The glue in any relationship is in the relating. It’s what we as people desire very deeply, to relate with others. The root of the word ‘relate’ comes from Latin and means to ‘bring back’. You might think of it like this; we experience things while we are moving through our lives and then we look forward to bringing those experiences back to our friends and loved ones to share what we went through.
Can you feel that urge inside to recount what happened to that special person in your life who seems to hang on every word and soak it up so completely? This is a fundamental aspect that human beings are programmed to desire and fulfill for the simple reason that it generates feelings of love. In other words, we have a very positive emotional response when we share or ‘bring back’ our experiences with someone who is receptive, interested and attentive.
From another angle, this is the perfect union of masculine and feminine. The sharing of the experience is the masculine ‘imparting’ expression and the listening with genuine interest is the feminine ‘receiving’ expression. It really is that simple. You will experience a tremendous improvement in your relationships if you have these aspects of yourself developed and available.
The problems arise because we don’t often have them refined and we let our needs get in the way which creates concepts that interfere with clean relating. Let’s explore an example of a concept that interferes with clean relating, which is the dual polarity of victim mentality and entitlement. This belief structure stems from an attitude that bad things happen to us unfairly and at the same time, that people owe us something. It develops when we are acting from a wounded place and not fully aware of it. It is possible we are exerting a subconscious pressure on our friends and loved ones without recognizing that this victim/entitlement manifests and blocks the good relating.
Good relating is non-reactive relating. It is quite normal to have feelings when someone shares their experiences and in fact, having feelings while listening to a friend makes the relating richer. But if we are living in victim mentality, when someone relates an experience that highlights another being taken advantage of, we might find ourselves getting angry. And that anger can hinder the good relating.
Let’s walk through an example to see how this might play out. Imagine a couple having dinner together and the woman is sharing about something that happened at her job. She is sharing that she felt it was unfair in how another woman was given credit for an accomplishment by their boss that she did a fair amount of work on but she wasn’t acknowledged. Many things are possible in this scenario as in, perhaps the woman who got credit had demonstrated a greater ability to be responsible and so was given more authority. Or she had learned how to give the boss the experience, materials, results she wanted and so the credit and praise flowed more freely.
But in the mind of the storyteller, the co-worker got the credit unfairly that she herself deserved. And now, she is subconsciously putting out a charged energy and wanting validation from her partner that it was wrong, that she was wronged and that once again, she was victimized. Without being conscious of it, she wants her boyfriend to agree to the injustice and this, she believes will make her feel better and more understood.
But the boyfriend doesn’t have the victim mentality. In fact, he has the opposite, or a little of a ‘take what you need’ nature. So inside himself, he might feel that she didn’t stand up for herself and demand what she wanted, which is more his way of getting what he needs. Can you see why these two were drawn together? While this dynamic creates attraction, at a deep level, he will regard her as weak because he thinks she lets herself get run over. And she will feel he lacks compassion and not validate her as the victimized one in this mean and unfair world.
Over time, he will likely tune her out when she gets into these types of stories and she will withdraw her compassion for him at times when he needs an understanding friend. In the early years, this tension will lead to dramatic conflicts that builds and can be broken through sex. But the damage will erode the trust and either they will settle into a limited dynamic of relating or eventually separate because the love will stop flowing.
How does the entitlement play into all this? It is a coping tool used by those with victim wounding. They have decided that people owe them because of how hurt they have been and they carry this expectancy which overrides a natural gratitude and appreciation. In our example, the woman has a feeling she is entitled to credit for her work done. However, she will likely be extremely defensive if she receives criticism of her work because she will simply assume she is being victimized.
This is an example of how our wounding kills our relating and thus strains our relationships. We all have wounds and we have all found ways to cope with them. But this means we all have hot buttons where we react inappropriately and we all have behaviors that are off. Returning to the beginning of this lesson, we all want deeply to have good relating with friends, family and mates. So why not make it our priority to first off, develop our listening skill so we can be receptive when they want to ‘bring back’ their experiences? And second, learn how to share in ways that are giving and not draining.
Here are some key tips. Listening is a form of giving. You give your whole attention to the other and lo and behold, they feel loved. You must train yourself to listen with a sense of wonder, to find what the person says to be so interesting that nothing else matters. I recognize that not everyone has that affect because it can be draining to listen to someone who is very self absorbed and thus is actually sucking energy from you. In these cases, likely a relationship won’t form because the imbalance between the giving and receiving is too great.
But certainly we can make a greater effort to tune in to what the person is sharing and get into it. We can set aside our smart phone and ignore an incoming text. We can miss a TV show or sports replay and stay with someone who wants to connect. We can give of our time when it is clearly important to the other. This is an expression of love and generally trumps material gifts and even time together that is too outwardly focused.
But the real tip is in how to share your experiences. The deep connection happens when you ‘bring back’ the most meaningful parts, your vulnerabilities, the things that you saw and felt during whatever experience you are talking about. This is what the feminine receptive part in everyone craves, the real heartfelt truth. This is why we get such a thrill to learn what trouble the celebrities are in, because we want to relate to what they go through.
Unfortunately, in our culture, we often want to see people suffer because we get a strange emotional glee out of seeing people screw up and get hurt. But remember that what draws people to you is the willingness to be real and share stuff that makes you vulnerable. It doesn’t mean you dwell on every fearful thing you go through and dump these things on your friends. Because people also love when we overcome difficult circumstances and we triumph. This gives the other hope and also creates a healthy admiration and respect within the relationship.
This is a third important point… don’t feel that you can just dump your whole life’s experience on someone just because they are willing to listen. You need to be considerate because love is considerate. This means you need to be proactive in balancing who talks and who listens. You need to be comfortable enough to share your vulnerabilities and have another person soak them in. And discerning enough to recognize when it is time to turn it over and ask the other to share. In a good relationship, this will have a natural ‘volleying’ rhythm to it. But even the best relationships sometimes require a correction by one party, meaning you might have to find a tactful way to let the other know that it’s time for them to listen or speak.
Next, remember to not bleed on your friend. This means don’t be pulling on them to validate your wounding by presenting these outrageous stories that show what a victim you are. Don’t launch into long monologues that are filled with negativity. The energy of that type of sharing doesn’t give, but it drains. Or on the flip side, trumpeting all your grandiose accomplishments. That sort of egotism creates pressure on the one listening and eventually they will withdraw. Good sharing is giving as well. You have to recognize that it needs to be interesting and so be considerate of what your listener likes, and not just what you want to say.
An example of this is level of detail. Some people crave to know the very minutia such as what everyone was wearing and what time each line was spoken and stuff like that. So make the effort to give the details that satisfy your listener. This is an act of love. But more than anything, give the deep truth. Share from your heart what you went through. Notice if you are just recounting the events from mind. The latter is quite boring and hard to relate to. A sensitive listener will get tired and distracted when everything spoken is mental.
Try to build others up in your sharing. It is generally a trait that is respected and admired. I’m not saying to denigrate yourself as this is more victim mentality. Be humble and share what you did in order to overcome whatever hardship came your way. Highlight the good aspects that came through in others.
And finally, check in frequently and ask for validation. This is so important so you don’t ramble on endlessly. Give and receive cues that you are listening and interested. Break up your monologue occasionally and ask what the other thinks. Hopefully they will comment on your story and then encourage you to go on, though sometimes it opens things up to go in a new direction. Be flexible and let the conversation take on life. Later you can bring it back to your story if you feel that burning desire inside to finish.
Coming full circle, relating is the glue that builds the relationship. And we aren’t really taught the subtle energetics of relating. Simply keep in mind that people crave to bring their experiences back so they can share them with those who they love, and especially those who show a genuine receptive interest. So become one who has that interest. And also, work on making your experiences interesting to others by giving the deep truth you experienced. Not everyone will be able to hang with you but those who do are good candidates to be real lasting friends.