness that can induce stress and anxiety ultimately creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. With this agreement, assumptions can be laid to rest if nothing is brought up. Rather than reading too much into adjustments in vocal tenor, deviations in seemingly meaningful looks, or even unexpected silences, you can relax in confidence knowing that things are good until they are told otherwise. This policy enforces the responsibility to disclose thoughts and relieves the idea of reading each other's minds.
Your partner is your ally and there are two main reasons to view your relationship from this perspective. The first reason is that it enables each party involved to help the other achieve any goals. It results in sharing information, tools, systems of habits, and effective support. The second reason to view your relationship as an alliance is that it establishes civility that creates ties beyond the relationship structure. This helps the beneficial support of each of your individual goals for the mutual gain of everyone involved. Approaching relationships as collaborations gives you the excuse to put aside any irrational, vengeful, and hurtful reactions that may come up. Adhering to this policy is to have each other's back, no matter what. This also means that if the other person is not carrying their weight, it may no longer be a valuable alliance in which to be included. Have their back by respectively aligning with the well-being and benefit of all that are involved.
It is not about why an argument starts but how we go about them. An "argument" should be seen as a "discussion". A discussion is a reasonable discourse between two people trying to reach a conclusion. It is an attempt to find a solution, together. Ask the other to explain what is going on from their perspective. Do not interrupt, do not offer any defense, just allow them to speak. Ask questions when they are done with as little bias as possible. Request clarification and encourage them to provide it by suppressing judgment. Then explain how things seem from your side. Avoid placing blame and avoid trying to figure out who was more wrong. A discussion is an attempt to identify the issue and to understand the points of view that are present. When the points of view are understood and the issue is identified, commit to making an effort to recognize the issue in the future and to put it to rest sooner. When a problem does come up, considering this argument policy can supply you with a simple and rational way to handle it together. Be calm. Be friendly. Be kind. Come to an understanding and not to a win or a loss. In a team, a loss for one is a loss for all.
There will be times where you can't get enough of each other, times where you'll be connected at the hip, and times where you'll be trying to live your life and balance the presence and needs of someone else with your own. Space is time alone, without distraction, access to focusing on lifestyle choices, having your own friends independent of the relationship, and physically separate areas. Allow yourself and the other to have the ability to be a wonderful singular person. Silence, like space, is room for just being, while together. It is the comfort of being in the same room but still off in your own world doing your own thing. Silence is a means of being alone together, not a communication breakdown. Privacy within a relationship is to allow for personal space, thoughts, projects, and so on. There is no need for incessant digging to know everything about another or to express every single detail of oneself. The three concepts of space, silence, and privacy allow people within a relationship to demonstrate trust, have individually fulling lives, and comfort in what is.
NEEDS AND LIMITS POLICY
Knowing your own needs, wants, strengths, and weaknesses will make you far more capable of finding someone who is a glorious addition to your world. You do not want to be a fraction looking for another fraction. You want to be a complete person looking for the same. Bring people into your life as it makes sense, not as a panicked reflex. Knowing, understanding, and acting upon your own needs is essential, however, it is equally beneficial to become familiar with the needs, wants, strengths, and weaknesses of your partner(s) too. It is not your responsibility to fulfill your partner although you can help. Understand what your limits are but make compromises and bend the details to strengthen the relationship. When a need can not be met there are three main options to consider. The first one is to keep negotiating, communicating, discussing, and chipping away at what is keeping the need unfulfilled. It may take days, weeks, years, or may never even happen, but stick with it. Time changes everything. The second option is to break up. It is not ideal but it is a rational option to consider if your need is vital and not getting fulfilled. The third option is to find someone else who can fulfill this need while staying with your partner. This is worth considering whether approached in a standard way or not. Identifying and knowing your needs and those of your partner(s) are key components to a successful relationship. Most successful relationships challenge limits but know where they are, how to identify them, and how to recognize when a new limit is discovered. In a supportive environment where you know you have backup, perimeters can be bypassed and restraints can be broken. Expect your limitations to be respected and respect the limitations of your partner(s) as you allow them to be bendable, even breakable.
The main point of this policy is not to force anyone, including yourself, to be anything that they are not. This is considering the archetypal husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, gender, faith, race, and so on. When we meet someone and are attracted to something about them, we tend to feel the need to fix just a few things. This approach tends to be a recipe for disappointment. Intending to change parts of a person means that who they are, what they want, and how they live and act is inferior to who you are, what you want, and how you live and act. A more ideal and rational path would be to know the type of person you want in your life and find them, not make them. Be open to changing your mind as you encounter different types of people along the way. Sometimes the pieces that fit the best do not match your standard ideas about them. Encouragement and growth still have a place in relationships, however, those ambitions are not forced or guilted upon if the relationship is healthy. Allow yourself and your partner(s) to be so authentically yourselves that new archetypes are created in those images.
STRESS TEST POLICY
This policy asks you not to be gentle when figuring out what your relationship is, who plays which roles, and how everyone involved interacts. This means to amplify who you actually are instead of pretending to be a better version of yourself. Own who you are, proudly display your true colors and wait to see how the other responds. You should not have to hide a part of yourself for the other's benefit. Become aware, open, honest, and respectful when the other stress tests you. It may mean they are becoming comfortable with you and opening up. Travel with your partner(s) as the ultimate stress test to undergo the most trying of circumstances as they change the dynamics between you and alter the way you interact with the world.
This policy is all about discerning and separating the act from the meaning of sex. Sex is a great way to connect but it is not the only way. Other ways can include a smile, a hug, a conversation, and endless more. There are many ways to connect, and sex needn't be one of them for an intimate, legitimate, and/or intense relationship. Closeness is all that is needed, physical and/or intellectual. Sex exclusively defined as "making love" strips all but one of its potential benefits. This policy is about removing sex as an apex of primacy within a relationship so that it can be enjoyed for whatever the relationship needs to be or have at the moment. Sex should not imply anything other than itself and it is not to be used as a means to an end result. It is simply an experience if it happens and should always be a mutual decision.
Disentangling ourselves from jealousy takes some effort, perhaps a lot, however, it is necessary to living happily in a modern and civil society and we can get rid of it. Jealousy, at its core, is a fear-based feeling of threat. Start dissolving jealousy by noticing its causes and where it originates. Rationally evaluating the event can do one of two things. One result is that it can reveal the moment as unimportant and it can get set aside. The other result is that it brings about addressing the moment in order to bring about closure. Pulling apart a scenario using a fact-based approach will show you that jealousy was the result of a misinterpretation or an unnecessary gut reaction and it will allow you to explain the situation to your partner(s) judiciously and lucidly so that change, if any, can occur.
BUILD UP POLICY
Snide remarks, cutting jokes, or poking fun aimed at your partner(s) can take a toll over time and become a death of a thousand paper cuts. This policy is about building your partner up and avoiding breaking them down. It is possible to maintain an uplifting, inspiring, and encouraging vibe. Use positive reinforcement. Be funny without negativity. This creates a dependable support system that ensures your partner(s) that they have someone to share their successes, goals, and concerns with.
CASUAL ROMANCE POLICY
This policy asks you to maintain the day-to-day upkeep of peace, connection, and romance. Learn what makes your partner feel special, loved, turned on, and what sends them jolts of happiness. Get clear on the core reasons of what it is they think is romantic. You could have chosen to be anywhere with anyone and you have chosen to be there and with them. Express that! Enjoy this choice and help them do the same.
Subjectivity to growing and changing is fine and natural. Needs and wants can become outdated as you gain more perspective and experience in life. Assess what makes YOU happy in the present given context only. We can learn from the past and use it to shape new scenarios now. Allow yourself, your partner(s), and the dynamics of your relationships to evolve, change, and adjust. Embrace what is and stay malleable to enjoy each experience on its own merit as it emerges.
All healthy and fulfilling relationships start with you, your level of self-confidence, your ability to be present and committed to growth, and your dedication to adding positivity to the net-worth of all interactions for the benefit of this world NO MATTER WHAT. Start with the relationship you have with yourself before turning "me" into "we".
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Thank you, Jace Anderson