There are the Five Love Languages outlined in Gary Chapman’s book that describes the ways we like to feel loved and appreciated. There could also be the five colors of relationship designated for different relationship states. Blue for distant. Red for conflictual. Yellow for competitive. Black for dead, and white for peaceful. These are of course made up and random.
What is helpful, however, is not determining the color of your relationship, rather it is understanding that the color of your relationship is a reflection of the color of the two people in it. I am not talking about skin color. It is a metaphor. The color represents the feeling state of the relationship, and to borrow a metaphor from George Pransky, the feeling state of the relationship is a combination of the combined feeling states of the two people in it.
The reason this is helpful is because it points to how the quality of a relationship changes. It demonstrates that there is no point in working on a relationship because the quality of a relationship is simply a reflection of the state of mind of the two people in the relationship. And reveals the hopefulness in seeing that if one person in the relationship shifts, the quality of the relationship can’t help but be impacted because the feeling quality of a relationship is based on the feeling state of the individuals in the relationship.
Understanding this directs us to why understanding how the mind works is ultimately what is most useful in relationships. When we understand how our psychological functioning works we are less scared by it and less likely to act out from our fear with our loved ones. And if you are experiencing relationship challenges, you know the first place to look is to your own state of mind and experience of your own wellbeing rather than outside of yourself.
When the state of mind of one person in the relationship changes the quality of the relationship is always impacted. If you mix yellow and blue together you get green. If you mix red and blue together you get purple. Even if the blue stays constant, the mixed color changes. So even if only one person changes in the relationship, the quality of the relationship will shift. This is freeing and empowering. You can enjoy your relationship independent of your partner’s moods.
To take it one step further, you don’t ever experience “your relationship”. You only have your subjective experience of the relationship constructed out of your perception. And to take it another step further the you who perceives the relationship is made up as well. Our sense of self is created moment to moment via thought. We are not solid and fixed. We are fluid like thought. You are experiencing the creation. Who is the you that is experiencing? I don’t know. Some use labels like consciousness and God, but to me, it is a mystery — the mystery.
How is this helpful to relationships? Angus would probably be getting frustrated with me now if we were having a conversation saying, “What’s the point? This is nihilistic! You’re just getting caught up in your head!”
But I do think it is helpful and important. Sydney Banks said we live in a world of thought. We live in a psychological experience from the cradle to the grave. But he also said we live in two worlds — the formless and the form, and they are both real. We have a psychological experience that feels real, but it is not all of who we are. It is an experience we have. An experience of individuality, of separation, of form that is created from the formless. It happens.
When I understand even just a little bit that I experience the subjective and fluid nature of my experience, I hold it more lightly.
This helps me to move through the rainbow of my emotional experience with more grace and ease. Seeing this helps me to remember when I feel upset with someone, I am experiencing my color of emotion and not them.
This is when the big buts come my way:
But he did:
- stop talking
- behave cruelly
- betray me
But she did:
- lose her temper
- cheat on me
- criticize me
But, but, but…
Yes, these things do happen, and there seem to be generalized ways people feel when these kinds of things happen. But seeing where my experience comes from reduces my suffering. When I understand my experience is temporary, I don’t resist it. When I know it comes from the meaning I am creating, I don’t feel like a victim even when I don’t condone the behavior.
Angus and I have been irritable with each other this week. He would have the experience of me being stern or critical and react. Then I would have the experience of him being angry. I would then feel disappointed. It looked like life would be more fun if he were different or if I were different.
What helped me most now compared to how I was in the past is that I did not take my experience or his behavior seriously. I did not make it mean anything about our relationship. I knew it would pass. My safety and wellbeing weren’t threatened even though I felt upset. There were no high stakes. Nothing was at risk. We were each having our human experience. And our human experiences were doing what they do, going up and down, and in and out of good feelings.
Understanding that my experience is made up and fluid, that even my sense of self is made up and fluid helps me to take myself and life much less seriously. In particular, it makes relationships more lighthearted and fun versus painful and difficult.
And this is the color I bring to our relationship. A lighter color, more translucent and soft versus the dark tones I used to show up with. This makes going through all of the colors of the rainbow more fun and less burdensome. And there is a deeper appreciation for the colorless medium from which the colors arise like a prism. Everything I was looking for is there. It doesn’t matter that the nature of experience is to change when I feel the reassurance of something unchanging. I don’t need to do anything to change or resist what is. I have everything. I need in the moment even when it feels like I don’t.
If you want to change the quality of your relationship, look toward understanding the fluid nature of your own experience. Any suffering you are experiencing is not the relationship’s fault or your partner’s fault. It isn’t even your own fault. It is simply the result of you being caught up and identifying with your negative experience. This is completely normal and human, but you will not stay stuck there. You will always be free-flowing and fluid. You can relax and stop trying to change that or get something to stay one way. This is such a relief and in the letting go, you relax into the creative potential of who you are and feel the freedom of having your experience created fresh.
We suffer when we resist this. We suffer when we try to fix ourselves, make things fixed, change what is, improve ourselves, improve our relationship. It is often so invisible to us that we are doing it but knowing we create it makes it easier for us to ride out our self-generated suffering.
We may not be able to stop hitting ourselves on the head, but we know we will eventually stop so we ride it out, knowing it is us all along anyway. Not dwelling on my negative thinking helps me to feel the deeper part of myself that cannot be hurt or broken. I feel reassured knowing I am okay no matter what happens in my life because I am not my personal psychology. I have the experience of it, but I am much greater than that, and so are you!
Rohini Ross is passionate about helping people wake up to their full potential. She is a transformative coach, leadership consultant, a regular blogger for Thrive Global, and author of the short-read Marriage (The Soul-Centered Series Book 1) available on Amazon. You can get her free ebook Relationships here. Rohini has an international coaching and consulting practice based in Los Angeles helping individuals, couples, and professionals embrace all of who they are so they can experience greater levels of well-being, resiliency, and success. She is also the founder of The Soul-Centered Series: Psychology, Spirituality, and the Teachings of Sydney Banks. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and watch her Vlogs with her husband. To learn more about her work go to her website, rohiniross.com.