For about about two years, all I researched was the topic of love. I guess I was obsessed. A loving relationship was something I so desperately wanted, but I found it very difficult to be in relationships that weren’t full of conflict. Through my reading, watching and listening to people speak about love and it’s challenges, I was trying to figure out if there was some formula you could follow to make it work. And not just to make it functional, but to make it awesome.
As time passed, I consciously began to employ the concepts I was learning. I started to use them in my relationship with my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) and after some resistance, he began to apply them too. In the beginning it took a lot of effort – mental reminders, and physical energy not to jump into old patterns of doing things. Over time it became easier and now it’s pretty natural. It’s not like my husband and I never have disagreements, but our arguments are on a different level now. We know we have each other’s back.
So what concepts can you use to create an awesome relationship?
1. If one person loses the argument, you both lose.
We had to let go of trying to win. Whenever one person “wins” the argument, it may feel like a win in that moment and perhaps for a few days after, but in reality the person who loses ends up feeling resentful. Why should they have to hold all the blame for a misunderstanding? The losing party usually distances themselves from the winner, because why would anyone want to be with someone who makes them feel like a failure?
2. People fight to connect.
This is one of the most important concepts we both learnt. When two people argue, no matter what words they use on the surface, the underlying purpose is to fight for connection. Have I lost you? Stay with me…
You’re at a party and your partner snidely remarks, “Thanks for not even thinking to introduce me to those people. You left me standing there looking like an idiot. They probably think I’m just some woman you met 5 minutes ago. You’re such a/an (insert your favourite insult here).”
In this moment, you may be left a bit dumbstruck. My father-in-law refers to these sort of remarks as “scud missiles” – where the hell did that come from?! You may be tempted to tell your partner she’s totally misreading the situation and overreacting. BUT HOLD UP!!!!!!!
…Do you want to spend the rest of the weekend walking on eggshells? …I didn’t think so.
3. Empathy – we teach it in kindergarten, yo.
Whether you intended to or not, it’s clear that you’ve hurt your partners feelings. So instead of rubbing salt into the wound by telling them that they’re nuts, it’s really important that you tune in here.
You see, when someone gets hurt, it’s not up to us to tell them that they have no right to feel that way. Feelings happen…we don’t choose to have them, they just occur. Feelings arise from our deepest sense of ourselves – sometimes we’re not even aware of what they mean or why they’ve surfaced, but they’re here so let’s look at them.
4. The responsibility is not all on you!
Now, I understand that you might be thinking, “I didn’t mean to hurt her…why do I have to do all the empathising after I’ve just been called a/an (beeeeeeeeeep)?”
You’re right. This goes back to the concept of no winning, no losing. The hurt party has a responsibility too! YEY to equality!! Just because your partner hurt you does not mean that you can go around calling him a doo-doo-head and breaking his action figures. We’re adults, and we don’t do that anymore.
5. Watch your language!
The hurt party has to be aware of the language they use. “You ignored me” is different to “I felt ignored.” Do you see how? In the first example, you are accusing, blaming. Your partner will automatically go on the defensive, “No I didn’t!”, because let’s face it, it probably wasn’t their intention.
When you use the word “I”, you take ownership of your feelings. “When you spoke to those people and didn’t introduce me, I felt ignored.”
Important note here: “I felt ignored” not “you made me feel ignored” – no one makes you feel anything. A person’s actions may trigger an emotion in you. So let’s not place blame again.
6. Imagine if you felt that way
“I felt ignored” – hmmm, feeling ignored, have I been there before? That’s right, dude, it’s time to really use that empathy skill! You know this emotion: when you want to be acknowledged, but you’re not. Now imagine feeling unacknowledged by the most important person to you… And in front of others!! It would suck, right?? You might feel like maybe your partner isn’t that happy/proud to be with you. There’s that connection signal! “I want to be acknowledged because I want to know we are connected.” “I want to belong with you.”
7. APOLOGISE! 🙂
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for you to feel like you’re unimportant to me. You are so important to me. I’ll make sure to introduce you next time.”
And do it. Guys love to fix things right? Fix it by not creating the same situation again.
Now, I know that I depicted the woman as the hurt party and the guy as the hurter (hurter?)…but, the roles switch all the time, so obviously this applies to all relationships – hetero, homo, bi, and even if you really love your cat.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful. I promise that when you employ these concepts and practice them over and over again, they do wonders to the quality of your relationship.
So how about you? What are the relationship blocks you usually find yourself in? And how do you tackle them? Let’s talk in the comment section below 🙂