“My happiness and freedom are dependent on my actions, not my wishes.” This quote is a type of mantra. A meditation on a concept of equanimity. Equanimity is defined as “evenness of mind, especially under stress.” I realize that this word is not a common term we use every day. Even less often do we find we can consistently access this “evenness of mind.” The calmness which allows us to be happy and free even when faced with life’s challenges. Furthermore, from a Buddhist perspective, being equanimous in our relationships is the ability to care about someone’s happiness and freedom while being able to accept and allow that they are responsible for their own actions. With this in mind, this article will explore 4 Ways We Can Be at Peace in Relationships.
The way in which we approach our own happiness and freedom is also a link to how we can connect with and accept others. Relationships are imperative to our survival as humans. Relationships bring us joy, intimacy, safety, fun, and support. Yet relationships can often be a source of pain, despair, helplessness, anger, and stress. Most of all, relationships give us the opportunity to learn about ourselves and about love, both for ourselves and others. Although relationships tend to bring up the most difficult emotions and can often trigger our own fears or challenge our beliefs, it is within our power to approach relationships with equanimity which can bring peace and calm, even though the relationship may have its challenges. Here are some ways to be at peace in your relationships:
1. Accept your helplessness over others.
No matter how much we wish someone to do, say, or be something different, we have no power over them. This is a painful realization. Actually, this is one of the core painful feelings we experience as humans. When we can’t do or say anything to change or influence someone else, this feels unsatisfactory. Understand that we are each ultimately responsible for our own actions. Even if we wish someone would be happier, healthier, etc., it is their actions that will determine this outcome.
Helplessness is often cloaked in anger, disappointment, resentment, or worry. If you are experiencing any of those feelings, start by asking yourself, “Is there something I am expecting or wishing someone would do but they are not?” Be honest with yourself. If you can uncover the underlying pain of helplessness, you will actually be freed from getting stuck in anger or disappointment. You can then approach the person with an acceptance that they are responsible for themselves. Thus freeing your energy to give them or yourself love rather than wasting energy trying to control. Beware, accepting helplessness is not an act of abandoning or detaching from the other person. If we disconnect from them, we will likely bring ourselves harm. The goal is to bring in peace and calmness not bitterness.
Dealing with any core painful feeling, such as helplessness, is best to be met with kindness and compassion. Allowing ourselves to feel the pain when realizing we are helpless over another person may evoke tears or other emotional expression. This is okay! In fact, this is good! Let it come, let it be, and then let it pass.
2. Try to acknowledge and accept responsibility for your part of the relationship.
It takes two to tango. Define what steps in this dance you have created or perpetuate. When challenges arise, we often look to blaming the other person. We are quick to point out how someone else is pissing us off, doing something wrong, acting selfish, etc. But in order to bring peace to our relationships we must be willing to accept responsibility for our part of the equation.
Accepting responsibility is not about being “right or wrong.” Healthy and peaceful relationships exist because both people are interacting. And when two individuals come together, each person brings in their own expectations, values, beliefs, and experiences. Those biases shape how we perceive the other person. A dynamic is thus created. It it is no longer “you” or “I” but it is “us” or “we”. All relationships (not just romantic) are interdependent. And we must accept and recognize that there is always something we are doing or have done to contribute to the dynamic.
The good news, if we can recognize how we are contributing to the dynamic, we then can change our end. Since we have already learned we are helpless over others, the only option is to look to ourselves. Try to ask yourself, “What am I doing to contribute to this conflict?” or “How might I have responded to this person out of my own fears or insecurities?” These questions, when answered honestly, helps us see clearly whether or not we might be doing something to contribute to the issue. If we have contributed, we aren’t “wrong” or “bad”. More often than not, we might have been in pain or confused. Use your own personal understanding to help promote resolution and peace. Communicating to the other that we accept responsibility for our part can open up the conversation for love and understanding.
3. Use challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow with another person.
The beauty of relationships is that they offer us opportunities for growth that we will never be able to uncover or experience on our own. Relationships are key not only to survival but to our progression. We learn and grow in response to relationships. Often, being close to another person is the only way we are able to see ourselves most clearly. A mirror of sorts, relationships reflect back to us our past wounds, repetitive suffering, or opportunities to change. This is a gift!
It may be uncomfortable at times to see ourselves more clearly. But if we persevere challenges with another person, we may find a sense of closeness and peace that wasn’t there before. If the relationship is healthy, we can show our true selves (dark parts and all) with the other person. The relationship that gives us freedom and support allows us to peel back the layers and examine ourselves further. Even if the relationship is less than ideal (an annoying co-worker, a pestering friend), this gives us the opportunity to understand why or how we tend to respond to others. It also gives us the chance to be brave and face our demons, rather than shying away or meticulously hiding our flaws.
We evolve as people through challenges, big or small. Relationships offer a plethora of opportunities to meet our challenges with curiosity, compassion, understanding, and hope. Allow your relationships to be a teacher. We can increase peace for ourselves and others if we do.
4. Seek and speak your truth.
We have power to understand our needs and responsibilities in our relationships and have the right to communicate this. Being authentic in our relationships is imperative if we want them to succeed and continue. If we stifle our self-expression, desires, emotions, or needs, we may be causing ourselves harm, which in turn will eventually harm the other person as well.
Standing up for ourselves within relationships requires that we are interested in understanding ourselves and that we are willing to do what is necessary within the relationship to serve our highest good. First, seek your truth. What is it that is true for you? What would be the outcome if you did not share it? And what is your intention to share it? These are some questions to examine about speaking your truth with someone.
Sometimes we mistake speaking our truth for an act of control. If we are speaking our truth in order to get the other person to change or adopt our beliefs, this does not bring peace to the relationship. Other times, we avoid speaking our truth for fear of how the other person will react. This is about trying to control the outcome. Speaking our truth is not about control. It is about letting go of the outcome while embodying our personal power in order to grow and learn with another person.
We may find that if we speak our truth, the other person is not willing to receive or discuss it. That is okay. It might be painful, which is understandable, but let go of the outcome. Recognizing that not all people are ready or willing to grow in relationships. But serving your highest good by being open and honest will still benefit you, even if the other person is not yet willing to receive.
As with any healthy communication, speak with calmness, love, and respect. Your tone and delivery communicates a deeper message. And our words have power, so use wisdom when speaking.
A Bit About Taking it Personally
For final thought, there is one more concept that can be applied to all 4 Ways to Be at Peace in Relationships. In his seminal work “The 4 Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz urges us to not take anything personally. Not taking it personally means that what a person says or does is a direct reflection of them, not of you. It is conscious effort. By not taking it personally, it allows us separation from others’ actions. We can see and hear what someone is communicating without internalizing the message that “I am the cause of this.” The level of separation helps us approach another person with more compassion and acceptance rather than become defensive or reactive toward them.
I hope this article has been helpful to give some ways to promote peace in relationships. Relationships are a necessary part of life. Therefore, the benefits of having peace in our relationships is far reaching, as we can apply these concepts daily. Aim to be at peace in your relationships, but know we aren’t perfect. We can do our best. Thank you for reading! I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback below.