15-ish Rules for the Relationships in Your Life.

A few days ago, I posted 20-ish Personal Finance Rules To Teach Your Kids (Or Yourself). There I explained how this series started. In summary, I was snoozing on the couch with the family after hearing a financial horror story when this voice inside of me was like "Don't sleep! There's so much you need to teach the children!"

What followed was a brain dump at the computer. I tried to capture everything I had learned about personal finance over 30+ years of living. The kids (especially one of them!) don't listen to me now, but maybe they'll come seek this information in the future. After writing about finance, I thought it would be wise to branch out beyond money and explore other aspects of life that I have developed core beliefs in. Like I mentioned in the previous post, this is aimed at my children and I'm prioritizing simplicity. Take from it what you will and feel free to suggest amendments in the comments!

On Relationships:

Context: I have a strong set of values and principles I live by and a strong sense of justice. I find it hard to keep my mouth shut and as a result I have burnt bridges in the past when I felt like there was a strong pattern of injustice.

EyeDot on the other hand, while also having a set of values and principles, would rather choose to keep relationships intact rather than rock the boat and question or confront someone—she is much more diplomatic.

These approaches represent two ways of going through life, and as our marriage has grown we have learnt from each other so that our initial predispositions have become more nuanced. In other words, it is good to be a mix of these two.

All of the items below are meant to help you make your soul grow and be peaceful.

The world can be a lonely place and you may feel like a stranger, but relationships are still important. Hence, this list.

1. Have a good relationship with God by being grateful for what you have, being humble, and working for good, just causes. Remember and talk to God throughout your days, through good days and bad. Read translations of the Qur’an or other holy books and reflect on the themes that rise off the page.

Under A Tree in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

2a. Have a good relationship with yourself. Practice self-awareness, and treat yourself well. It is also important to develop a strong core conscience so that you do not compromise who you are by just following whatever the crowd is doing. In other words, try to be consistent, and "walk the talk.” Be your authentic self.

2b. This includes having a good relationship with your body. Keep it moving and fuel it with mostly vegetables.

3. Always assume good intent.* Until people give you a reason otherwise. [*Except random people on the internet!]

4a. Learn how to communicate your thoughts and feelings effectively. Often, and you’ll see this often in TV and Movies, conflict arises as a result of people choosing or not knowing how to explain how they feel or why they chose a particular course of action. And no, texting doesn't count as effective communication.

4b. At the same time, EyeDot has taught me that in some cases it is better not to say anything, as it will cause more conflict. See vocabulary word: TACT. You need to decide whether it is important to say something and possibly cause conflict, or just enjoy that person's company and let it go.

5. Be honest with God, yourself, and others.

6. Serve and be a resource for people around you and those outside your socioeconomic background. Be inclusive and welcoming. Approaching people with positivity will usually result in the Universe bringing positivity right back at you in ways you never imagined.

7. Don’t be afraid to apologize when you screw up. No matter how embarrassed you are or how much it hurts your ego. Otherwise you'll look like (and be) a jerk.

8. Fight people if they fight you. But forgiveness is always better. God’s advice in the Qur’an on rules of engagement, not mine.

9. Better to pass by ignorant people with peace. Ditto the above re: the Qur'an. Don't engage, just move along peacefully!

10. Modern media consists of conversations that are full of sarcastic banter and quips. Know that using sarcasm in real life is like walking on a tight rope. One wrong step, and you have inadvertently (or intentionally) used it as a weapon and you’ve hurt someone's feelings. Personally, I think it is better to stay away and be straightforward with people. I told EyeDot my feelings on this from the beginning of our marriage, and this ground rule has served us well.

11. At the time of this writing, on social, print, and television media, people are constantly expressing outrage about everyone and every thing. It is exhausting and unhealthy. And mostly, outrage doesn't fix anything. Try not to fall into this trap. A low information diet helps.

12. You're going to make mistakes. It is okay. Sometimes people will drift away from you as a result of something you did or said or for an entirely different reason. Sometimes you will drift away from them. People will come in and out of your life for various reasons, most of which you won't know. All of this is normal.

13a. Make and maintain connections with people. The more people you know, the more resources you have available to you, and the more people you can share your resources with. Many jobs, businesses, and other opportunities come through connections whether neighbors, online-friends, or life-long friends.

13b. Maintain connections to your cultural and religious communities. Cultural connections can be strong, and act as a safe refuge from the outside world. EyeDot and I have a vast Muslim, Malaysian, and Pakistani network. We use it and participate in it, through get-togethers, through staying at each other's houses, through giving charity, and even introducing couples! We actually have an official "Open House" policy for people we know through these cultural connections. There are countless times we've gone to places where we don't know anyone, and make connections to the Muslim community-- and suddenly there is an instant life-long friend or acquaintance and a warm place to sleep.

Together In A Mosque in Istanbul Turkey

14a. On finding a partner: Just because you have some imagined idea about what your ‘type’ is doesn’t mean that is what is best for you. Be open to that. For example: I spent so much time watching romantic comedies, Aamir Khan movies and browsing shaadi.com that it never crossed my mind that I would marry a woman from Malaysia with a child until I met them and then it all clicked. 

14b. Seek peace & tranquility in marriage. God, in the Qur’an speaks of marriage as a covenant (that’s fancy for serious agreement/contract) between two people and God. God uses the same language when referring to the messengers who were given the responsibility to spread the message of “One God, and do Good.” So treat it as such. Marriage should be a source of peace and tranquility for everyone involved. In previous generations, marriage was often a practical thing to do. Now, as a result of all sorts of forces, it is more about companionship and gender roles are flexible and fluid. If you are meant to stay single, that’s totally okay too. My goal as a parent was to help you be totally independent if you had to be. I highly suggest going through Susan Piver’s “The Hard Questions” even if you read it by yourself.

15. Have a good relationship with money.