Updated: Apr 20
What are couples really communicating, learning and committing to in their relationships?
Image by valike
By Victoria Bytel, Associate Elect & Asif Valiji, Associate Partner, Lighthouse International
What is 'My Truth'?
How many times during an argument with your partner have you thought “They just don’t get it!” or have you heard yourself saying “No, that isn’t how it is, you’re not listening to what I’M saying!”? But what if the reality is that neither of you ‘get it’. Not having the answer to all of life’s challenges, including relationship ones, is not the problem, it’s thinking we do that is.
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘My truth’? Urban Dictionary describes this as a ‘Pretentious substitute for non-negotiable personal opinion’. We’d go as far as to say, it’s an excuse for not doing the work that our most important human relationships require for them to be healthy, loving and progressive relationships. It is also a major factor in us causing ourselves a lot of pain and heartache in our own lives.
Let’s consider for a moment where the path of My Truth leads most relationships by considering another word that is so often used during arguments - ‘unreasonable’. More specifically, “You’re being unreasonable!”
In 2019, 35% of husbands and 49% of wives in opposite-sex marriages petitioned for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. Given this is one of the three grounds for divorce permissible in the UK before living apart for two years (the other two are adultery and desertion), we can surmise that unreasonable behaviour includes quite a range of unsatisfactory behaviours. Whatever those examples may be, I believe that unreasonable behaviour is, in many cases (including my own), a catch-all for describing where your partner has fallen short of expected or agreed standards i.e. they are not living up to the standards that one or both of you believe are right for your relationship. This brings us back to 'My Truth'.
So, what is the opposite of 'My Truth'?
There is another option available, one that is leading me and my partner (both previously divorced) to take a different path and to not repeat the mistakes of our past. It’s called Absolute Truth. To say that something is absolutely true means that it is independently true for all people, even if they do not know it or recognise it to be true (or in many cases, ‘want’ it to be true).
Most of us have a vision of the perfect relationship, the relationship we’re aiming for. We have varying degrees of patience and determination in striving for it, especially when things aren’t quite going to plan. The reality (the truth) is that we’re imperfect beings and we will make mistakes, we will fall short of expected standards. But do we help each other to learn from and grow through those experiences or do we use them as a stick to attack, to criticise, to distance ourselves and in many cases as a reason to walk away? What is the highest ideal we are working towards as imperfect people, in line with absolute truth?
What makes a great relationship?
Three key themes emerged from research conducted by Cornell University into the secrets of a successful romantic relationship; communication, knowledge and commitment. There is plenty of empirical evidence to support this, in fact, you probably have examples in your own life of where a relationship went up a notch when you started to genuinely talk and share, began learning more about each other and set some goals for where your relationship was heading.
However, rather than aiming for a good relationship, what would aiming for the best relationship look like? And more importantly, how do you go about achieving it?
The Highest Human Ideal...
“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33)
As Zach Jones wrote... “Simply put, the highest human ideal individually and collectively is the pursuit of all things that are great for humans, based on the planet, nature and humanity. It's not a religious idea. By using this aim as the compass, we come back to making decisions about where we need to invest our time, our money and our efforts.”
How can we build this into our most intimate relationships?
This has to extend to all areas of our lives, personally and interpersonally, and the area of our lives where we experience the most potential for affection and compassion, as well as pain and problems, is our most intimate relationships. Therefore trying and being willing to work towards the highest ideal at home with our partners is a genuine commitment to becoming the most loving, kind, empathic, strong, wise and loving partners. We do not claim to be perfect, but we strive for it with love in our hearts because by trying we’ll get closer than if we never started. It’s a choice we make in every moment, especially when we miss the mark. And because it’s hard, we empathise and support each other in our endeavour, we bring each other back and grow stronger through the process.
As Jordan Peterson put it, we are ‘aiming creatures’ and when the importance of aiming and hitting the mark is essential not only for us and our partners, and also our children, then our aim warrants much deeper consideration and commitment. However, either through ignorance or arrogance, many of us simply don’t look beyond ourselves in terms of our aims.
What this shows is that to the degree the highest ideal for living is not there in our lives as an aim, we become consumed by our own self-serving agenda and therefore it's only a matter of time before cracks begin to appear in the relationship. As two divorcees writing this article, there is much personal reflection and pain, as well as appreciation, that has come from sharing this valuable life lesson. We have both experienced the meaninglessness of a relationship that sought material ideals and aims, only to be left with an increasing lack of fulfilment and purpose as each goal was achieved. Having now experienced a relationship that puts something greater than ourselves at the centre; the highest possible ideal, the ultimate ideal for all humanity - we can attest to a greater depth of communication, knowledge and commitment than we have experienced at any other point in our lives, let alone our relationships.
So, coming back to Cornell’s research and their three key factors for achieving a successful relationship, what are you really communicating, learning and committing to in your most intimate relationships? Is it My Truth or Absolute Truth in line with the highest ideal?
To learn more about how to build relationships through difficulty, watch this video:
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