As humans, most of us yearn for fulfilling relationships. They provide unlimited ways for us to learn, grow, thrive, and have fun!
In this one-of-a-kind book, best-selling authors don Miguel Ruiz Jr. and HeatherAsh Amara share their seven secrets to healthy, happy relationships:
Understanding and enacting these principles can help you at any stage in your intimate partnering, whether you’ve been with someone for many years or are currently single and want to prepare for a relationship.
The authors make clear that the principles in this book aren’t secrets because they are hidden away, but are more akin to undiscovered focal points that can lead to deeper, more meaningful connections.
Part of the secret, as you will see, is in the art of putting these ideas into practice day after day and year after year.
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Reward, Punishment, and Passive Aggressive Behavior
Sometimes we believe that in order to get what we want in a relationship, we need to coax our partners into behaving how we think they should. We usually accomplish this by offering some type of reward for the desired behavior, typically our love and affection. On the other side of the same coin, we may punish our partners for not behaving the way we want them to. We might berate them in emotional outbursts, or subject them to passive-aggressive behavior such as withholding our love and affection.
In these ways, we make our love conditional in an attempt to domesticate our partners into doing what we want them to do, instead of encouraging them to follow their heart, and be who they really are in the warmth and strength of our unconditional love.
Here’s a simple example of this in action.
Joe and Mary have been in a long-term committed relationship for many years. Although they have plans for a dinner at Joe’s parents’ house, Mary calls him that morning and tells him that some friends have an extra ticket to an event that night, and she asks Joe if it would be okay if she attended that instead of the dinner. Joe really wants Mary to come to the dinner, but instead of saying so, he tells her to go with her friends. Joe is secretly upset the rest of the day, and when Mary gets home that night after the event he is cold and withholds his affection and attention. Mary senses this distance and becomes resentful, choosing to withhold her love as well in retaliation for his punishment of her free choice.
If Joe and Mary had managed to communicate better, this issue might have been averted. We will explore how they could have done so in a moment, but for now let’s focus is on the motives and the energy created between the partners in this situation.
In this instance, not only is Joe punishing Mary by withholding love (as well as punishing himself), he is also letting Mary know that if she behaves this way in the future, she can expect more of the same. He is trying to influence and control her future behavior. Mary is sending a similar message—that punishment she deems unjust will be met with more punishment, rather than curiosity, understanding, or love. In this way, both parties are trying to domesticate each other to their respective points of view. As a result, the night might explode into an argument, or they might both go to bed carrying these negative emotions with them. As you can imagine, neither of these options are conducive to happiness.
Of course, it’s all so obvious from the outside. Most of us can spot this type of passive-aggressive and controlling behavior in others, but we have much more difficulty identifying it in our own relationships. We tend to be very attached to whatever beliefs compel us to act in these ways. This is especially true when we justify our actions by telling ourselves that we have our partner’s best interest at heart, or that we are trying to get them to behave in a certain way “for their own good.” In fact, some of us have been conditioned to believe that this kind of attempt to control our partner is part of the central definition of what love is.
The truth is that we don’t know what is best for anyone else, even when we have their best interests at heart. Everyone else, including your beloved, is on his or her own path. We really don’t know what is best for them, even when we think we do. Only by extending the spirit of freedom to our partners can we truly allow—and trust—that they will figure out what is best for them.
With passive-aggressive behavior, rather than expressing how we really feel, we pretend to be okay with a situation, pushing our fears and true desires down. In this way, we create an environment for feeling resentful at our partner, and we may even strike back at them as a result. This kind of exchange often contains the seed of conscious or unconscious manipulation, as we try to steer our partner to guessing that our actual wants and needs are different than the ones we are communicating. As you can imagine, neither person benefits when this type of behavior occurs.
Let’s look now at how Joe and Mary could have handled this situation differently. Had Joe instead chosen to speak his truth with vulnerability and extend the spirit of freedom to Mary, the conversation may have gone something like this:
Mary: “I know we have plans with your parents tonight, but my friends have an extra ticket to the opera. Do you mind if I go with them instead?”
Joe: “Well, I’m feeling torn on this. I really wanted you to come to dinner with my family, it’s important to me, and I will be disappointed if you can’t make it. At the same time I want you to do what you really want to do, so let’s talk about it more. Is going to the opera really important to you? How do you feel about it?”
By responding this way, Joe has opened the door for true communication to take place.
If you notice, Joe shared how he felt and then asked his partner for more information. Passive-aggressive behavior is often based on a need for control that comes from a fear that we will not get what we want or need from our partner—that we have to engineer it ourselves. We can make a braver and more vulnerable choice: to entrust our wants and needs to the shared actions within our partnership. We do this by not only sharing how we feel but also inviting our partner to have a conversation about the issue in hopes of finding a solution that works for both of us.
-don Miguel Ruiz Jr. & HeatherAsh Amara
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HEATHERASH AMARA is the founder of Toci—the Toltec Center of Creative Intent, based in Austin, TX, which fosters local and global community that supports authenticity, awareness, and awakening. She is dedicated to inspiring depth, creativity, and joy by sharing the most potent tools from a variety of world traditions. HeatherAsh studied and taught extensively with don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, and continues to teach with the Ruiz family. She brings this openhearted, inclusive worldview to her writings and teachings, which are a rich blend of Toltec wisdom, European shamanism, Buddhism, and Native American ceremony. She is the author of the bestselling Warrior Goddess Training series, The Toltec Path of Transformation and No Mistakes: How You Can Change Adversity into Abundance. www.heatherashamara.com
don Miguel Ruiz Jr. is a Nagual, a Toltec Master of Transformation. He is a direct descendant of the Toltecs of the Eagle Knight lineage and the son of don Miguel Ruiz. By combining the wisdom of his family’s traditions with the knowledge gained from his own personal journey, he now helps others realize their own path to personal freedom. He is the author of The Five Levels of Attachment, Living a Life of Awareness, The Mastery of Self, andDon Miguel Ruiz’s Little Book of Wisdom.
Visit him at www.donmiguelruizjr.com