By Alan Cohen
In the early 1900s, a European man named Frederic had a dream to travel to the United States. At that time, air travel had not been developed, so he booked passage on an ocean liner. Such a trip required all of his savings, but it was worth it.
Considering that he could not afford the luxury meals the ship offered, Frederic brought with him a supply of cheese and crackers. While the other guests sat in the ornate dining room enjoying lavish multi-course meals, Frederic sat on a bench on the deck, rationing out his simple meals for the duration of the cruise.
One day, another passenger passed Frederic eating his Spartan meal. “Why are you sitting out here eaten cheese and crackers?” the fellow asked.
“I can’t afford the dining room meals,” Frederic answered.
The passenger laughed. “Don’t you know that the meals are included in the price of the voyage?”
Frederic, astonished, put aside his cheese and crackers and entered the lavish dining room that he deserved all along. The second half of his voyage proved far more enjoyable than the first.
Like Frederic, many of us settle for meager rations in life while we are entitled to enjoy a great banquet. One of the areas we tend to starve ourselves in is relationships. Let’s take a look at how we can trade a cheese-and-cracker relationship for a gourmet feast.
Most people believe that they are missing something in a relationship. Either they are single and wish they had a partner, or they are with someone and wish their relationship was better. It is a rare person who says, “I am completely satisfied with my relationship status.”
There are two ways to improve your relationship status: One is to find a relationship, and the other is to trade your current relationship for a better one. If you are in a toxic, abusive, or dead relationship, there’s no sense trying to fix it. You will do better to quit fighting an uphill battle, and instead let go, take stock of what you have learned, and move on. Many people stay in unhappy relationships too long and wish they had had the courage to leave years earlier.
The other way to get into the gourmet dining room is to do your inner work to upgrade your current relationship. It is tempting to think, “I’ll find someone better.” In some cases, you can, but in most cases, you end up trading one set of problems for another. Your current partner meets seven out of ten of your relationship criteria, and your new partner meets a different seven out of ten. So, you haven’t really upgraded; you’ve just rearranged the furniture.
The biggest mistake people in “cheese-and-cracker” relationships make is to think, “If I can just get my partner to change, I will be happy.” Yet, changing another person’s behavior so that you feel better is never a worthy or practical goal. If you’ve tried to change your partner, you know this doesn’t work. You just set yourself up for frustration and the same argument keeps recycling in different forms.
If, however, you are willing to do your inner homework and try to change your attitude about your relationship, you can make real progress. There are two elements to this monumental move: First, move from deficit vision to appreciation vision. Quit complaining about what your partner isn’t and start celebrating who they are. When you first met this person, there were lots of things you loved about them. Over time, you have drifted from what’s right to what’s wrong. If you turn your rudder back to what’s right, you can enjoy so much more.
The second element in the crucial shift is to give more of what you wish to receive. In any situation in which you perceive that something is missing, what is missing is what you are not giving. The illusion is that if your partner would give more, you would be happier. The truth is, if you would give more, you would be happier—more validation, more appreciation, more patience, more kindness, more communication, more support. When you invest those noble qualities in your relationship, you are the immediate recipient of those blessings. They are your fastest ticket to the main dining room.
What better time than the present to take stock of where you are settling for “cheese and crackers,” not just in your intimate relationship, but in all of your relationships and all of your life. Jesus said, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The purpose of your spiritual journey is to discover that you deserve the great banquet and claim it. No matter how “cheesy” your relationships or life have been, like Frederic, you can make the remainder of your voyage a world-class experience.
Alan Cohen is the author of many inspirational books including the bestselling, A Course in Miracles Made Easy, and his new illuminating guide, The Master Keys of Healing. Become a certified holistic life coach through Alan’s life-changing training program beginning in September. For information on this program and Alan’s books, videos, audios, online courses, retreats, and other inspirational events and materials, visit www.alancohen.com.