With the divorce rate still staggeringly high, no one would deny that choosing the right partner is the most important decision you’ll ever make. But choosing the person with whom we will spend our lives is just the first step. Being mindful to this gift is the rest of the journey.
Certain special days such as Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and anniversaries are reminders to be present to the joy of an intimate relationship. Even greater than one special day of flowers and chocolates are the gifts we can offer to our beloved every day as we traverse the path of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows:
1) Become Present to the Love in Your Life
Strive for a more awakened way of life. We don’t need a major event such as a life-threatening illness to our self or loved one to open the door to greater awareness. Such life-altering events are often accompanied by thoughts like, Why did I need this frightening experience to get me to wake up? What can I learn from this? What should I do now? These are significant questions and we would do well to sit with them and contemplate. What are you doing that is so important that you can’t devote a few minutes each day to developing greater awareness of the precious gift of your love.
2) Listen, Listen, Listen
The first step to becoming a skillful listener is remembering that you care. There may be times when you will have to negotiate and you want to do so fairly. If you are always winning the chances are you are losing. Listen, listen, listen. Don’t keep explaining why you are right and expect your loved one to remain patient. Just like you, they want a fair chance. Think of their happiness and you will be more patient. Think of their happiness and you will be happier.
3) Practice Sharing Happiness
There is a practice in Buddhism called Mudita. It translates as altruistic joy. It invites us to be genuinely happy for the good fortune of all beings. It’s not an easy virtue to develop, but there is a logic to it. As we consider our personal relationships we want to be aware of any competitive or conflicted feelings we might have for those with whom we are closest. If our loved one receives a great promotion with a substantial increase in pay, or is publicly recognized for professional excellence—can we be delighted for them? Practicing being truly happy for the successes and accomplishments of our partner is a great gift to both of you.
4) Honor Your Relationship with Patience
The commitment that two independent beings make to share a life together, and perhaps to bring new life into the world, is sacred. The development of patience by both partners with each other can provide the glue that holds things together during life’s stressful times. Our words and actions with our partner will be more gentle, more caring, and reflect how we treasure each other.
5) Offer Kindness to Your Beloved
Poetically, we usually say that love emanates from the heart. In truth, love is like a spiritual gift that starts in the mind and finds its way through the heart center to physical expression. Its power cannot be overestimated. Offering lovingkindness to each other, a compassionate view of our beloved that is free of judgment, conditions, and self-interest is a blessing that reverberates long beyond love’s first blush.
Allan Lokos’ latest book, Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living, was released in January 2012. He is also the author of Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living. Allan is the founder and guiding teacher of The Community Meditation Center in New York City. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tricycle Magazine, The Huffington Post, Beliefnet, Back Stage, and Audacious Creativity: 30 Ways to Liberate Your Soulful Creative Energy. He has taught at Columbia University Teachers College, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Marymount College, The Rubin Museum, New York Insight Meditation Center, The New York Open Center, Tibet House USA, and Insight Meditation Community of Washington. For more on Allan, please visit his website, Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter.