Thursday, June 7, 2012

A "Bill of Rights" for Interpersonal Relationships

In contrast to seeking "romatic love" (as I discuss in this blog: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part I) I am dedicated to keeping my heart and soul grounded in the real world of ordinary human beings who have more or less ordinary love needs that can only be satisfied by rather simple and ordinary loving.  One has to wonder though, if it were so simple to love this way that any ordinary human being could do it, then why is it so few of us actually do?

My current understanding is that our "ego 'I's" tend to get in the way - they want to be "special," or they want to see their love interest as "special". It may be that people are seeking the "unconditional love" they did not receive as a child, something I address in my TEDx talk here: Get Ready - The World is Waiting. Where there is a biochemical pattern to "Instant Intimacy", we can get psychologically and physiologically addicted to it, so we move from one "Instantly Intimate" relationship to another. Being addicted in this way, we tend to look for "drama" in all of our experiencing in relationship (both positive and negative), and "ordinary loving" just doesn't measure up.

In effect, the "ego 'I'" distracts itself from real loving by pursuing the much more dramatic, Romantic Illusion of Love. And, as fairly recent experience has taught me, it seems as soon as the relationship actually starts to be about Love Itself, and not merely about "ego-gratification", then egoically possessed people will walk (or run) away from those relationships, seeking instead to repeat the dysfunctional/dramatic/romantic, pseudo-loving, relationships with which they are already familiar, and to which they are (mostly unconsciously) addicted.

So what's involved in Real Loving - human to human?  Here is something I've read in "Getting Love Right: Learning the Choices of Healthy Intimacy" by Terrence (Terry) Gorski:  It's called "The Relationship Bill of Rights" and it goes like this:

1.  I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
2.  I have the right to be free from psychological or physical abuse.
3.  I have the right to proper notice and negotiation prior to the relationship being terminated.
4.  I have the right to experience my own thoughts and feelings.
5.  I have the right to tell my partner honestly and responsibly what I am thinking and feeling - even if my partner does not agree - without being condemned for it.
6.  I have the right to have my own life outside of the relationship.
7.  I have the right to continue to learn and to grow.
8.  I have the right to talk openly about and seek to resolve relationship problems.
9.  I have the right to end the relationship if it is not meeting my needs.
10.  I recognize that my partner has the same rights I do.  (Pages 334 and 335.)

(Why do I think these seem like potential lyrics for a rap song? : ))

Although the focus of Gorski's book  is on intimate relationships, I think many of these "rights" are just as important in other types of relationships, with different levels of intimacy.  In other words, these are Fundamental to healthy, functional relationships where there is a commitment to mutual love and respect that takes priority over mere ego-gratification.

If I look back at my relationship with my mother (my first example/experience of a "loving relationship"), I'd have to say there were many of the fundamental rights listed above that she violated.  Granted she was mentally ill, but that did not change the impact of her actions on me especially as a young child. I strongly suspect now that, just like physical abuse, her emotional/psychological patterning with me predisposed me to allow others to violate those same rights in my adult life in other (supposedly) "loving" relationships.  However, in one particular relationship I experienced shortly after reading Gorski's book, I did find the courage and justification to stand up for myself especially with respect to Right Number 5 from the list above. And, ultimately I ended the relationship (exercising Right Number 9) when the other party was not willing to recognize or end those violations.

Since then I have also learned to be much more discerning about what it Feels like to be loved - in effect, to have these basic rights recognized and honored in my relationships with others.  I am also taking even more conscious responsibility for how I relate to others with respect to these rights as they apply to them.  Although I had some intuition of the importance of these rights before reading Gorski's book, reading it definitely served to solidify and reawaken my awareness relative to these issues, and I feel much more capable now of not only standing up for my own rights, but also respecting these rights in my relationships with others.

I hope this offers the same insight and encouragement to others who read this blog. : )

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