Consider the “We.” Every relationship has three parties involved – the you, the me and the shared space of the “WE.” However, we are not inclined to think this way. In a winner take all philosophy, the relationship becomes about the “me” whereby our partner submits to our needs and wants or the relationship becomes about the “you” whereby we submit our needs and wants to our partner. It becomes a quid pro quo, us vs. them, win vs. lose. A zero sum game. I either give or get, receive or be taken from. Comparatively, in a relational framework, the WE becomes supreme. In other words, help me help you. If I give to my partner, that helps the WE which helps me. Everyone wins. Redraw your relational map and see it make a ton of difference in your interactions.
Learn to WAIT. The only place you have the right to say what you want to say how you want to say it is either as a two-year old with very skilled parents or in the office of your therapist. Other than that, you just ain’t allowed to be so uncontained and have it not hurt your relationships, personally and professionally. Develop some filters, a containing boundary. WAIT stands for “Why Am I Talking?” Before you open your mouth and have demons pour forth, ask yourself that question. Is what I am about to say relational? Is it helpful to me and to the person I am speaking with? If not, keep the trap closed. If that is not possible, buy some duc tape. It works wonders.
Don’t Take it Personally. It just ain’t about you. Before we let other people’s comments and looks penetrate us to the point that we melt into a pile of shame and despair, ask yourself the question: is it true or not true? Is there something here that I need to take in and understand about myself or is this so totally not about me and therefor, it needs to stay outside the gates of my protected boundary? Learning to filter incoming data this way can save many a heartache. Other people would love to give you their stuff to carry around. Don’t be so quick to volunteer to take it in when it shows up at the doorstep of your heart. And as an additional benefit, if I don’t make it about me, I then don’t have to waste energy protecting and defending my esteem. Rather, I can focus on you and what you need from me. In other words, I am more available for intimacy by being less self-involved. Now that will help your relationships!
Stay on Your Side of the Net. Learning to be relational is like playing a good game of tennis. I am only responsible for the returns I hit on my side of the net. I am not responsible for how you play or for running around the net and hitting the ball for you. I can only do what is within the realm of reality for me. At the end of the day, I get to look at myself in the mirror. I get an “A” if the choices and actions I made in the relationship were ones of conscious and intentional integrity for the “WE.” That is all I can do. I have to let go of the rest.
Eat Humble Pie by Owning Your *@!&. There are no innocent parties here. When a relationship moves from harmony to disharmony, we each contributed a piece. Own it. It is just pride. And if pride is your be all and end all, then go ahead and commit to being alone. Swallow the pie and lead with your contribution. Such an act will surprise you in how quickly it turns the energy around in a relationship.
Learn to Repair. The survival and growth of any relationship depends on one’s ability to repair. And because disharmony is inevitable, repair is essential. Admit what you contributed. Say what you will do differently in the future. Make a request of your partner as opposed to speaking endless nagging complaints. Move to a place of warmth as opposed to contempt and retaliation.
Grieve What You Will Never Get. Relationships are the best opportunity we have to nurture and feed the human soul. But even at their best, they lack perfection. No one will ever meet your needs 100% of the time, 100% the way you want them to. So, we lower our standard to the “good enough.” We do this by grieving what we cannot get so that in turn, we are then able to fully embrace what we can.