The ethical challenge of relationships (plus 4 questions)
I’ve been reading my way through the James Hollis books at the library but dragged my feet in getting around to Why Good People Do Bad Things: Understanding Our Darker Selves. It seemed like a good topic to avoid. Ahem.
I finally read it this weekend and am glad I did. To my surprise it contained a lot of material about relationships. He lists 4 questions to ask yourself as you ponder your relationship with your spouse/partner (or Other, to borrow his term, even though that makes me think of the show Lost ).
I’ll list those questions below but first I’ll mention some of what he says about the ethical challenge of relationships, which he defines as keeping your own needs from dominating the other person.
As we mature we learn more that we are responsible for meeting our neeeds, not the Other. The more we take on this project, the more we can live with ambiguity -as individuals and as a society – the freer and more worthy of the name of love the relationship becomes…
I do not see that relationship in which people ‘take care of each other’ as worth of the name of relationship, at least not a loving, mature relationship.
Dependency is not love; it is dependency – it is an abrogation of the essential responsibility of each of us to grow up.
Here are the four questions he gives us to ponder. It occurs to me that some of these questions could apply to parents or other relationships as well:
1. Where do my dependencies show up in this relationship, and what must I address to cease being dependent?
2. What am I asking my partner to do for me that I should be able to do for myself, if I am going to be a self-respecting adult fully charged with the conduct of my life.
If neither one of those questions made you say, “oops,” perhaps one of these will:
3. How do I repeatedly constrict myself by reimporting my history, with all its charged reflexive responses, into this relationship?
4. Am I truly supportive of my partner while not taking on his or her responsibility to grow up and be a free adult?
Tagged with: James Hollis
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