“Evaluating Relationships”

by Dennis Bradford

in moral well-being

Improving interpersonal relationships involves evaluating relationships.  Relationships are about loving each other.

What’s more important than love?  Why not develop your understanding, compassion, and interpersonal skills to become better at love?

Love is selfless giving; love is not selfish taking. To love is to understand what is good for your beloved and to promote it.  To love another is to encourage that person to live better by doing what is best for that other (rather than using that other to improve your life).  The less selfish you are, the better lover you can be.

Sages (saints) are the greatest lovers because they are the most selfless people.  The best way to tame your egocentricity is by mastering a spiritual practice such as meditation.  To enjoy better relationships, it is critical to conquer yourself.  Challenge yourself to become unfailingly kind and persistently encouraging.  Improving your people skills may also be important.

How should you evaluate relationships in order either to improve them or to let go of them?

Nietzsche warns us never to be second in love.  It’s helpful to think of loving as a kind of game that both lovers are trying to win.  It’s a peculiar game in the sense that, when well-played, there are no losers and each player is a winner.  If you and I are friends, then my aim is to benefit you and your aim is to benefit me.  The more successful I am, the better it is for you, and, the more successful you are, the better it is for me.

Why not practice evaluating relationships and scoring them?  Suppose you are in a relationship with someone [S].  ‘S’ may denote a friend, a lover, a teammate, a parent, a sibling, a roommate, an employee, a client, a boss, or anyone else you regularly encounter.  Of course, different kinds of encounters have different emphases.

Still, it’s helpful to think of six factors (namely, physical, intellectual or artistic, moral, spiritual, emotional, and financial) that often influence the success of encounters.

Here’s a way to score them that can be helpful. Take a sheet of paper and draw two vertical lines to divide it into thirds.

In the first column, there are six lines:  Physical, Intellectual/Artistic, Moral, Spiritual, Emotional, and Financial.  (The order has no importance.)

Label the second column “Me.”  Put an ‘x’ on each of the six lines if you benefit S more in that category than S benefits you.  Leave it blank if S benefits you more than you benefit S.

Label the third column “S.”  Put an ‘x’ on each of the six lines if S benefits you more in that category than you benefit S.  Leave it blank if you benefit S more than S benefits you.

Add the number of X’s in the second column and then in the third column.  Probably either you are doing better than S or S is doing better than you; probably you are benefitting S more than S is benefitting you or vice-versa.  To avoid being second in love, keep doing what you are already doing in those areas where you are strongest and work harder to improve the categories in which you are weakest at benefitting S.

The purpose of evaluating relationships is to challenge yourself to become a better lover. Specifically, to become a better lover, work on helping those you encounter in each of the six ways.  In general, work on mastering a spiritual practice and consider working to improve your people skills.

The most important task in becoming a better lover is to master a spiritual practice in order to diminish your egocentricity. So, if you want to enjoy better relationships, worry less about improving your interpersonal techniques and a lot more about reducing your selfishness.

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