Are you struggling in a relationship? Is there someone that you cannot see eye to eye with no matter how hard you try? Are you suffering obvious abuses but justifying them somehow? Do you feel misunderstood or misrepresented? Are you wondering what you need to do to get through to someone? Are you wondering how to be loved?

Relationships are hard and sometimes the pain they create feels impossible to release. How do you stop caring? Why do you care even when you know you shouldn’t? What will it take to harmonize?

First of all, it’s important to remember that relationships are subjective. Each individual holds a different perspective, which means that the same relationship may be understood or characterized very differently by different people. It helps to have empathy and to try to see things from the other person’s point of view–even if you disagree (especially if you disagree). It may be maddening to endure participating in a relationship with someone who holds a completely different impression of circumstances, but if you fail to acknowledge their point of view then you fail to reap the full benefit of the relationship.

Relationships are not about getting someone else to think like you or to see things as you do. They’re about developing compassion and discovering hidden aspects of yourself. Relationships are about learning how to thrive as an individual.

You may wonder how another person perceives you. You may wonder why someone seems incapable of understanding your motivations or how they consistently misinterpret your intentions. You may wonder if they truly care for you. Stop driving yourself crazy lamenting the barriers or trying to force them to see your perspective. Stop basing your self worth on how you’re treated by other people. Understand that others are filtering your interaction through their own personal lens. How they perceive you or the relationship is more about them than you.

Relationships are mirrors; they reflect our shit back to us. The more difficult the relationship, the deeper or more profound the message we are being called to receive. The pain you feel is there for a reason. It is exposing something within you. It is guiding you toward awareness and healing.

The underlying idea here is that nothing exists outside of our own minds. Everything we experience is the result of perspective and interpretation. If you don’t like the external reality, then the most powerful and effective thing you can do is make an internal shift.

Ho’oponopono is an ancient Hawaiian spiritual practice that emphasizes this point. It posits that healing yourself and nurturing your inner process influences the world around you. This is done through repentance, forgiveness, gratitude, and love.

It can be extremely difficult to fully understand our personal pain. It is pretty much impossible to comprehend the pain of another. The Ho’oponopono offers a way to work through all of this without getting hung up by the limitations of your mind. The effort is made simply and from the heart.

So how is this done, exactly?

  1. Repentance. Since all experience is in your mind and since everything is connected, when you encounter negativity or suffering it is because it exists inside of you. Acknowledge your personal responsibility here and apologize. Simply think or say, “I’m sorry.”
  2. Forgiveness. Ask for forgiveness. Don’t worry about who/what you’re appealing to or even what is being forgiven. Accept responsibility and then repent. Simply think or say, “please forgive me.”
  3. Gratitude. Pain and suffering are opportunities to learn and grow. Joy and abundance are blessings. This contrast creates unspeakable beauty. This is life. Simply think or say, “thank you.”
  4. Love. Love yourself. Love others. Love life and all its contrast. Love the challenges as well as the blessings. Fill your heart with the power of love. Simply think or say, “I love you.”

I’m sorry. Forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

This process may seem overly simple or a bit new-agey to some people, but it works. If you don’t believe me, look up Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len. He is a therapist who used the Ho’oponopono to completely transform a dysfunctional prison ward. Repeat the phrases to yourself in any order,  whenever you think of it.

Even if this practice is not your cup of tea, you would do well to recognize that the best way to overcome relationship challenges is through self reflection and personal development. Step out of blame, shame, confusion, control, and craving. Validation is not something to seek outside of yourself. Instead, build it from within. The next time you feel hurt or frustrated by a relationship, do some self reflection and ask yourself how you may be contributing to or creating your own suffering.

This is not easy and it’s not fun. You’re going to be forced to see some things in yourself that you might prefer to ignore. Be brave and take a good hard look anyway. Then consider what you need to do to change perspective and alter your behavior so that you can create a more positive experience. Offer yourself compassion and love throughout the process. You are an evolving human and this pain is a natural part of life. No one is perfect.

A difficult relationship is a call to grow. It serves as a reminder to seek comfort from within. When we love ourselves everything else around us falls beautifully into place.

Adina Arden Cooper

I'm a healer, a guide, a supportive companion. A storyteller, an artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals thrive and communities come together through counseling, coaching, and community building. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.