By Jeff Murrah
Modern society often uses game-based phrases, like “take it to the next level”. Taking a relationship ‘to the next level’ of intimacy requires effort and skill. Some people’s relationships are not fulfilling because they either lack the skills, the knowledge or are unwilling to exert the effort of improving intimacy required by relationships. Many people suffer in silent desperation or seek affairs rather than address what is needed to improve the intimacy. When someone is desperate, they often confuse the intensity that affairs provide with the intimacy which they need. They make wrong choices because they do not understand what is needed in the relationship.
Based on his experience and observations, the psychoanalyst, Eric Fromm claimed the relationship skill list includes the qualities of humility, courage, faith and discipline. This list provides general qualities required. My experience is that people want to know how to apply such qualities. For example, they wish to know how to express humility (or some other necessary quality) in relationships.
The word humility has been defined as being free from pride and arrogance. It also entails a humbleness of mind and modest estimate of one’s own worth. In considering how humility applies to relationships, recognize that pride and arrogance each kill relationships. The quality of pride becomes a barrier preventing others from developing a relationship with you. Pride not only shuts people out, it also creates emotional distance around the person infected with it. If your relationships are often shallow and lacking intimacy, it may be that pride is preventing others from getting close to you.
Arrogance, a close cousin of pride, is a quality that seeks obeisance from others, thereby shutting out any kind of mutual reciprocity needed for healthy relationships. Healthy relationships require people treat each other with respect, arrogance destroys any chance for respect developing.
Humility requires that the person wishing to improve their relationship make room for the other person or persons involved. One way to make room for the other person is to put forth the effort to maintain contact. At the very basic level, calling or writing are needed to maintain contact with the other person. These could be notes or messages to the other person keeping the emotional connection in place. The contact needs to focus on the other person rather than have the other person focus their attention on you. This means one will have to discover what the likes and dislikes of the other person are. One way to discover their likes and dislikes is developing a list of questions focused on these areas. When you are with the other person, ask those questions and discover how they see and experience the world.
‘Focusing on the other person’ also means that one may have to modify their schedule in order to connect with the other person. Humility involves making room for the other person in your attention, efforts and time. It requires effort to shift your schedule rather than constantly expecting them to accommodate yours.
It will also be important that when the other person asks you questions that your response be of a humble nature. Even in the areas where significant accomplishments may have occurred, approaching them in a modest manner helps create an atmosphere conducive to relationships deepening. When faults are pointed out or errors made, they will need to be approached in attitude of modesty and humility. Pointing our errors with an attitude of “gotcha!” or “you’re not as perfect as you thought!” are sure ways of killing any developing intimacy. Attitudes conveying defensiveness or arrogance are a sure way to invite further conflict and stifle the growth of any relationship.
Humility is required in taking a relationship to the next level of intimacy. Like any area of personal growth, exercising humility will take us out of our emotional comfort zone. Consider the question, “Do you want to have intimacy or be comfortable?”. Developing intimacy requires effort. One of the areas needing effort that pays dividends beyond the effort involved is that of humility. If you have a relationship you want to “take it to the next level”, start by developing humility.
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