Better relating — 6 Ideas

Bet­ter relat­ing — Of all the ways to Deep­en Rela­tion­ships, here are 6 of my favourites

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relationship
And when we grow up, I’ll spend all my time mak­ing you a bet­ter per­son!
Hey! Stop play­ing with that stick and lis­ten to me!


I sus­pect that most folk do not exam­ine their rela­tion­ship—except when things are off the rails.

There’s a ten­den­cy to think 

  • that rela­tion­ships are sup­posed to “just work,” and
  • that the pur­pose of find­ing a part­ner is to have some­one there to mag­i­cal­ly meet your needs.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

To quote David Schnarch, in “Pas­sion­ate Mar­riage,” a pri­ma­ry rela­tion­ship is a cru­cible. In oth­er words, the heat of the rela­tion­ship is the “thing” that makes the crucible’s con­tents pure. Thus, in the heat of dia­log and pas­sion, the cou­ple enters into a prov­ing and refin­ing ground that makes each per­son more “him or herself.”

the finger that points

This is decid­ed­ly dif­fer­ent from the norm. The norm is all about a bat­tle for supe­ri­or­i­ty and “right­ness.” Peo­ple in stuck rela­tion­ships tend to believe that there is only one way to see things, only one view of the world, one view of how to relate, etc.

And coincidentally, that correct view is held by the person espousing it!

Almost no one in a dys­func­tion­al rela­tion­ship is say­ing, “Your way is the right way.” No, emphat­i­cal­ly they are say­ing, “My way is the right way.”

I do not believe in “right” ways. I believe in per­son­al growth, and this is best fos­tered in the cru­cible, the heat­ed con­tain­er, of inti­mate relationship.

The thing I love best about my rela­tion­ship is that Dar­bel­la sees right through me and my games, and choos­es to hang around with me any­way. And vice versa. 

I can’t remem­ber the last time some­thing I said or did sur­prised her, and vice ver­sa. She knows me. And she calls me on my stuff. And vice ver­sa. This is the basis of our relationship.

1. In good relationships, there is redirection to what’s really going on—we describe this as “calling each other out.”

Call­ing out is not crit­i­ciz­ing or “mak­ing wrong.”

Call­ing each oth­er on our stuff” is help­ing each oth­er to snap out of dream­land, so that each of us pays atten­tion to the sto­ry we are spinning.

Exam­ple: Some­one says, “My spouse real­ly makes me angry.” I would ask, “Why do you choose to anger your­self over your spouse?” 

Now, this shifts every­thing. It helps the hear­er shift into a place of becom­ing respon­si­ble for his / her feelings.

The ini­tial state­ment, on the oth­er hand, can only open a dis­cus­sion about the sup­posed flaws of the spouse, as per­ceived by the speaker. 

This can have only a cou­ple of purposes:

  • 1) to get agree­ment that the spouse is a jerk, or
  • 2) to get sympathy.

Nei­ther is par­tic­u­lar­ly helpful.

Deciding that another person is “making you angry” is silly, and changes nothing either about the other person or the situation. 

Most stuff we anger our­selves over is the same stuff we always anger our­selves over. Some­one does “x” and I decide that this behav­iour dis­agrees with my fan­ta­sy about what the per­son ought to be doing. So, I blame the oth­er per­son for not coop­er­at­ing with my fan­ta­sy, then I make myself angry.

Call­ing some­one out when they use non-respon­si­ble lan­guage, (for exam­ple) involves not bit­ing on provoca­tive state­ments, not join­ing in on blam­ing, but sim­ply invit­ing one’s part­ner to cor­rect their language. 

Once I remem­ber I am anger­ing myself over some­thing that is out of my con­trol (the behav­iour of anoth­er,) I might be moved to let it go, or to select a behav­iour that I can take, as opposed to sim­ply blaming.


Note: If you are not in a rela­tion­ship, and want to do a much bet­ter job find­ing a part­ner that suits you, have a look at my book, Find Your Per­fect Part­ner. You’ll find the tools you need to engage your brain!


2. In good relationships, there are no secrets.

masked
Mask? What mask?

Who I am, how I am, and what I am feel­ing and think­ing must be made avail­able to my part­ner. And I mean the direct experience.

A client once described get­ting angry with her hus­band. “So I spent the next sev­er­al hours telling him how angry I was.” I asked her if she actu­al­ly got angry, as in yelling, stomp­ing about. She crossed her arms over her chest, and crossed her legs tight­ly, and said, “I’m not inter­est­ed in going there.” 


Express­ing anger direct­ly fol­lows the pat­tern of # 1, above.

Say, “I am anger­ing myself,” not “you make me angry.” 

Then go ahead and pound a pil­low or stomp about. 

The anger is enact­ed as a clear state­ment of, “This is what I saw (heard) from you, and I am anger­ing myself, and I want to yell a bit before I process it.”

We express our emo­tions appro­pri­ate­ly, direct­ly, and safe­ly. We are then able to move on. Repressed emo­tions always come back to haunt you.

After all, talk­ing about anger with­out learn­ing to safe­ly express anger (or any oth­er emo­tion, of course) is like the dif­fer­ence between describ­ing an orgasm and hav­ing one.

In good rela­tion­ships, the fil­ters and the eva­sions are set to “off.”

At the same time, and this is essen­tial, I am com­plete­ly self-respon­si­ble. I admit to cre­at­ing my expe­ri­ence, my inter­pre­ta­tions and my feel­ings, and I don’t attempt to hide any of it. A pri­ma­ry rela­tion­ship is the place to be ful­ly alive, and part of being alive is enact­ing all of our feelings—not just the “fun” ones—safely and directly .


3. In good relationships, both people are respectful of the personhood, beliefs, and essence of their partner.

The key here is respect, (high regard, admi­ra­tion.) That this is not the norm in most rela­tion­ships is obvious.

No mat­ter how it is described, most rela­tion­ships are about control.

By con­trol, I mean that one or both of the part­ners attempts to force or manip­u­late their part­ner into doing life their way. 

  • Force is, “Unless you… I’ll pun­ish you by…” 
  • Manip­u­la­tion is, “If you do this… THEN I’ll do that…”

Respect is, “Hmm. You see it this way and I see it that way. Interesting.”

The piece I’ve nev­er under­stood is the arro­gance of think­ing that, just because I’m mar­ried to, or in rela­tion­ship with some­one, that some­how this gives me the right to change that per­son.

And at the same time, I think that the oth­er per­son has absolute­ly no right to expect me to change. Because I, of course, am right, and (s)he is wrong.

Respect for per­son­hood — this is my way of say­ing that my part­ner is whole and com­plete as she is, and also remains whole and com­plete as she changes with time. In oth­er words, she is as she is, and how she is is some­thing I choose to find delightful.

Respect for beliefs — I still laugh at “dis­cus­sions” Dar and I have had over buzzy top­ics like fam­i­ly mem­bers, edu­ca­tion, ther­a­py, etc. There are wide dif­fer­ences in our per­spec­tives, and nei­ther of us will budge. I know that I want her to think like me, because I argue so hard. How­ev­er, at the end of the day, what Dar believes is what she believes, and it’s the same for me.

Respect­ful of essence — each of is here, I believe, to ful­fill a per­son­al des­tiny or pur­pose. Our skill set, our way of being, is intrin­sic, and lies just under the sur­face, gen­tly tug­ging us to get on with it. This essence is the truth of us, and again, I’m amazed at how many peo­ple think it is their right to demand that their part­ner change their essence.

Respect is only pos­si­ble if I am will­ing to accept my part­ner as (s)he is. To do this, I have to drop my desire to teach, lec­ture or control.


4. In good relationships, there is no right and wrong. There is acceptance and cucuriosity.

lecture

Well, it cer­tain­ly seems like there is right and wrong. 

You may bump your nose against an, “I don’t enjoy doing that” sce­nario, and that’s OKThere’s noth­ing wrong about the thing you do not enjoy, and it is your right to not do it. Get­ting into the judg­ment game proves noth­ing, as your belief about right and wrong is only and always about you.

Accep­tance and curios­i­ty, on the oth­er hand, open doors. You get the oppor­tu­ni­ty to explore and attempt, and even if you decide to only do some­thing once, you’ve grown with the experience.

Most peo­ple I know actu­al­ly aren’t very adven­ture­some, and real­ly don’t push their bound­aries and lim­its very much at all, and it seems odd to me that, giv­en how lit­tle exper­i­men­ta­tion they do, they have so many opin­ions about stuff they’ve nev­er tried. 

I say, “If you are afraid of some­thing, do that next.”

Being open to new pos­si­bil­i­ties, while drop­ping the judge­ment is the best way to deep­en a relationship.


5. Good relationships are engaged, passionate relationships.

Pas­sion­ate engage­ment is the will­ing­ness to stick your neck out so that your part­ner sees the real you. 

Most­ly, peo­ple hide.

They seem to think that their part­ner, the per­son they are sup­posed to be the most inti­mate with, should nev­er see the “truth” of them. They stuff their anger, hide their pas­sions, and walk around care­ful­ly, lest they ruf­fle any feathers.

We pro­pose active engage­ment. 

By this I mean let­ting Dar know exact­ly and com­plete­ly where I stand, what’s up for me, and what I am feel­ing. All the time. 

We do this by prac­tic­ing total honesty.

Sure, some­times I make myself uncom­fort­able telling her what’s up for me, but I know the dan­ger of keep­ing that stuff to myself. 

Now remem­ber, this rev­e­la­tion is being done in the con­text of the above points. 

  • I am not being pas­sion­ate­ly hon­est in order to change Dar, or manip­u­late her into doing something. 
  • I am being reveal­ing to let her know more about me, and in this way, to deep­en our intimacy.


Note: And if your present rela­tion­ship needs work, well… check out The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever. It’s my rela­tion­ships book… you’ll find all the help you need!


6. In good relationships, there is no compromise.

Com­pro­mise nev­er works. 

If I com­pro­mise, I tend to only think about what I gave up. So, when Dar­bel­la and I dis­agree, we sit down, and we talk, and we stay with it until both of us can agree with our deci­sion, 100%.

In oth­er words, we are not 3‑year-olds; we do not stomp our feet and demand that we get our way. We are adults, and we come to consensus.

Not always easy, but I only remem­ber 2 times in 38 years that it’s tak­en us longer than an hour.

Because we are not playing games.

Peri­od.

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is known on the web as the Sim­ple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Pri­vate Prac­tice Coun­sel­lor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the lat­est being The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever.

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