Cultivating healthy relationships: What is a healthy relationship?

With the background of the previous post in mind, we can now turn to what exactly is a healthy relationship.  A healthy relationship is one where we grow internally as a result of the relationship.  Where within the context of the relationship we are able to increase our own inner qualities and abandon our own inner faults.  It is worth noting that this definition is strictly internal.  We can’t judge whether our relationships are healthy or not by external appearance, but only by the effect they are having on our mind.  Whether we grow or not grow internally in our relationships depends entirely upon ourselves, and not the other person.  If we relate to our relationships with others in a constructive, beneficial way, we can grow from them, no matter how difficult they may be.  Thus what externally may seem like a non-healthy relationship, for us can be extremely rewarding and beneficial.  Remember whether we are happy or not has nothing to do with our external circumstance, but instead depends entirely upon our mind.

This is important because it means whether we have healthy relationships or not is completely and utterly in our control.  The extent to which we hold on to the notion that the health of our relationships is outside of our control is the extent to which we deny ourselves the possibility to have all our relationships be healthy and rewarding.  A mutually healthy relationship would be one where two or more people grow internally as a result of the relationship.

So what is the difference between true love and dependency or attachment? We all want loving relationships, but unfortunately we have no idea what they really are. Society says love says, “I love you because you make me happy.”  We love other people for what they bring us, such as good food, company, support when we need it, etc.  I am not just talking about in relationships with our partners, but also with our friends, families, etc.  Here the object of concern is oneself.  At best, this can be called self-love, but more accurately, it is a contract.  Conditioning our happiness on something the other person is doing is called dependency, or attachment.  When both people are doing it, it is called co-dependency.  The principal motivation for relationships like this is ‘self-cherishing’, the mind that thinks one’s own happiness is supremely important, or the mind that values one’s own happiness over others.  Others derive their importance from their relation to us.  This attachment and self-cherishing are the root causes of ALL dysfunctional relationships.  It is a very useful exercise to identify how behind every problem we have in our relationships, we find attachment and self-cherishing.

True love, in contrast, says ‘I love you, how can I make you happy?’  Here the object of concern is the other person.  It is this distinction that makes our feelings towards others true love.  The mind of true love is what we call a ‘virtuous state of mind’, where it’s very presence in our mind makes our mind more peaceful and controlled and happy.  A loving mind is a happy mind.  True love doesn’t expect anything in return.  It just thinks about the other person and works to secure their happiness.   The principal motivation for relationships like this is the mind of ‘cherishing others’, which is a mind that values others’ happiness as important.  True love and cherishing others are the root causes of all functional relationships.  It is a very useful exercise to identify how a pure heart of cherishing others is present in all functional, healthy, and rewarding relationships.

So how do we generate true love for others?  There are three different levels of love.  Affectionate love is where we are delighted to see or think about the other person.  Like a mother when she is reunited with her child.  Cherishing love is a love that values, or considers to be precious and importance, the happiness of others.  Wishing love is a love that wishes the other person to be happy, and actively works towards accomplishing that goal.  This is the highest form of love.

At the end of the day, love is a daily choice.  To generate true love, or the mind that values and works for others happiness, all we need to do is understand why we need to do so, and then make the decision to do it.  The more we familiarize ourselves with this determination, the more we naturally change our heart until we naturally feel pure warm hearted love for everyone we meet.

There are two main valid reasons for generating the good heart of love for others.  First, they are so kind.  If we check carefully everything we have comes from the kindness of others.  Cars, roads, our body, our mind, our language, etc.  It does not matter that others don’t intend to be kind to us, from our perspective we still receive benefit and thus they are kind to us.  So what appears is the various things, but what we understand is the kindness of everyone.  We live in a web of kindness.  It is so beneficial to do.  All problems and all suffering come from self-cherishing, and all happiness and all good fortune come from the mind of cherishing others.  When we sincerely cherish others, we are liked by everyone, we easily establish rewarding relationships, and we are able to keep a positive attitude all the time.  Ultimately, all spiritual realizations flow from this mind as well.  It is like the first domino on the way to enlightenment.  Love is the opponent to all jealousy.  Jealousy is a mind that is unhappy at others good fortune.  Love, or rejoicing, is happy that others are happy.  With rejoicing we can enjoy all the happiness that exists in the world.  Love is the opponent to all loneliness.  Loneliness comes from thinking of oneself and from viewing others as objects for our own happiness.  With love we think about others, not ourselves, and we view ourselves as there to help others be happy, not the other way around.

The inner mechanism of self-cherishing, attachment, and anger is inappropriate attention.  We focus all our attention on our own good qualities and on other’s faults.  We need to examine whether this is a beneficial thing to do or not.  What are the disadvantages of ignoring our faults and focusing on the faults of others?  We develop a highly distorted, self-important view of ourself, and an arrogant, disrespectful attitude towards others. We perform many negative actions resulting in lower rebirth.  It prevents us from overcoming our faults.  If we can’t identify them we can’t get rid of them.  If we can’t get rid of them they will continue to cause us problems.  It is no different than someone pretending that they don’t have cancer.  It is a useless mind because it neither increases our qualities nor reduces our faults, and it does not cause others to share our exalted opinion of ourself.

What are the advantages of facing up to our faults and focusing on others good qualities?  It decreases our deluded pride.  Pride prevents us from learning anything.  Water does not collect at the top of a mountain.  Cherishing love flows naturally from focusing on other’s qualities.  The inner mechanism for being able to develop cherishing love for others is changing our attention.  If we do this, cherishing love comes easily and effortlessly.  We shall gain the respect and friendship of many people.  Understanding it is more beneficial to put our attention on our own faults and focus on other’s good qualities we make the determination to do so.

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