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4 Ways to have a ‘soulful’ relationship

Petrenko Andriy | Shutterstock
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What's that, you ask? Just think about decluttering your heart in the same way you would your room

There is so much being written on decluttering our homes and simplifying our spaces. Rightfully so! It is certainly in our power to simplify our surroundings and gain serenity as a result. But can we also simplify our relationships with a similar outcome? Much like a cluttered room, a cluttered heart that is bogged down by self-imposed guilt and a misplaced order of operations in relationships can quickly lose its purpose.

Social media allows us to boast of having thousands in our tribe. Yet, studies say we’ve never felt more lonely. We need a way to safeguard, nurture, and cultivate life-giving relationships.

Maybe you’re already there. Go you! Here are four signs that you’ve got more than enough soulfulness to go around.

1. Your love is boring

Not boring in terms of no surprises. That isn’t boring at all, that is dreadful! Instead, you aim for boring in the sense of unswerving focus on mutual goals. The absence of drama along with painstaking attention to detail and steadfastness often looks dry to those on the outside. Regularly shared meals. Packed lunches with notes. Stuffed toys in their assigned locations. Back rubs. Candles at bedtime prayers. These rituals are all the privileges of hard-won, plain, old intimacy. In an essay on friendship, 19th-century poet Ralph Waldo Emerson writes:

We snatch at the slowest fruit in the whole garden of God, which many summers and many winters must ripen. We seek our friend not sacredly, but with an adulterate passion which would appropriate him to ourselves.

To enjoy the sweet fruit of intimacy, we must weather our friendships well, over many loooong, dry summers.

2. You call people

Marriage experts say that nothing communicates care, concern and commitment to growth like a mid-day phone call with your spouse. A texting conversation that flows throughout the day like a stream of consciousness doesn’t have the same effect, at all. In fact, researchers at Brigham Young University found that frequent texting in couples is linked to relationship dissatisfaction. The study in question found that apologizing or making decisions via text is associated with lower relationship satisfaction for women. Men were found to report lower relationship quality as texting frequency increased. So, keep it simple. Less is more. Plus, you’ll have more to exchange over that shared meal at the end of the day.

3. You know how to ‘be here now’

In the last few months, I’ve seen variations of the same message on bumper stickers. Bumper stickers are one of God’s favorite languages, after all. One sticker I saw read: “This moment is your home.” As simple as that. Another one I encountered was a tongue-in-cheek retort to the “I’d rather be fishing/shopping/skiing” quips we often see. This one instead read: “I’d rather Be Here Now.” The people have spoken! Something is shifting. The drivers of the world are collectively circling in on some truth.

Disillusionment and discouragement in life can be traced back directly to a loss of awe in the present moment. When we stop noticing how the butter slides and soaks into our hot toast or how our beloved’s hands look when he holds his mug, we’ve lost more than our attention to detail; we’ve begun to lose our happiness.

4. You know that being ‘charming’ is not worth your time

Being charming is like getting to play a part we love. We get to engineer a moment and try on a persona like a hat. We get to accentuate our favorite qualities and shun our weaknesses for a time. The truth is, though, that “quick charm” doesn’t satisfy in the end. Not ourselves, not others. It is cardboard thin with no calories and no meat.

In her book Present Over Perfect: Leaving frantic behind for a simpler, more soulful way of living, Shauna Niequist writes:

It’s easy to be liked by strangers. It’s very hard to be loved and connected to the people in your home when you’re always bringing them your most exhausted self and resenting the fact that the scraps you’re giving them aren’t cutting it […] It seems to me that one of the great hazards is quick love, which is actually charm. We get used to smiling, hugging, bantering, practicing good eye contact. And it’s easier than true, slow, awkward, painful connection with someone who sees all the worst parts of you.

The ones we really want to impress are the ones behind us in the mirror at home as we take off our makeup. They are the ones whose opinions of us matter because they are the ones who truly know us. Vulnerability is the opposite of “quick charm.” It doesn’t work the room well, but it is the stuff of lasting, hearty relationships.

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