Friday, January 22, 2010

Love Relationships are Difficult: God's Gift to Help Us Grow Up

The first page of Scott Peck's best selling book from 1974 states "Life is difficult..... all problems result from a person's resistance to accepting that fact". This statement is profoundly true, especially when it comes to two people negotiating their needs and wants getting met in a love relationship. Once the honeymoon phase a of a relationship is over and both partners become exhausted at showing their partner only the best parts of themselves- both partner's will begin to share and be who they really are. The following are some of the painful patterns that partners frequently fall into.

1) If You Love Me You Should Know What I Need: Having expectations of a loved one that have yet to be clearly communicated is a set up for hurting your loved one and feel hurt yourself. All of us grew up in families that had different and unique ways of communicating needs and wants.

2) Needing to Win and Have the Last Word: I'm not sure how getting the last word in became associated with "winning the argument", but this need to "win" is based on the fear of acknowledging your mistake. Many couples don't realize that the ability to be accountable and acknowledge mistakes is one of the best relationship healing tools. Establish a pattern of apologizing to each other if you made a mistake or hurt your partners feelings. It is important that both partners are able to agree to disagree and move on. Relationships with winners and losers don't last.

3)Holding Grudges: You are not expected to accept everything; but, holding onto grudges does nothing but drain your own personal energy. The truth is that personal relationships do not hold onto old hurts and misunderstandings. The longer couples use old resentment's to beat each other over the head with, the closer they will get to a relationship ending.

4)Timing Counts-Take Time Outs and Let Emotions Cool: All conflicts involve intense emotional responses which have both partners not responding to one another, in words and actions, with any rational thought involved. It is mandatory that both partners take a time out with putting some emotional and preferably physical distance until emotions have cooled. It is also mandatory that at some point, when both partners are cooled down, come back together and talk through the conflict. If this does not happen the unresolved conflict turns into a grudge.

5)Stick to One Topic at a Time: This is very important, and usually easy to do if both partners do not have many outstanding grudges. If the grudges have not been let go of or resolved, it will turn in one attempting to "one up" the other by bringing up past painful issues.

6)Establish a Difference Between Your Needs and What is Needed from Your Partner: For example: You might need your partner to pick up your daughter from day care because you have to work late. You might want your partner to be more spontaneous and outgoing in social settings.

7)Spending Time Together and Apart: It is essential for both partners to have "couple time" and time apart other than time spent at work. If couple time does not get scheduled in doing some leisure activity at least once a week the relationship will emotionally die over time. Conversely, both partners need individual time regularly away from each other doing things they enjoy doing.

8)Speak Less, Listen More: This requires some maturity and discipline. Truly listening doesn't mean thinking about what you want to say next as your partner is talking. It means stopping what you are doing and being as emotionally present as possible. Take the time to listen with your ears and your heart. Try to not read into everything that is said, thinking that it must be about you. 99% of the time it's not. Do not interrupt, and if needed, clarify what you heard with something like "what I heard you say was....". This can help avoid misunderstanding and conflict.

9)Forgiveness: This a powerful and important factor in maintaining healthy relationships. However, real forgiveness requires that we truly forget the experience. If we forgive one minute, and next the misdeed is brought up- this is not true forgiveness. When we make mistakes, think how much better we feel with others forgiving and forgetting.