Listen first, think second

My 17-year-old son and his 18-year-old girlfriend have a seven-month-old baby. The three of them live as a family at my house part time and her mom’s house part time. They are engaged and still very much in love with each other. Nothing would make me happier than for them to be together forever. But my son is not a good communicator. When they disagree, his fiancée cries and won’t let things go. I’m divorced from a marriage that suffered from a lack of communication; we didn’t have the skills. Obviously my son and his fiancée have a difficult road ahead but they have lots of love and support. I told them to learn good communication skills now rather than establishing poor ones that have to be broken later. But I’m the mom so what do I know! Any advice?

Yes, model good communication for your son and his fiancée. Begin with listening. Listen with your whole body. Focus your energy on taking in what the other is saying. Don’t allow your mind to attempt control of the conversation by leaping ahead to what you plan to say when he or she stops talking. Stay present. Meditation can help you develop the internal resources necessary to listen and respond with grace.

When you do speak, don’t attack or accuse. Ask open-ended questions that are free from the underlying judgments that secretly signal your disapproval or expectations. Instead, have amnesia about being “the mom.” Forget what you think is best for your son and his fiancée. Invite fresh thinking by pretending, to yourself, that you do not know what’s best for him and don’t care to. Instead, support him (or her) in talking their way into their own solution.

If an argument erupts, practice the six basic rules of arguing fairly: 1) Use “I” statements like, “I feel hurt”. Not “You make me feel hurt” and not “I get angry because you hurt my feelings.” Take responsibility for your emotional responses while also acknowledging how you feel. 2) Don’t store up ammunition until you explode. Handle small complaints as they arise. 3) Don’t ask questions unless you can accept honest answers. 4) Don’t argue in public. 5) Don’t attack the other person’s masculinity, femininity, reputation, looks or sensitive spots. Stick to the point. 6) Always ensure that everyone involved in the disagreement wins. If only one person wins an argument, everyone loses.

The root of the word communication means to become one with. Listening and responding is intended to return us to our spiritual roots, where we remember, and live, our eternal humanity. Providing your son and his fiancée with a living example of healthy communication skills will be life-changing, for them and for you.

I am just out of a five-year, long-distance relationship and wondering if I will ever find someone that is right for me.

You just completed a relationship with someone who was right for you for five years. How do I know? I looked at your choice to commit for five years. Comprende? So your real question is whether you will ever find a life partner. Yes. If you understand that the spiritual purpose of a relationship is to help you understand yourself and change until your compassion is as wide as the night sky, then you also understand that the ultimate partner for you, is you. Everyone else who shows up to befriend and romance you is simply present to move you to the next stage of your spiritual evolution. If you are paying attention (and not everyone does) you will learn from every lost opportunity to love then open your heart to become the dynamic, blessed being you are intended to be.

Meditation of the Week

“God comes to you disguised as your life,” wrote Catherine of Siena, a Catholic saint. Ah, yes, everything exists for a singular purpose: for you to know yourself and to love the world as you long to be loved. When do you plan to devote yourself to the real work of life?