7. Encourage each other to laugh at our trips and foibles.
Many aspects of personality or character are either immutable or extremely hard to change, so the relationship has to find a way to accommodate them The best way that we have found is to laugh at them. Not in an unkind way but in the spirit of “Oh! Look at this silly trip poking its nose into our affairs again!”
8. Be faithful to each other and be very clear about boundaries with other people.
We are both outrageous flirts, but we have very strict boundaries about what is OK to do with other people. For example kissing on the lips is forbidden. We were sexually active in the late 60’s and early 70’s when sexual liberation was the fashion. We each had many sexual partners and started our sexual relationship in a “three in a bed” situation. We found that sexual jealousy was extremely destructive and impossible to ignore, so we agreed to not cause each other injury by engaging sexually with anyone else. The certainty that we are a monogamous couple is what makes it possible for each of us to flirt so outrageously.
9. Be scrupulously loyal to each other; in particular do not put down the other to a third person.
In Jake’s family it was normal for the women to get together in the kitchen and spend time putting down their men. Eva was shocked by this and refused to participate – indeed she would often defend Jake against some inappropriate put-down. Occasionally one of us has slipped up and said something negative about the other to a person outside the relationship – and always ended up regretting it. This strategy is not attempting to hide each other’s defects from valid external criticism, rather it is supporting the relationship and encouraging us to take pride in each other.
10. Do not injure each other in fights.
Recently I realised that even when we have a fierce disagreement or conflict, the sort that makes it easy to imagine walking out of the relationship, we do not set out to injure each other in our shouting matches. After 30+ years together we know each other’s vulnerabilities and it would be easy to cause injury – but we choose not to. Even when angry, hurt, upset or distraught we remember that the person we love and cherish is still there and we do not want to cause them any injury.
11. When you realise you have hurt your partner, or been unkind, or been wrong, then own up and apologise sincerely as quickly as possible.
Apologising comes much easier to some people than others. It seems to be particularly hard for people who were ‘made to apologise’ as a child, or who were unfairly punished. Whatever the historical cause, apologising in the present does not cost anything and can be extremely valuable and healing – especially after an ugly row. There are a number of important conditions that enable an apology to work: do not apologise until you can do so sincerely; make sure that you are in, and stay in, contact with the other whilst apologising; be specific about what it is that you are apologising for; do not expect anything in return for the apology – it is an unconditional gift.
12. Do not pretend; if you are unhappy, hurt, distressed or upset find the kindest way of letting your partner know – but do not pretend everything is hunky dory.
One of the key ways in which Jake dismissed Charles Berner, the originator of Enlightenment Intensives, as a teacher was Berner’s assertion that it was better to shut up about upsets rather than cause injury to your partner. Berner’s assertion is based on the yogic principle of putting non-injury higher than telling the truth. However what Berner missed was that the person not disclosing their feelings was breaking the relationship and thereby causing more hurt than by disclosing their feelings. It is normal in relationships for one person to be more willing to pretend and for the other to be more willing to challenge and raise difficulties. Do not let this polarisation (see Principle 7) obstruct the importance of dealing with issues sooner rather than later. Relationships that stack up unresolved issues find it impossible to resolve anything.