Sunday, 16 August 2015

Life Goals And Relationships

This is a photo of my sweet, beautiful parents, who are still very much in love after many years together. Yes, I had a wonderful example of what a beautiful love relationship can be like. My parents support each other, no matter what hardships may come their way. They communicate openly about everything and so continue to learn and grow, in love and in life. They complement each other and bring out the best in each other (most of the time). And they make it seem so easy.

However, sustaining a long-term relationship hasn't been so easy for me (so far). I'd like to believe that this is because I approach life a little differently and some of my life decisions don't combine well with being in a long-term, committed relationship; largely because it involves a lot of travel, instabilities and uncertainties (and not everyone is up for that). Also, because modern standards of living haven't really worked for me, I had to reinvent my life quite a bit; tailoring it more to my personal needs (which is an ongoing process) and thereby choosing a path that is definitely not suitable for everyone. This reshaping of my life happened - and is still happening - through trial and error, with the help and inspiration of many others who live uncommon or even extraordinary lives. I feel I have come a long way now and have a much clearer vision of the future than before, as I am no longer tempted to fall back to the conventional way of life, not even as a backup plan. But I have come to realize that it takes a very special person to walk this path with me, and I will not settle for anything less. If that means I have to walk alone, then I will enjoy walking alone. And if not, then I will be open to that too. I trust that life will bring me what I need at the right time, as it has always done.

Of course like most people, I would love to find someone who brings out the best in me and  loves and accepts me for who I am in every way and every moment (and vice versa). Someone to (preferably) spend the rest of my life with. But for me, the success of a relationship is not measured by whether its longevity. Instead, I measure success by whether I learned from being in the relationship and by whether I am able to fully respect the other person's decisions and way of life while still staying true to my own path. This has made every relationship I have been a part of a valuable and illuminating experience.

So what are some important things I learned about relationships? How do you balance personal goals and being in a committed relationship without sacrificing your enjoyment of life? What if you are considering making substantial life changes, that are very important to maintaining your sanity, but may not fit with your partner's views and lifestyle? How do you know when a relationship has come to an end?

Life goals and relationships

Values and priorities
It can be very difficult to be in a relationship while you are still learning, growing and evolving, because your likes, dislikes, goals, values and priorities might shift and change all the time. Yet I have found that values (ideas about what matters to you) and priorities (how those ideas guide your actions) are at the core of any relationship. Having similar values can create a general atmosphere of mutual support and understanding, and it can be a strong foundation for the planning of a future together.
Being a person who is highly interested in personal growth has proven to be difficult for people around me who are not very flexible or not that open-minded, because I go through all kinds of experimental phases where I try out new things. My priorities have also changed quite a bit, but in recent years they have stabilized and I now have a pretty clear idea of what life is all about for me: Peace of mind is my highest priority (something I call inner freedom) and outer freedom (being surrounded by nature, having as little to do with society as possible, living a mostly self-sufficient lifestyle) is a close second. This brings clarity in my goals and the journey ahead.

Matching qualities
After figuring out your values and priorities (and accepting they might change over time), the next thing to ask yourself is what qualities in other people are a good match for you. What kind of person brings out the best in you? This could be qualities that you have as well, or qualities that complement yours in some way. But it is easier to start with finding similarities, because they make the differences much easier to overcome - and there will always be differences. In fact, it's the differences that make life most interesting and exciting.

Although it can be hard for anyone to find a suitable life partner, being a little bit different than the average person may give rise to some additional problems, which requires you and your partner to have (or develop) certain rare qualities, that are very valuable to have:
You will need someone in your life who is not afraid to go against the grain; someone who has a clear sense of self (an independent thinker) and no preconceived notions or negative (and wrong) assumptions about your lifestyle, or fears about what others may think about it. If these qualities are lacking, they can not be fully supportive of your lifestyle and your endeavors, which might slow you down and mute your passion - or even phase out your joie de vivre eventually. It also helps if the other person is open-minded, can think outside the box and is willing to try out new things.

If, in addition to having different ideas than most people, you are also quite strong-willed and have a convincing, enthusiastic personality, then there is the risk of unwittingly convincing others to go along with your lifestyle without them having fully thought it over.  So you and the other person need to be sufficiently in touch with themselves to be able to know where they stand. Sometimes it could be a matter of trying out this new way of life and seeing if it fits. However, some people may also just go along with what you are doing out of (temporary) curiosity, a lack of personal initiative, an inner emptiness (boredom), a fear of abandonment, a desire to please or simply as a way to avoid conflict or discussion, instead of out of an open-minded drive to explore and learn, or a shared sense of purpose. This could lead to all sorts of problems. So it helps when the other person already knows exactly what they want out of life.

Even more important than finding someone who knows what they want, is being someone who knows what they want. You need to be very clear about where you are going in life and what is important to you, because otherwise other people will fill in the blanks. Society will dictate your way of life, or your friends and family members (often with very good intentions) will tell you how you should live and what you should do. But it is not their life to live; it is yours.And the same is true for your partner. They may have different goals and dreams, and that is okay. They may still be compatible with yours.

When you are clear about what you want and don't want in life, then you can also communicate this clearly to others. And this is very important! How else can someone decide whether they want to accompany you on your journey? And how else can you be (reasonably) clear about what life with you will be like? To learn to communicate your feelings and needs in a clear and compassionate way, I recommend Non-Violent Communication developed by Marshall Rosenberg.

Of course I am not looking for an exact copy of myself, but some common ground is necessary so that both people feel understood, sufficiently supported, respected and fulfilled in the relationship. I don’t need someone who thinks exactly like me or does things in the exact same way as I do. However, what I do need is someone who knows what he wants in life (like me) and who shares some of the same core values, at least when it comes to relationships and life in general. For example, honesty, openness and commitment are important to me. Commitment can mean a lot of things, but for me it includes being monogamous, honest, open and being supportive of each other and of each other’s goals in life. I want to be with someone who knows what is important to him, and in life and relationships. Someone who is willing to stand up for what he believes in, especially if it is a little unconventional. It would be great if we share some interests or passions as well, at the very least a passion for nature, self-development and traveling / exploring.

Obviously, this is not a list of demands. It is a list of compatibility that was devised through trial and error; through life experience. So, through spending time with others and being in relationships, you learn what works for you and what doesn’t. You learn more about yourself and what’s important to you. I always let my heart make the decision whether to stay in a relationship or not, and even though breakups are never easy, I have never regretted any.
If your relationship prevents you from pursuing your joy, then perhaps it is time to get out. Same with a job: if a job prevents you from living your passion, then it is time to seriously reconsider. But you may need to figure out what you really want first; what really makes you come alive.

Live your passion
This doesn’t need to be anything spectacular. For me, it is simply spending time in awe of nature, exploring the most beautiful parts of the world and living life as freely as possible. At times I also feel mournful when admiring nature in its purest and most magnificent forms. I look at all the beauty and an overwhelming sense of sadness comes over me, because I know that humans are slowly destroying all this beauty, mostly without awareness. But then I remember that this beauty should be enjoyed, revered, and celebrated. In addition, because of my love of nature, I feel I should do everything in my power to serve and protect it. That is my mission. And it is mine alone, because I also believe in freedom; so others are free to choose a different path. I am not here to preach. I am here to live my truth. And if that inspires others, then that is all the better. Inspiration, which is a result of living with passion, is contagious; it resonates with others because it is what moves us on every level of our being. This is why I have decided to speak out through my blog. I hope everyone remembers why they are alive and chooses to live accordingly.

Saying goodbye and starting over
So if I notice that my partner has such different goals, different priorities, and different values from mine, to the point where I can no longer support his dreams like I support my own, then it may be time to walk away from the relationship. If I don't feel supported or I can no longer sufficiently support my partner due to a lack of understanding (and a lack of common ground), then it may be time to reconsider the relationship. And if this seems difficult, remember that if one person is not happy in the relationship, chances are that the other person is not happy either.

At this point in time I am not interested in starting a relationship before getting to know someone well enough to be able to know that I at least share some basic life goals or visions for the future with that person, and that we share some important qualities. And in the process of getting to know someone, I don’t just want the other person to tell me about themselves; I want to see their words reflected in their actions too. It is much easier to deduct people’s values and priorities from their actions than from their words. I wish I would have realized that sooner in life and that I had focused more on people’s actions than their words. People can have very strange views about themselves that have no basis in reality.

Friendship is the best starting point
Friendship is the best way to start a relationship. A relationship can be a great thing, if it makes me into a better person and takes my life to a higher level. If we can enjoy our mutual aliveness together and not constrict each other in any way. If we can love each other with a trust and freedom that knows no bounds. If we can even keep loving each other if it turns out that we both end up wanting different things in life and are moving in different directions. True love is free. True love is wanting the best for yourself and also (in equal measure) wanting the best for the other person. It is wanting what the other person wants for them, because you also want what you want for yourself. This is not selfish. It is selfish to choose differently. It is selfish to hold onto a relationship even though you don't really love and support each other fully anymore. Because when you are suffering, everyone around you suffers too. They will sense it. They will be affected. So follow your dreams, follow your passions. Communicate as clearly, authentically, openly and honestly as possible. And remember that love is free. And if you feel trapped in your current relationship, then the most loving thing you can do for yourself and the other person is to set yourself free.

Questions to assess your relationship
Here are some questions to assess your current relationship or a friendship that may have potential for more. See if you can give an honest and heartfelt 'yes' to the following questions:
- Do you have similar life goals? Or can your life goals be combined in some way?
- Do you at least support (and agree with) each other’s life goals, values and priorities?
- Do the person’s actions match their words? Do your own actions match your words?
- Do the person’s definitions of things that are important to you match with yours?
- Does the person bring out the best in you? How do you feel around them? What effect does their presence, their behavior, their mindset and their energy have on you?
- Can you communicate about everything openly and with ease?
- How ‘free’ is your love: Do you want what the other person wants for them, even if it is not necessarily producing the outcome you want? Do you support each other fully (within the relationship and in a wider context) in achieving personal life goals? Do you fully encourage them to pursue their dreams and make them into a reality?
- Are you proud of the other person? Are you grateful that you are together?
- Is your life enriched by the relationship? Does your life feel expanded?

If you answer yes to any of the following, your relationship may require some work or you may even decide that it is time to go your separate ways:
- Are you sacrificing your own integrity for the sake of being with the other person?
- Do you feel trapped in the relationship?
- Are you secretly sabotaging their dreams or holding them back in some way?
- Are you worried about what others may think about your partner or their actions, dreams, desires and life goals?
- Are there touchy subjects that seem to be a no-go in communication? Touchy areas may point to dissimilarities or to areas that need some work of acceptance and/or change, usually in the person who is resisting the communication.
- Do you resist communication on a number of important subjects? Why is that? (Are you willing to work on that or open up?)
- Do you expect (or even force) the other person to make certain life choices in order to be with you? If so, does the person support those choices? If not; reconsider if the other person really needs to make these changes to make the relationship work. If it is absolutely necessary but the other person doesn’t want to do it, then you may not be the best match for each other.
- Are you so attached to the idea of being with the other person that you ignore your innermost desires and follow them blindly?
- Or are you so attached to the idea of being with the other person that you want to change them to fit your description of 'the perfect partner', no matter what they want for themselves?
- Does your world feel constricted (instead of expanded) as a result of being in the relationship?

True Love is free
My most important ‘rule’ in any relationship is this: If doing or not doing something is important to me, then I must follow that. But if someone else feels they are pulled in a different direction, I will not stand in their way either. Everyone is free to choose. Personal freedom is very important to me, including being clear, open and honest about what I want and need in life. This encourages others to do the same, and it will give everyone involved a fair chance of getting their needs met. Being upfront about it will help attract the right kind of person into my life.
Relationships are most loving when experienced in the present moment, without expectations or pressures to stay together forever (although this may happen). If you get to a point where you are willing to lovingly let your partner go at any time if your own or their values change and you turn out to make each other miserable, then you are ready to truly let love flourish. In a state of non-attachment, we can embrace change and prioritize joy over convenience, and we will never be trapped. Life lived in this way may be difficult at times, but it will always allow you to expand and grow.

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