Why do most marriages have conflicts; the partners stop sharing, and eventually the relationship moves towards apathy? However, there are those rare marriages which go beyond conflicts or apathy, and become authentic and fulfilling for both partners. During a talk, I said that the secret to a fulfilling relationship is to be selfless, loving, compassionate, understanding and trusting. Suddenly one person from the crowd stood up and said, “Come on Madhu, tell us something new! All of us know these things. We thought you were going to tell us something new and insightful.”
I told him, “I have nothing new to tell you. If all of us know these truths, why are that most marriages have serious conflicts or move towards apathy? Why are authentic and fulfilling relationships so rare?”
People are looking for the next insight that will change their lives but forget the fundamentals. Whatever new techniques are invented or marketed, the truth remains that the most critical aspect of creating fulfilling relationships is to be selfless. This selflessness will lead us to become loving, compassionate, trusting and accepting of our partners. We also hear similar instructions from relationship experts, religious leaders, and others, don’t we?
The person was right. Isn’t this common knowledge? Who doesn’t know the importance of selflessness, love, understanding, and acceptance? Though all of us know this, we also find that the truly authentic relationship is so rare! Why are our relationships far from fulfilling, despite our theoretical knowledge of how to create great relationships? It clearly is a problem of implementation.
The biggest obstacle to genuine love and understanding is our central goal of happiness and the modern definition of happiness as solely feel-good. The relationship is projected as just another route to my feel-good. I evaluate the success of the relationship exclusively on how happy I am in the relationship because I’m continuously bombarded by messages like, “Are you happy? You deserve to be happy. If you are not happy, there is a problem.” My happiness is linked to how my wife behaves, her actions and my social image. It is all about I, me and my happiness and it drives me to become selfish.
When I am selfish, can I be genuinely understanding, trusting and loving? Impossible! The most important instruction of being selfless doesn’t happen, so I start pretending to be selfless. This pretense creates fissures in relationships.
We can blame it on different values, or beliefs or conditioning, but in reality, we are not able to be genuinely understanding and loving. Since we know the importance of these qualities in a marriage, we unconsciously start pretending to be loving. It is impossible to put up an act for long, and our partner sees through our pretention and the conflicts start.
If the conflicts stay unresolved, both partners give up and accept that genuineness is not possible. They conclude that pretending is a natural part of all marriages. They accept mediocrity, shrug their shoulders and say ‘Life is like this. Accept mediocrity.’ They become strangers and the relationship moves towards apathy.
The book is about moving beyond pretending to genuine selflessness. This approach of ‘SAY NO TO HAPPINESS’ is not only about authentic relationships but also about leadership, parenting, spirituality – in short, every aspect of our life. It is a counterintuitive approach to living a far more fulfilling life and is founded on my personal experience of jumping out of the happiness paradigm.