I read somewhere that relationships are increasingly stressed during these “hard times” we are passing through. I am not surprised. With all the bad news in the media, and the fear it creates, most individuals are stressed. And maybe you have noticed, it is individuals who make up most relationships!

In my writing, I mostly address the issues of romantic relationships, however, it is valuable to remember that every form of relationship is affected by the stresses of life—relationships in love, business, friends, parent/ child, child/parent, and strangers on the street.

All relationships are based on agreements—and most of the time those agreements are unspoken, unconscious, or un-discussed. This “economy” thing everyone is worrying and talking about is a major stressor. In partnerships that include sharing or managing money, the expectations and assumptions that were brought into the relationship, but never discussed, will begin to make themselves very evident. This can be a blessing if partners are willing to step into the truth and share their fears and unspoken agreements.

If you are feeling fear about being victimized by money, support, the future, or your life style by someone you are in relationship with, it is a great time to examine and make conscious any unspoken agreements you have each carried into the relationship.

Can you put your cards on the table? Can you speak the Emotional Language I have written about here in the past? You might need to say something like this to your partner: “I feel afraid. I looked at the unconscious agreements I made about money when my parents were fighting about it, and realized that I assumed you would always take care of. Now you are saying I need to get a job so we can keep the time-share and the boat. I am afraid I might have chosen the wrong man to take care of me, or that my assumptions about our partnership were wrong.”

There are many variations on the theme.

If there is stress about money in any partnership in your life-- how it is being used, who is in charge of it, what to do if there is not enough, who is responsible for the situation in the past, present, and future—this is a great time to practice Conscious Relationship Agreement Clearing. Look within, and ask yourself, “What was I expecting, what assumptions was I making, what did my partner say or not say, and what am I afraid of if my expectations are not met?” Then share!

I don’t know if these are really “hard times” or not. It is different for every person, I suppose—it depends partly on your connection to the media and the collective story telling, as well as how personally you have felt the impact. As I was writing this, an apprentice called about her husband being laid off from his job, and their tension escalating into loud arguments and threats of divorce. She is surprised, because they have had a generally peaceful marriage. I reminded her about the growth opportunity for them if they can step into the truth together. If not, they are in danger of becoming yet another statistic.

It isn’t easy to tell the real truth in relationships. We have not learned to speak the emotional language that is a simple description of our emotional experience. Many of us have also been domesticated not to speak our desires, needs, wants, or even our demands about what we want from a partner, parent, child, or friend.

So, how can we live softly in these “hard times?” I suggest we be very alert to any judgments of ourselves or each other, for starters. Judging does not serve us. We are all doing our best, and when times get tough, the tough….. well, they need to get gentle. We cannot control the world, our partners, the economy, or the outcomes of our lives. To “live softly” is to recognize that we have an opportunity in any situation, any interaction, any relationship, to choose between love and fear. We can choose to listen to stories in our minds or the world that cause us to be afraid, or we can choose to be in love and acceptance of What IS, softly embracing reality.

In every way possible, choose love and acceptance—including the acceptance of any fear that might arise in your mind. No matter what the world around us is doing, we can always respond softly, in gentleness, and in peace.

If we can live in conscious relationship with reality, we will experience the most powerful and liberating relationship there can be.

Author's Bio: 

Allan Hardman is a relationship coach, author, teacher, and Toltec Master, trained by Miguel Ruiz in the tradition The Four Agreements. He teaches in Sonoma County, CA, and guides “Journeys of the Spirit” to sacred sites and tropical beaches in Mexico and beyond. He is the author of The Everything Toltec Wisdom Book, and co-author of two books with Deepak Chopra and others. For information about his work with The New Relationship, spiritual coaching, journeys, and to subscribe to his free e-newsletter, visit:www.joydancer.com. Or call (707) 528-1271. E-mail comments: allan@joydancer.com.