Movement Seven: Relationships
Human beings evolved to be relational, or in other words we are built for relationship. Relationships with others provide companionship, fun, challenge, accountability, and so much more. In encountering another, we are often given our greatest insight and growth for ourselves. And, of course, it’s nice to have someone to call for help with things like a ride or help moving something! But relationships also take work, and sometimes bring with them pain. Every relationship will end, one way or another, and no one you enter into relationship with will be perfect. So how do we find relationship as a source of resiliency?
“I am convinced that material things can contribute a lot to making one’s life pleasant, but, basically, if you do not have very good friends and relatives who matter to you, life will be really empty and sad and material things cease to be important.” David Rockefeller
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” Thomas Merton
“No road is long with good company.” Turkish proverb
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Carl Jung
“Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.” —Virginia Woolf
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” – Audre Lorde
Exercise One: Love Magic
One of the biggest stereotypes about spellwork and magic has to do with love potions, or the idea that magic can make someone love you. If that were true, there would be some serious ethical questions about using magic to control another person. But most pagans I know don’t believe this is how love magic works. Magic can only focus and amplify energy that is already there. So, whether you’d like to give some energy to strengthening the love you already have or to attracting new love into your life, you might try one of these simple spells.
Exercise Two: Forgiveness and Atonement
Human beings aren’t perfect, and we often hurt each other in relationships either intentionally or unintentionally. Giving forgiveness and grace is a way to move beyond the hurt of those moments, a way to return to healthy relationship (with others or with ourselves). But forgiveness does not mean that you have to subject yourself to ongoing hurt …. Sometimes a relationship must end because it is not healthy to remain in it. You might still want to practice some forgiveness, while maintaining those healthy boundaries to protect yourself.
A simple forgiveness exercise involves thinking of a person you’d like to forgive, and writing them a letter. This does not have to be a letter you will actually send, so feel free to be open and vulnerable as you imagine telling this person how their actions impacted you. And then choose to forgive and let go. When you are done writing, you might like the catharsis that comes with burning the letter, or shredding it, burying it, or (depending on type of paper you used) dissolving it in water. As the letter falls apart, visualize releasing the energy you’ve been holding around this relationship issue. Let it go.
For an atonement exercise, think of a person who you have harmed and an action you’d like to atone for. Depending on the relationship, you might seek this person out to make a sincere apology. Or, if that’s not wise or feasible, you could adapt the letter writing exercise to be a letter of atonement, and at the end you choose to forgive yourself.
Exercise Three: Grief Shrines or Altars
Every relationship ends, and we will all lose someone (human or animal) who we love. One way to remember and keep that relationship present for you might be with an altar or shrine. We see shrines pop up in public places where someone has died, but a shrine could also be in a private place such as your home. You can even make a small portable shrine in a box that you can bring out when you need it. There is no one right way to do this, it’s just what works for you and reminds you of the person or pet you are remembering and honors the love and grief you feel for them. There are some helpful ideas to be found here.
Exercise Four: List the Positives
It can be a very human thing to start to notice more negatives and annoyances about another person, and not take note of the good things. It’s easy to take people for granted. So here is a little brain hack that can help you focus on the positives and improve your relationship. Each day, list all the things you appreciated about the other person that day. What did they do that made you feel good or supported you? What aspects of their being did you enjoy? List them all. Optionally, you can both practice this together and then share your lists with one another. Knowing what another person appreciates about you can guide you to do more of that! But you don’t have to share, you’ll still benefit from the exercise even if you do it all alone and don’t tell the other person you’re doing it.
Exercise Five: Understand Love Languages
The golden rule tells us to treat others as we would like to be treated, but have you heard of the platinum rule? The platinum rule tells us to treat others as they would like to be treated. The difference here is the understanding that people have different preferences, likes, and dislikes. One model for understanding how people receive love in different ways was developed by Gary Chapman, called the Five Love Languages. Do you know what your love language is? When do you feel loved – when people do things for you, or bring you gifts, or verbally affirm you? Do you know the love language for your partner, your children, or other important people in your life? It’s a fruitful topic to explore and understand! Learn more at: What are The 5 Love Languages?
Exercise Six: Stay in Touch
It’s easy to get busy and lose track of the last time you spent time with someone or reached out to them, but you can never make new old friends, as the saying goes. Take this as a reminder to connect with someone and keep those ties strong. Maybe it’s a phone call, a plan to hang out, or even just a card or a text. But take the time to reach out to an old friend or loved one.
TEDtalk: Love, You’re Doing It Wrong
Website: Love is Respect
- How do your relationships make you more resilient, happy, and strong? Who are the people you can call upon in times of need?
- What relationships have you lost, and what legacy have they left you with? What healing or grieving work do you still have to do?
- What makes you feel good in a relationship? What is your love language and do the people in your life know it?
- How do you show love and appreciation to the people in your life? What do you do to keep your relationships strong and healthy? Is there something more you’d like to do? How could you make that a priority for yourself?
- What relationship skill do you think all people should be taught? How could we all learn to be better to one another?
Next: Movement Eight