The joy of relationships; thought under the bridge
When I first became a rabbi, over 30 years ago, I found myself doing a great deal of relationship counselling. It was sad, and remains sad to me, to see the amount of unnecessary suffering that people experience in their relationships. It’s so sad because other human beings are one of life’s greatest gifts. How incredible is it that we get to interact with gorgeous, spiritual beings? We get to share the journey of life with those around us – learn together, grow together, experience joy together and sorrow together. A spouse, children, parents, siblings, wider family and friends – they are all companions with whom we traverse our short time in this wonderful world.
And yet, somehow, someway, it can all go so wrong. Those gorgeous, priceless human relationships can turn into people’s worst nightmares. Something so meaningful and valuable can become divisive, destructive and incredibly painful. And not because of any predetermined malice; simply because of misunderstanding; of people looking away from wisdom and health and hence not seeing the role that thought and consciousness play in their lives.
When people know better, they do better. It’s such a simple equation.
Over the years, I learnt many tools and techniques that I was certain were really helpful for couples.
I would tell people to write a list of their spouse’s virtues – and look them over when they were upset. Sounds like a great idea? I certainly thought so. But somehow, I didn’t notice that when I was upset, I couldn’t get myself to take out my list – and on the rare occasion that I did, rather than be reminded of my wife’s virtues, I would consider which ones needed crossing out! It didn’t work for me but I was suggesting it to others?
Don’t go to bed in a fight. I would find myself battling to stay awake, in the early hours of the morning, determined to resolve things before I fell asleep. Usually, sleep overcame one of us before anything close to a better feeling appeared. I never once considered that perhaps ramping up exhaustion further and further could not possibly contribute to resolving upset and frustration.
My wife and I were then blessed to come across an understanding, taught by a simple man called Sydney Banks, who had a profound insight into the true nature of Mind, Thought and Consciousness and how we work as human beings. This understanding shone an entirely different light on our understanding of what helps and what does not help in relationships – our own relationship being the starting point.
Things like the significance of the state of mind were revolutionary to us. How had we not realised before now? But we had not. Understanding the role expectations play in relationships and the price we pay for respecting them so highly and taking them so seriously. Learning to listen for a feeling, not to take people’s words so literally, was so new and helpful. The fact that every person is healthy and has wellbeing and only loses sight of it when they move away from a beautiful feeling and get lost in thought and bad feeling. We came to understand how we gain from forgiving and letting go so much more than holding on. We came to realise that when we give love we receive love; and that through taking care of our own wellbeing and purity of thought we found new levels of contentment, connection and love in our relationship.
The Principles brought about a complete paradigm shift for us. Our own relationship, good as it was before, reached new and more beautiful levels. More and more, we started to see hope and possibility in even the most ‘broken’ of relationships.
We realised that there was no ‘water under the bridge’, there was only thought under the bridge – and thought was optional.
Nowadays, I believe that even the most insoluble of problems in relationships can be worked out quickly and easily if even only one spouse has new insight and understanding. It all looks so hopeful to me; it looks like people have insight and can find the wisdom they need in a single moment. It looks to me like with just a little bit of input and guidance, people can do well in relationships and find their way to a deeper, more loving, more connected feeling. It’s such a relief to know that there are answers and solutions, that separation and divorce don’t need to be the solutions; rather, with even just small nuggets of wisdom and insight, we can go a long way to bringing harmony, joy and ease back to our lives, our relationships with loved ones and our homes.
If you are struggling in any form of relationship, or doing great but want to do even better, join us on Tuesday 5 October for the first session in our relationship series - Joyful Relationships.