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Today, I just received the latest issues of Psychology Today which has a wonderful article called “The Love Fix–Get Beyond Your Expectations”. This article compiles research from the past few years on marriage/significant relationships. One of the main points of the article (and there are many) is that in relationships we expect perfection. We expect the ONE person we have chosen to be married to or commit to, to be perfect, to fulfill our every need and desire. By expecting perfection we don’t allow for our partner’s imperfections and tend to overly dramatize our partners humanity into tragedy. For example, the fact that our partner might not like PDA (public displays of affection) becomes all about us and the fact that they don’t really love us or they would show it in public. When really, PDA makes them uncomfortable and it has nothing to do with us.
I have talked about this before in two posts about Loving them Anyway-Part One and Part Two. But this article gave me a new perspective on the topic. In summary, it stated to have the right partner you have to BE the right partner–so yes some of relationship is about picking the right person for you but almost larger than that is being the right partner within the relationship. So showing up, holding the space, being present and recognizing that it’s not all about you.
As we walk through the world, most of us (me included, I have to confess) are pretty self absorbed we think most activities and interactions that happen around us are about us or a reflection of us. When in reality most of the time people aren’t thinking about us. Which as a side note, is why the find 3 reasons rule is so life changing!
But I think in relationship it is healthy and important when our partner engages in an activity that is annoying or responds in a way not to our liking to remind ourselves it might not be about me. Like the PDA example above. Or on an even simpler level, a client of mine was telling me the story of her husband. Every morning he gets out of the shower and doesn’t dry off and gets the shower mat sopping wet. When she gets out of the shower she doesn’t have a dry place to stand. To her this was a totally obvious consideration and the fact that he wasn’t engaging in a ‘common nicety’ showed that he didn’t really care for her. She would start her day in a huff each time she stepped on the soppy mat because she personalized his mistake. Eventually she checked it out with him and shared with him how much she hated stepping on the wet mat–he responded back that he never thought of it as a nicety and in the morning was only thinking about getting out of the shower and dressed as fast as possible so drying off in the shower never even dawned on him. As my client shared this story she said she couldn’t believe how much time she wasted thinking it was all about her–when in reality it had NOTHING to do with her. She told me recently that on occasion he still gets the map sopping wet–but it is her reaction that is different and it has become a source of humor for them rather than a trigger of hurt. That is the key–forgiveness. Yes, kudos to her for stating the need. More kudos to both of them for recognizing that the need might not always get met and they can still build each other up in the process. I admit that it is a simple example, but those silent misunderstandings and internalizations happen all the time, because we assume it is all about us.
According to the Psychology Today, article–the key to a happy relationship is to be engaged in a partnership where both people are trying to build the other up as much as possible. So that you are working together to build and bring out each others dreams/goals/positive qualities. That would be a powerful goal for any relationship but most especially our intimate ones. If we took a deep breathe and walked into the relationship with the attitude of how can I help you be the best you possible rather than how can I get my needs met, we would all be happier.
So starting today try these 2 new ideas on for size:
One: Remind yourself it’s not all about you. Recognizing that your partners idiosyncrasies or habits might not be because they are trying to bother you or hurt you. They might just be because they don’t know better or they are being genuinely themselves. So rather than internalize their behavior–check it out and apply some genuine understanding and forgiveness.
Two: Look at your partner and ask yourself how can my response help them achieve THEIR goals/their aspirations (not mine for them)? How can my response/action/reaction help them become the best person they can become?
What are your thoughts? What do you think are the keys to a lasting relationship?