Home Perspectives Advice Dear Rabby: The secret to a healthy relationship

Dear Rabby: The secret to a healthy relationship

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One of the deepest philosophical issues surrounding relationships is determining the role of the ego – the “self” – in the relationship. How do you balance the presence of the “self” and the “other”?

Should you completely let yourself go – surrender your identity, so to speak – to unite with the other person? Should they surrender their identity to you? Do you need to meet in the middle?

There are three ways of approaching any relationship.

First, there is the ego-centred way. It’s the approach that asks, “What do I get out of this relationship?” The benefits can range from the prosaic to the animalistic, to the highly refined. You might be getting someone to help you pay the bills, or do your laundry, or share your love of fine art, but the focus is on you.

The next approach is to focus on connection. This happens when you’re “into” the other person – you love and respect that person, so you want to connect with him or her at every opportunity. The focus is not on what you get out of the relationship, but on doing things that connect you to each other – typically, this would involve doing things that the other person enjoys. And ideally, that person should be doing the same for you.

The issue with focusing on connection is that it leaves the self behind. You’re mostly thinking about how you can connect, not about how you, yourself, feel. You’re not asking questions like, “Where am I in all of this?” or “How do I feel and do I get anything out of it?” It just doesn’t matter in this second paradigm.

But why should it matter? The answer is that in order to have true intimacy with someone, you need your self to be in the relationship. You have to share your emotions and desires with your partner, but emotions and desires tend to be selfish. It’s a total oxymoron, in a way. Share yourself, but don’t let it take away from connecting with, and serving the needs of, the other person.

This is where the idea of having a soulmate steps in and does something very special. When you believe that the person you’re with is your soulmate, it means that being together isn’t about you getting anything out of it (the first way) or needing to connect (the second way). Being together is beyond your personal needs – even your need to connect with someone else. Being with your soulmate fulfils a greater purpose – that you’re meant to be together.

When this happens, people often realize that it’s part of their greater purpose in life. Achieving intimacy – the delicate balance between the self and the other in the relationship – is not about you. It doesn’t serve you, or your need for connection. It’s about fulfilling what you’re needed for – becoming the best you that you can be, by achieving true intimacy with someone else.

Thus, getting your needs fulfilled in the relationship isn’t selfish; it’s how you stay healthy and strong, in order to fulfill your purpose. Connecting to the other person in the relationship isn’t self-denial, it’s how you become a better person, in order to fulfill your purpose.

READ: DEAR RABBY: THE SECRET TO A LONG MARRIAGE

Practically speaking, this means you need to think about what your purpose is. How does your relationship help bring you to this place? Do you have a purpose as a couple? This is a subject I could write a book about – the strength of couples who find a united purpose for their relationship.

If you haven’t found your purpose, maybe it’s time to think about it. I believe it could help singles find their soulmates, as well.

 

Have a question for Rabbi Bernath? Email him at [email protected]

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