Don’t look for it outside yourself.
You are the source of milk. Don’t milk others!
There is a milk-fountain inside you.
Don’t walk around with an empty bucket.
You have a channel into the Ocean, and yet
you ask for water from a little pool.
Beg for that love-expansion. Meditate only
on that. -Jelaluddin Rumi

I watched a lot of television and movies growing up. In the world portrayed on the screen it seemed that pleasing and loving others was the absolute best and most important thing to do in life.

My life is deeply enriched by the relationships I have with my loved ones. My relationships with others compliment my inner life – my relationship with self, nature, and the unseen, without which there would be nothing to enrich.

With Valentine’s Day drawing near, I want to clear up a few persistent and often unquestioned inaccuracies about human relationships. I want to scrutinize language because I believe the subtleties of words speak worlds about the beliefs upon which society hinges.

Maybe with things in their proper place, we can all connect more profoundly with each other, at last, inside an ocean of clarity.

Myth 1 :: We do things solely “for” or “because of” other people

We do things because of our own needs. (A great needs list here.) It is not possible to do anything “for” someone else unless that doing is somehow related to something we need.

When I reach out to my dear friends and they are busy with little time to call right back, I ask them to acknowledge my calls with a smiley face text message. I request this because I want to know they got my call. Underneath that though, I really want to feel seen and heard and know that I matter to my loved ones.

When my friends agree to this request it is because they are willing to help me get my needs met and want to contribute to me. They also want to know they are living life in alignment with their spiritual beliefs, and are meeting our collective needs for self-care, efficiency, and trust.

Even when we do things begrudgingly with a chip on the shoulder, it is often driven by our needs for acceptance, ease, and safety.

Everything we do is to meet some need we have inside even when it looks like the stimulus, the external cue for an inner state, is the reason. Don’t confuse stimulus with root cause.

Ultimately, whatever we do for others, we also do for ourselves. Interdependence is a fundamental reality of relationship.


Body-centered Writing Prompt: Shake out your legs, arms, and whatever you’re sitting on. Take slow deep breaths, close your eyes, and feel what is alive in you, notice how you feel, what you are thinking, the sensations in your body. Then take out a pen, paper, and go for 10 minutes starting with “I need…”

Are you moved by this post? I would love to hear if these words have been a contribution. If you have suggestions for future blog post topics, I welcome that too.

Text and images by Beandrea Terese Davis. Copyright 2010. Check with author before reprinting.

This is the first of a three-part series on Relationship Myths.