We live in a time of enormous change, fast food, fast lives, and long working hours. When do we find time or make time for each other? For so many couples for whom the beginning of the relationship dance was ‘heaven’, thoughts like ‘He/she is the one for me… we’ll be together forever’ fall by the wayside. Sadly, statistics show divorce is on the increase in Australia.
Here’s an exercise for you: count up the number of couples you know who are really, really happy. Many people have forgotten the dance that is the gift of relationship. Many people in relationships are bored, not getting enough sex, stressing over money, not having the type of intimacy they want, not having enough depth of communication… and the list goes on.
Looking at patterns
So, what to do? First recognize that the person you are with is part of a pattern in your life. Perhaps there are similarities to your mother/father; in essence, a pattern that’s asking you to pay attention. It might be a pattern to help you see what’s really going on and to decode it so you can actually be in a relationship as two adults, not flipping between a three-year-old throwing a tantrum and a hurt, withdrawn grown up.
Unfortunately the three-year-old in us looks for whatever we didn’t get as children and we find someone (generally our opposite) who appears to show us those qualities. Of course their pattern is the exact opposite of ours so we come together and fall in love (when you fall anywhere you hurt yourself, so why should falling in love be any different?). Then, the upsets start and before we know it, we’re separating. If we don’t shift the original pattern, we find ourselves in the same position again. Some people just give up, put up with whatever the relationship is, and lick their wounds in a corner somewhere, complaining to their closest friends about what doesn’t work.
Communicating and making agreements
Relationships are the easiest things in the world to do badly and the hardest things in the world to do well. Why? Because they require constant attention. Like a baby, you have to nurture relationships and learn to communicate. Do you actually feel safe telling the truth? Most people don’t.
Do you have agreements? Do you have ways of communicating that don’t terrify the other person? Often, one partner will say “We need to talk” and the other immediately goes into: “What have I done, what’s wrong?” That’s because we rarely ‘want to talk’ about what’s right, only what’s wrong. And in whose opinion? If we can’t express ourselves clearly enough around our own needs, then our partner has no hope of interpreting what we say.
We need to find ways to communicate that the other person understands. Here’s a classic: I once had severe pains in the back of my legs during a fast. A friend rang and suggested to my partner that I get ‘sweet potato, tumeric, cinnamon, and butter’. I’d been studying poultices so I made up the concoction and used it on my legs. My friend rang back and I told her I had ruined two towels (tumeric-stained). With a choking voice she asked what I was doing with towels. It turned out I was supposed to cook and eat the sweet potato mash, not wear it!
So, this was an opportunity for choices, something each of us have every second of every day, especially in situations like this. Do I get mad or do I simply learn from it? I chose to laugh (it was funny!). How many of you hold onto things like this for weeks, months, even years, and bring them up in the heat of the moment? Does it help? Of course not, it gets to make you ‘right’ and your partner ‘wrong’.
Dealing with upsets
Here are some tips on dealing with upsets:
Stop the blaming (and the shame that follows) and definitely all criticism.
Ask specifically for what you want and remember, people thrive on appreciation and they are not mind readers.
Women, remember that men are do-ers, so please take notice of the things your partner does and acknowledge them.
Guys, what can you see and acknowledge in your beloved rather than take what she does for granted?
Have an agreement that if something comes up you will deal with it by:
Sitting together, eye to eye, each having a turn to share without interruption.
Agreeing that you are too upset right now to discuss it and then choosing a time within 24-hours where you are willing to come back to it.
Learn the art of language. Don’t ever say: “You make me feel sad when you do ‘x’”. Change it to: “when ‘x’ happens I feel really sad”. No blame, just facts.
Be willing to apologise. For some that’s the hardest thing in the world to do but the thing that makes the biggest difference.
Find something that will make you both laugh and use it when an upset begins to avoid it escalating.
Relationships are precious. Put in the work and learn how to do them differently, and together you can send ripples out into the world. Peace in your heart translates to peace in your relationship, which in turn translates to peace in the world.
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