Creating the relationship you want
Most of us, when we stop to think about the state of our relatoinships, consider them as "doing okay." Most of us are content with that. Most of us believe that the occasional argument or harsh disagreement are all part and parcel of that relationship; that the eye-rolling, the criticism, the hurt we occasionally feel, are just normal. Because no-one is perfect, right?
True, but as Andy Capp's wife once said: "I'm not looking for perfection, just a darn sight less imperfection."
Every time we feel hurt, even a little bit, whether caused intentionally or not, that hurt goes into a metaphorical bag on our backs, and as it goes in it turns to resentment. And resentment weighs heavily on us. Resentment and contempt are the two things guaranteed to destroy a relationship.
Here are five things you need to do to create the relationship you really want.
1. Stop Competing
No relationship can survive being competitive. If every discussion is about proving we are right, if every argument is about winning, then the relationship is about power, it's not a partnership. Every time we criticise or cast blame, every time we roll our eyes, or call our partner names, demean or diminish them or dismiss their argument, we are unconsciously seeking to 'win', meaning our partner 'loses', and we cast a stone of hurt into that bag of resentment that weighs them down and will one day sink them, and the relationship. So stop trying to compete. Instead, share views, seek first to understand before making yourself understood, find the win-win answer.
2. Take responsibility for your part
If your partner is calling you names or criticising you, ask what you said or did to cause that. Even if only 2% of what they said was true, take responsibility for that, and then ask what is requested of you. If our partner says "you never listen...", consider that there is at least some truth in that. Instead of getting defensive, take responsibility for not listening as well as you could, then ask what and how you could do better. It quickly defuses the tension and strengthens the relationship bonds.
3. Assume positive Intent
Even the harshest of criticism levelled at us has a positive intent in a healthy relationship. If we are told "you're so stupid sometimes...", don't escalate the conflict by retaliating (as tempting as that might be) because that would then be about competing and "winning". Instead, say how that comment made you feel and ask what the positive intent was. Ask for the request behind the complaint; what was it you did that was 'stupid'. Be prepared to negotiate.
4. Put problems out in front of you
Relationship problems are magnified and cause further problems if we see them as coming between us. If you aren't coping very well with your mother-in-law living with you, you could see that as a problem coming between you and your partner. And that's when communication toxins appear. Instead, define the problem and, together with your partner, see it as something out in front of both of you, that you need to come together as a partnership to resolve.
The quality of our relationships is determined by the extent of our regard for our partner. If we always act and speak with respect, make requests instead of complaints, avoid competing with one another and tackle our problems as a partnership, we can build the healthy loving relationships we all want.
It's not enough to talk to one another, you need to be listening too; really listening. The kind of listening where you are not just waiting to speak, but instead actively paying attention to every word, every gesture, all the emotion lying under the surface. Before speaking, before trying to make yourself understood, it is important that you first understand your partner. If they are angry and being critical, find out why. Listening is the essence of relationship, the heart of respect. Listening makes everything else possible.
Share this article with your partner, discuss it and how you will implement these 5 things in your relationship. A healthy relationship is about partnership. Create an alliance with your partner, with behavioural agreements you both adhere to.