It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.—Epictetus (50–135 CE)
Our relationships with others can make life a delight. If our lives are full of family and friends with whom we have a loving and fulfilling relationship, we have a treasure beyond price. When we’re sad, they can help us lift our spirits.
When we’re troubled, they can help us navigate our way through any challenge to a successful outcome. When we are happy, they can increase that happiness by sharing it with us. On the other hand, when our relationships with other people are dysfunctional, we will never know the pleasure or joy that comes from truly loving relationships.
A mature relationship with others is one in which we ourselves behave in an emotionally mature fashion. Here’s what that means:
All healthy relationships have boundaries. When setting these we have to:
We all have choices we have to make in life, and we are responsible for those choices. One important choice we can make is to be happy. If someone or something hurts us, we can choose to react as do the Stoics: we can control our reaction.
The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said it’s not things that hurt us, it’s our judgement about those things. We can look at the big picture and put everything in perspective. We can analyse the situation, knowing that there are always many viewpoints, and choose to let it go. We can choose to be happy regardless of the behaviour of others.
Let’s take the example of parents whose teenage daughter has been staying out well past midnight lately. In a household where the relationships between family members are mature, the parents would sit down with their daughter and discuss quietly, without emotion, why they need to set a curfew for her.
They would listen to their daughter’s perspective and show that they understand that she, like most teenagers, wants to go out with friends and have fun. They could then go on to explain that the curfew is being put in place out of concern for her safety. They could make clear that as long as she is in their care, they have a responsibility to safeguard her welfare.
The win-win would be if they could come to a common understanding on how the daughter will organize her social life so she can go out with her friends but come home at an acceptable, safe time.
How to Be an Adult in Relationships (2021) by David Richo is an interesting book and a useful tool in helping build healthy relationships.
Do you have mature, loving relationships with your family and friends? Can you see where you may need to change in order to develop such relationships? Are you prepared to do the work required?