Ancient Wisdom for Modern Relationships: A Guide to Love, Respect, and Joy

One of the aspects that make human life very distinct from other species is relationships. Animals have no problem with relationships. They don’t go for any counselling, nor does the tribal society have any problem with relationships. The more advanced we are, the more we are facing the challenges of relationships.

Love with wisdom leads you to bliss. Love without wisdom or with ignorance leads you to jealousy, greed, anger, frustration and everything else. All these negative emotions are just an offspring of love. See you can’t be jealous of somebody if there is no love. Right? Greed is because you love certain things more than people, that is called greed. You love somebody more than you should and that is called possessiveness. And you love perfection so much that you can’t stand imperfection, and you show it as anger. Right? Love needs to be harnessed with a little wisdom.

Love is preserved by wisdom, destroyed by demand, tested by doubt, nourished by longing, It blossoms with faith & grows with gratitude.

~ Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

How to build a relationship that is innocent, yet real?

The best is to try not to build any relationship. Just be yourself. Be natural. Be simple. You know relationships are developed naturally. If you try to build a relationship, that is, then you become a little artificial, and then your behavior becomes artificial. It is not natural. Just imagine someone is trying to impress the boss, don’t you notice that? If someone is trying to impress you, what do you do? You move away. See what you’d like that is what others do like also. You like someone to be very honest, open, natural, and unassuming with you. Right? That’s exactly what others also want from you.

Don’t try hard to impress your boss, or impress your girlfriend or boyfriend. Then everything goes bad. The best is to be yourself, to be natural, to be forgiving, and to be in the present moment. It makes a big difference. Be very subtle.

How to maintain respect in relationships?

The greatest fear in any relationship is of losing respect. Respect demands some distance. Love cannot tolerate distance. This is the basic conflict in all the relationships. And when you are not centred and when you have no depth within you, when you are so shallow within you, how can you gain respect? There is a fear of losing respect. The more someone comes close to you, they come to know about your fear,  your anxieties and your small-mindedness. Then you are afraid, “Oh, I may lose my respect!” And you definitely lose your respect! Once respect is lost, even love is not tasty.

Love, respect, all these feelings and emotions remain in you. When your heart and mind are clear, then the right emotions will come at the right time. Love, respect – all these happen. You cannot make it happen. You cannot make someone respect you. 

If you make an effort to feel love or respect, it will be a failure. Do not crave respect. All that you can do is free yourself from stress and have wisdom in the mind. Wisdom is seeing the world from a bigger perspective. See what is temporary and what is permanent. All the opinions of people are temporary. They come and they go. This you must remember.

Expecting respect shows our weakness and giving respect to people irrespective of who they are or what their standards are shows our wisdom.

~ Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Self-respect is one thing and egoism is another. Self-respect is something that nobody can snatch from you. If you have self-respect then you will keep smiling even if a million people verbally abuse you. Accept criticism! It is the other person’s choice to say what they want to say. If someone tells you something, you can tell them they have all the right to project their ignorance. Why should we spoil our minds over another’s ignorance? Save your mind at any cost. 

Love is a basic substratum of this creation. It can never disappear. It is always there. Again, give love and it will come back to you a million times more.

How to deal with expectations in relationships?

In love expectations arise, and if not fulfilled, it hurts. In a relationship, we think of love as an emotion. We begin by saying, ‘Oh I love you so much!’  Then start demanding. ‘Look, I love you so much, what have you done for me? Don’t you see I love you so much, don’t you understand?’ Our tone changes from love to demand.

“Demand destroys love.”

A relationship should come from a space of contributing, not demanding, then it will be nurturing. In every relationship, if we think, “What can I take from this person, or get from this person?” then it’s going to be very disturbing. But when you come from the attitude that, “I am going to be a part of this person, give whatever I can, and contribute whatever I can, to this person’s life”, then it lasts longer. 

If your relationship is based on personal needs, it may not last long. Once the need is fulfilled, on a physical level or an emotional level, the mind will look for something else and go somewhere else. If your relationship is from the level of sharing, then it can last longer. 

When you are looking for security, love, and comfort from your partner, you become weak, you are at the receiving end. And when you are weak, then all the negative emotions come to you. The demand comes from you. Demand destroys love. If we just knew this one thing, we would save our love from getting rotten. The word is very good, ‘to fall in love.’ Rather, don’t fall in love, ‘Rise in love.’

On the flip side, “Oh! See, I did so much but still that person doesn’t love me.” Why? Because they feel uncomfortable. Love is when there is an exchange. And that can happen when you give them an opportunity to do something for you also. This needs a little skill. We have to be skilful in making others also contribute without demanding. The only way we know to get someone to do something for us is by demand.  This has to be done more skillfully. In a relationship, see that the other also contributes to your life so that they don’t feel completely worthless. For love to blossom, self-worth is essential.

In the world, people love you because you give them comfort. If you are demanding proof of their love, are you giving them comfort? If someone doubts your love and you have to constantly prove it, this becomes a heavy burden on you. Your nature is to shed any burden, so when love is questioned, you don’t feel comfortable.

“Do not ask for proof of love. that the other person loves you.”

When you have pain in the leg you don’t go and ask the doctor, “Do I have a pain doctor? Tell me. I don’t know. I’m confused.” The doctor would say, “I don’t know whether you have pain or not but one thing I am sure is you have to see a psychiatrist for sure.” You are asking for proof of your pain. It is ridiculous. Love itself is proof. When you’re looking at anybody, if there is love you can see that love sparkle. Therefore, do not ask for proof that the other person loves you. Love needs no proof. Actions and words cannot prove love.

How to handle fights in relationships?

When someone asked Mullah Naseeruddin why he fought with his wife so much, he replied, “Because I love her so much. I fight with someone and love someone else? That is not done! I do everything with one person.” Fights are also a part of life. When you focus on each other too much, then fights happen. 

Consider an analogy of two parallel lines.

“If two lines are moving parallel, they go for infinity. But if they’re focused on each other they will cross and they’ll go far away from each other.”

~ Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Same way in any relationship. If you want that to stay forever you should have a common goal and not focus on each other or police each other. If your focus is only on each other, one day you will be ‘honey’ and the next day you will be bitter.

If you both have a common goal, to serve, to uplift society, then fights don’t happen and love blossoms and there is plenty of work for every couple. In the Indian marriage tradition, there is a ceremony called the saptapadi, the seven steps, which the couple has to take together. One of these steps (signifying vows) is that the couple work together for the upliftment of society.

In the past century, or even in this century, earlier this century parents had one goal – for their children. The children were their goal. So both of them will put their hundred per cent into making the family work. Though they may have complained against each other, the family remained intact. And then they loved each other very much.

Also, leave some room for conflicts. You don’t want everyone to be just like you. It will be so dull and boring. Conflict has a place. Life becomes more challenging and interesting and more loving. 

In addition, humour is very essential in life and especially in relationships. It can ease the anger. It can bring down the high temperature that you get on by some serious dialogue. See, even differences can remain. But when there is humour, it won’t be harmful. Without humour, the differences can divide you and put you in different corners.

“Humour is a binding force.”

Fights can only happen among equals. When you fight with someone, you make them equal. But in reality, there is no one at par with you. When you keep people either above or below you, then there is no fight. When they are above you, you respect them. When they are below you, you love them and you feel compassionate.

“Either submission or compassion can take you out of a fight in no time.”

This is one way to look at it when you are tired of fighting. When you are well rested, just fight and have fun.

The same is true of the mind. As long as the mind thinks it is equal to the senses, there is conflict. When it realizes that it is bigger than the senses, there is no conflict. And when the mind is smaller than the senses, like in animals, there is no conflict. When the mind is caught up in the senses, there is constant conflict. When it transcends the senses, it comes back to its true nature, which is innocence – in no sense. Does this make sense?

How to handle misunderstandings in relationships?

There is a misunderstanding, just overlook that. Educate and ignore. Don’t do postmortem. “Why did you say that? Why did you say this? You like me. You don’t like me. You love me. You don’t love me.” So much waste of time! Emotional garbage we dwell into! You should throw them all out and move with bubbling enthusiasm. 

Go on complaining and ask for explanations from people. To improve family relations you need two things:

“No explanations and no complaints.” That’s it.

Asking for an explanation from others is a foolish thing and explaining to others thinking that they would understand, is another foolish thing. It doesn’t work both ways.

How to handle jealousy and insecurity in relationships?

You can love someone for their qualities and not have a sense of intimacy. This type of love gives rise to competition and jealousy.

You will find that even in a child it is part of nature. The moment another baby is born in the house the older child gets jealous. Nobody needs to teach them how to be jealous.

You are so proud of your talents, you take pride in it. And if you find somebody else has better talents then jealousy comes up. What to do? Human life is caught in this well pool. 

Well, you feel jealous because someone very close to you is achieving much more than you are. But just put yourself in their shoes. Suppose you are achieving something. Would you like other people to be jealous of you? We never take time to think about it. Would you like others to feel jealous of you for having achieved something or for having something wonderful? You don’t. Do you want others to participate in your happiness, in your joy? Do the same. 

You should think about others as well. If someone is happy then you participate in their happiness. Yeah, you wish them good. You could be jealous about their grades, their achievement in sports and then finally the relationship. You love somebody and that person is in love with somebody else. This type of situation definitely causes jealousy and turmoil inside of you. Here you must know that life is much bigger and simpler than these isolated events. There’s nothing to be jealous about.

“What is yours will always be yours. Anything that goes away was never yours even before. If you know this, you’ll be at peace.”

~ Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

How to overcome hurt in a relationship?

To get hurt or not is your choice. It is not people who hurt you. It is your mind, your vulnerability and your own emotions that entangle you and make you feel hurt.

I tell you first, be compassionate, give them some warning. Look, ‘I can’t go on taking your hurt. It is making me sad.’ Ask them, ‘Are you conscious of this? What are you saying? Is that your intention to hurt me?’ One, two, three chances. If it goes on, then you say, ‘I want to save my mind.’ If their behaviour is not good, either you say that they are not okay, they are sick or something, chemistry is not matching, they are not matching with you. Then you say, ‘You have your life. If you want us to be together, you cannot go on the way you are going on.’

“Pain and love are the two sides of the same coin.”

How to thrive in a long-term relationship?

The ancient Rishis devised a plan for this. They knew that not everybody can be in a state of total bliss without being mindful of whether someone respects them or not. They made a rule, although one loves someone very much, for one month in a year he/she has to keep apart, and give space. This is followed in some parts of India where the wife goes to her mother’s home for one month in the rainy season. Tradition says that husbands and wives cannot cross the same door during that one month. With distance, love grows. When one is with their partner all 24 hours, there is no point. There is no communication unsaid, there is no longing.

“Love and longing have to go hand in hand. Longing enriches love and love enriches the longing.” 

Both have to be there. In order to create that longing a distance needs to be created. You need to know the contrast and need to have experienced the contrast in order to experience anything. Life is a multitude of such contrasts.