In the past, relationships were entered into for life, which had to persist at all costs. Often the partners did not even know each other or barely before they got married. Today we see the other extreme: many people would rather break their relationship than having to make some important compromises to maintain the relationship.
The joy and the problem of relationships continue to fascinate every person, including the many psychologists and relationship therapists. However, those who gain insight into the seven spiritual laws of relationships can save themselves a great deal of suffering.
These seven laws are involvement, community, growth, communication, mirroring, responsibility, and forgiveness. Ferrini explains clearly and convincingly how these laws affect our relationships.
The three parts of the book are about being alone, having a relationship, and finally changing or (lovingly) closing an existing connection. People who are willing to take full responsibility for their healing process and are forgiving will feel drawn to Ferrini’s approach to relationship issues.
The 7 spiritual laws of relationships
1. The Law of Involvement
A spiritual relationship requires mutual involvement
If you start making agreements within your relationship, the first rule is: be honest. Don’t act differently than you are. Do not make agreements that you cannot adhere to, to please the other person. If you are honest at this stage, you will save much misery in the future. So never promise anything you can’t give. For example, if your partner expects you to be faithful and you know that it is difficult to be committed to someone, do not promise that you will be constant. Say: “I’m sorry; I can’t promise you that.”
For the sake of fairness and balance in the relationship, the promises you make to each other must be mutual and not come from one side. It is a spiritual law that you cannot get what you cannot give yourself. So don’t expect promises from your partner that you don’t want to make yourself.
We must keep our promises as long as we can without betraying ourselves. After all, it is also a spiritual law that you cannot take someone else seriously and do justice to you if you thereby reveal yourself.
The law of involvement is chock-full of irony and paradoxical. If you do not intend to keep your promise, you have not made a promise. But if you keep your promise out of guilt or sense of duty, the sign loses its meaning. Making a promise is a voluntary gesture. If it is no longer optional, it loses its meaning. Always keep your partner free in making their promises, so that he/she can remain involved with you in good faith now and in the future. It is a spiritual law that you can only have what you dare to give up. The more you give up the gift, the more it can be given to you.
2. The Law of Communion
A spiritual relationship requires jointness
It is challenging to have a relationship with someone who cannot reconcile with your vision of relationships, values and norms, your lifestyle, your interests, and your way of doing things. Before you consider entering into a serious relationship with someone, it is essential to know that you enjoy each other’s company, respect each other, and have something in common in different areas.
After the romantic phase comes to the phase of realism, in this phase, we face the challenge of accepting our partner as he/she is. We cannot change him/her to fit the image that we have of a partner. Ask yourself if you can accept your partner as he/she is now. No partner is perfect. No partner is perfect. No partner meets all our expectations and dreams.
This second phase of the relationship is about accepting each other’s strengths and weaknesses, the dark, and the light aspects, the hopeful, and the anxious expectations. If you set yourself the goal of a lasting, spiritual uplifting relationship, you should ensure that you and your partner have a shared vision of that relationship and agree on your values and beliefs, your sphere of interest, and the level of commitment together.
3. The Law of Growth
In a spiritual relationship, both must have the freedom to grow and express themselves as individuals.
Differences are just as significant in a relationship as the similarities. You love people who are the same as you very quickly, but it is not so easy to love people who disagree with your values, norms, and interests. You must love unconditionally for this. Spiritual partnership is based on unconditional love and acceptance.
Limits are fundamental in a relationship. The fact that you are a couple does not mean that you stop being an individual. You can measure the solidity of a relationship by the extent to which partners feel free to come within the link to self-realization.
Growth and community are equally important in a relationship. The joint promotes stability and a sense of closeness. Growth fosters learning and a broadening of consciousness. When the need for safety (togetherness) dominates in a relationship, there is a danger of emotional stagnation and creative frustration.
If the need for growth predominates, there is a danger of emotional instability, loss of contact, and lack of confidence. To avoid these potential problems, you and your partner must look carefully at how much growth and security each of you needs. You and your partner must each determine for yourself what position you take when it comes to a balance between community and growth.
The balance between personal development and togetherness must be continuously monitored.
That balance changes over time, because the needs of the partners and the needs within the relationship change. Excellent communication between the partners ensures that neither of them feels restrained or loses contact.
4. The Law of Communication
In a spiritual relationship, regular, sincere, non-accusatory communication is a necessity.
The essence of communication is listening. We must first listen to our thoughts and feelings and take responsibility for them before we can express them to others. Then, if we have expressed our thoughts and feelings without blaming others, we must listen to what others say about their thoughts and feelings.
There are two ways of listening. One is looking with a judgment; the other is listening without judgment. If we listen with judgment, we don’t listen. It doesn’t matter if we listen to someone else or ourselves. In both cases, the judgment prevents us from really hearing what is being thought or felt.
Communication is there or is not there. Frank’s communication requires sincerity on the part of the speaker and acceptance on the part of the listener. If the speaker blames and the listener has judgments, then there is no communication, then there is an attack.
To communicate effectively, you must do the following:
- Listen to your thoughts and feelings until you know what they are and see that they are yours and nobody else’s.
- Express to others honestly what you think and feel, without blaming them or trying to hold them responsible for what you believe or how you think.
- Listen without judgment to the thoughts and feelings that others want to share with you. Remember that everything they say, think, and feel is a description of their state of mind. This may have something to do with your own state of mind, but maybe not.
If you notice that you want to improve the other or defend yourself when their thoughts and feelings are expressed to you, you may not really listen, and you may be hit in sensitive places. It may be that they reflect a part of you that you do not want to see (yet).
There is one command that you must follow to increase the chance of successful communication: do not try to talk to your partner if you are upset or angry. Ask for a timeout. It is important to keep your mouth shut until you can really give in to everything you think and feel and know that it is yours.
If you do not do this, then the chances are that you will blame your partner on things, and the blame will make the misunderstanding and the feeling of distance between you both higher. If you are upset, do not lash out at your partner. Take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings.
Excellent communication helps you and your partner to stay emotionally connected.
5. The Law of Mirroring
What we do not like about our partner is a reflection of what we do not like and do not like about ourselves
If you try to flee from yourself, a relationship is the last place you should try to hide. The purpose of an intimate relationship is that you learn to face your fears, judgments, doubts, and uncertainties. If our partner releases fears and doubts in us, and that happens in every intimate relationship, we don’t want to face them directly.
You can do two things, or you can concentrate on what your partner did or said, think that was wrong and try to get our partner to do this no longer, or you can take responsibility for your fears and doubts. In the first case, we refuse to address our pain/fear/ doubt by making someone else responsible for it.
In the second case, we let that pain/fear/ doubt come to our mind; we admit it and let our partner know what’s going on in us. The most important thing about this exchange is not that you say, “You acted ugly against me,” but “What you said/did bring me fear/pain/ doubt.”
The question I have to ask is not, “Who attacked me?” But “Why do I feel attacked?” You are responsible for healing the pain/doubt/ fear, even if someone else has ripped open the wound. Every time our partner releases something in us, we get the opportunity to see through our illusions (beliefs about ourselves and others that are not true) and let them fall once and for all.
It is a spiritual law that everything that bothers us and others shows us that part of ourselves that we do not want to love and accept. Your partner is a mirror that helps you stand face to face with yourself. Everything we find difficult to accept about ourselves is reflected in our partner. For example, if we find our partner selfish, it may be because we are selfish. Or it may be that our partner stands up for itself and that that is something we cannot or do not dare ourselves.
If we are aware of our own inner struggle and can prevent ourselves from projecting responsibility for our misery onto our partner, our partner becomes our most important teacher. When this intense learning process within the relationship is mutual, the partnership is transformed into a spiritual path to self-knowledge and fulfillment.
6. The Law of Responsibility
In a spiritual relationship, both partners take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, and experience.
It is perhaps ironic that a relationship, in which the emphasis is clearly on community and companionship, requires nothing else than taking responsibility for ourselves. Everything we think, feel, and experience belongs to us. Everything our partner thinks feels and experiences belong to him or her. The beauty of this sixth spiritual law is lost for those who want to make their partner responsible for their happiness or misery.
Refraining from projection is one of the greatest challenges of a relationship. If you can admit what belongs to you – your thoughts, feelings, and actions – and can leave what belongs to him/her – his / her thoughts, feelings, and actions – you create healthy boundaries between you and your partner. The challenge is that you honestly say what you feel or think (eg, I am sad) without trying to hold your partner responsible for this (e.g.: I am sad because you did not come home on time).
If we want to take responsibility for our existence, we must accept it as it is. We must drop our interpretations and judgments, or at least become aware of them. We do not have to make our partners responsible for what we think or feel. When we realize that we are responsible for what happens, we are always free to create a different choice.
7. The Law of Forgiveness
In a spiritual relationship, continuous forgiveness of yourself and your partner is part of daily practice.
When we try to shape the discussed spiritual laws in our thinking and relationships, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are not perfecting that will do. After all, there is no perfection on the human level. No matter how well partners fit in with each other, no matter how much they love each other, no relationship runs without tramp and struggle.
Asking for forgiveness does not mean that you go to the other and say, “I’m sorry.” It means that you go to the other person and say: ‘This is the case for me. I hope you can accept that and do something with it. I am doing the best I can’. It means that you learn to accept your situation, even if it is difficult, and allow your partner to take it.
If you can accept what you feel or think while you want to judge it, it is self-forgiveness. Accepting your partner’s feelings and thoughts, while you want to rule or find something wrong with it, is an extension of that self-forgiveness to him/her. That way, you let your partner know: ‘I forgive myself for condemning you. I intend to accept you as you are fully.’
When we realize that we always have only one person to forgive in every situation, namely ourselves, we finally see that we have been given the keys of the kingdom. By forgiving ourselves for what we think of others, we start to feel free to react to them differently from now on.
You cannot possibly find forgiveness as long as you keep blaming yourself or the other. You have to find a way to get from blame to responsibility.
Forgiveness makes no sense if you are not aware of your own sensitivities and are not willing to do something about its correction. Pain calls you awake. It encourages you to be aware and responsible.
Many people think that forgiveness is a big job. They think that you need to change yourself or ask your partner to change. Although there is a change as a result of forgiveness, you cannot claim a change.
Forgiveness does not require external changes as much as internal changes. If you no longer blame your partner and take responsibility for your grief and displeasure, the forgiveness process already starts. Forgiveness is not so much doing something as undoing something. It enables us to undo guilt and blame.
Only a continuous process of forgiveness allows us to maintain the partnership while experiencing its inevitable ups and downs. Forgiveness clears guilt and reproach and enables us to reconnect emotionally with our partner and renew our commitment to the relationship.