Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Keep It Simple

I regularly hear from friends that they deeply admire the relationship that Mark and I have. They tell me that they want to create for themselves a relationship like ours. I agree with them; Mark and I have a wonderful and amazing relationship. Let me tell you our secret: we keep things simple.

I believe that, if you integrate the following five points into your relationship you will have a lot of fun together.

1. Believe that your partner has the best of intentions
When Mark and I got married, our only commitment was to love each other more each day than the day before. Picture that: a promise to grow and expand the universe of our relationship in the same way the physical universe expands. When you grow your love more every day, there is no space for doubt regarding the intentions of your partner. I believe that Mark at all times has the best intentions for me in our relationship no matter how he shows up.

For example, the other day Mark told me that if there were one thing he could change about me, it would be making me more consistent. I could have taken this comment as criticism, and made up that he didn't love me as much as he once did. But just as easily, I could take it as an authentic conversation in which Mark said these things to help me gain new insights in myself.

Believing that your partner wants the best for you is crucial in creating a great relationship.

2. Say what you want
The other day, I heard a story about a married couple who went to counseling sessions to see if they could bring new life to their relationship.

Throughout their 18-year marriage the husband would often walk into the kitchen, grab a paper towel and blow his nose.  Each time he did this, his wife would ask, "Doesn't that hurt your nose?  Wouldn't you rather use a tissue?"

The husband would respond, "No thanks, I'm fine with the paper towel."

In the counseling sessions, the wife brought up the fact that she'd always found his blowing his nose in the kitchen to be "disgusting".  She had wished that he would simply go blow his nose in the bathroom.

The husband had been totally unaware that his wife had these issues with his behavior. He would have happily complied if she'd simply stated what she wanted.

I regularly see this pattern in relationships.  For example, a woman says to her friend, "I don't really like baseball, but my husband does, so we always watch all the games.  I'm really getting tired of it."

Instead of telling her husband what she wants and finding a solution, she complains to someone else, someone who has no influence on the situation.

By simply stating what we want, we clean the air quickly and create room for enjoyment and pleasure.

3. Take nothing personally
This sounds simple, but it seems to be a challenge for a lot of people. Let me give you some examples of things that people take personally:
My husband is working eighty hours a week and is grumpy all the time.  I think he prefers his job to me...

She's wearing that ugly red sweatshirt just to irritate me...

When he makes a drink for himself, he never asks me what I want. He doesn't care about me...

She was crying again last night. She just wants to make me feel guilty...
Your partner does things for his or her reasons. Your partner may sometimes make choices you would not make. It's not about you!

When this happens, take yourself out of the equation.  Ask questions that give your partner room to explore his or her challenges.  Don't insert yourself into the logic.

4. Don't assume

I can't tell you how many times I've seen people get completely upset about something that never happened.  This is a classic result of making assumptions rather than asking a question.  Now, if you read item number one, then you'll see that there are some assumptions that I endorse.  The assumptions I'm referring to here are "negative" assumptions.

I have a friend who's girlfriend is insanely jealous.  Each time he shows up later than he had planned, she assumes he's been with another woman.  Each time his phone rings or a text message shows up, she wants to know who sent it.  She assumes that he is cheating or is going to cheat.  You can imagine the long term impact on a relationship.

Consider the following situations.  What assumptions do you make?
Your partner is an hour late picking you up...

Your partner agrees to wash the dishes before leaving the house.  You come home to find the sink stacked with dirty dishes...

You see a thousand dollar charge on your credit card bill attributed to your partner's card, but you can't make out what the charge is for...

As you walk into the room, your partner quickly shuts off his or her computer...
Years of assumption build up like plaque on teeth, layer upon layer upon layer.  If you want a great relationship, avoid the build-up by simply asking instead of assuming.

5. Enjoy each other
If you're together, then there must be things that you enjoy or have enjoyed doing together.  It might be talking together, it might hiking, it might be playing chess, or working in the garden, or sex, or cooking...

For Mark and me, it's often the simple things.  For example, tonight we went to the kitchen and I cleaned dishes while Mark cooked.  Later, we went and worked on a song that I'm learning to sing.  Mark sometimes refers to our romantic evenings on the couch sitting next to each other writing software.

The thing is that, whatever we do together, it can be really enjoyable.  It doesn't require trips to Paris or expensive dinners in New York or long planned outings.  All it takes is choosing to enjoy being together, no matter what we're doing.

It's Up to You
I guarantee that, if you actively and consistently pursue the five activities I've outlined above, you'll have an amazing relationship.

What about starting with just one or two? For example, you and your partner could decide that, from now until Saturday, neither of you will take anything personally!  If you catch yourself or the other taking something personally, you'll point it out.  If it's pointed out to you that you're taking something personally, you agree not to take it personally and get defensive, but instead ask, "what do you mean?"

Have really great relationship week!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on delivering on yesterday's promise of a blog posted early! Also, thanks for this blog. As you know, I also admire and treasure you and Mark's relationship. In fact, I find it so much easier to accept all the "dysfunctional" relationships in my life. I find that a real source of anger for me in a relationship that's not working well has been a belief on my part that I am trapped in that kind of life because it just doesn't get any better than that. Knowing that a better way to be with each other not only is possible but can be seen right before my eyes has really opened up my view of the world and helped me to chill out and take things as they come. I'm grateful as well for you suggestions as they are concrete practices that I can use in my relationships to make them better.
    Love Always,


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