All the studies in life satisfaction agree that human relationships are what makes us happiest. The happiest societies in the world are found to be those where intimate relationships are most highly valued—even when people’s economic well-being isn’t very high.
The topic that consistently gathers the most comments on this site is relationships, particularly marriage and romance. That’s because most relationships are “on fire.” Either they are ignited by constant loving energy, or they are burning down consumed by their own toxic smoke.
The deepest and most satisfying relationship is based on mutual advocacy. I don’t need to get anything from you. What I’m interested in is you living the best life you can, you achieving a sense of satisfaction and contentment. I’m going to advocate you, because I want your happiness and your well-being. That’s a very high level of love.
Mutual advocacy is the basis of sustainability in relationships. It nourishes our capacity to be emotionally present.
One of the main things that gets in the way of emotional presence in our relationships is distraction. When human beings spend so much time in passive entertainment–as television, or in some form of active but mediated engagement such as texting or cell-phoning–we get numb to genuine connection. We start to mistake this superficial intimacy for the real thing. We start to think of this lifestyle of distraction as normal.
Another factor is imbalance in how we spend our time and effort. It’s almost impossible to keep a healthy perspective on life, and very difficult to have the emotional presence needed for healthy relationships, if you’re consistently working 50 or 60 hours a week.
Think about if you treated your health this way. (Many of us do!) If you neglect proper exercise and diet in order to spend more time working, what’s the likely consequence of that three years from now?
Rebuilding the habit of emotional presence and mutual advocacy that make a healthy relationship requires the same commitment and practice as regaining physical health.
When two people are engaged in this type of relationship, there is almost the energy of a third person; the relationship becomes greater than either of the two individuals, and it’s extremely satisfying. There’s an abundance of common ground and a lack of distraction from trivial flaws.
In our society we’ve lost what it takes to create that kind of friendship, because we’re living beyond the human speed. We’re obsessed with superficial intimacy. We know a lot of facts about other people’s lives, and maybe even their superficial opinions, but not who they are. Knowing these things about each other doesn’t make us intimate. It’s only when we have this feeling of mutual advocacy—that I want the very best for you, no matter what—that we can have a sense of trust and acceptance that transcends normal life and average relationships.