Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Little Things

What makes a great relationship? Answers abound from theoretical to practical. Whole sections of bookstores are dedicated to the topic. Everyone has a theory and more than enough advice to offer.

Some say a great relationship takes commitment and hard work. Some say that the key is to have alignment of your most fundamental beliefs. Some say that the key is complete honesty and openness and others that you need to know what to say and what not to say.

I think that much of what makes a great relationship comes down to the little things that you do day-to-day, things that you might consider trivial or inconsequential. King Solomon said that it's "the little foxes that spoil the vine." In other words, it's not the "big" issues that wear away at a relationship, it's the small ones that occur on a daily basis. They're so small that you'd hesitate to call them issues delegating them instead to the category of incompatibility.

Points of Compatibility
Let's say that you're someone who bounds out of bed in the morning ready to go and your partner is someone who likes to sleep in and then take a long time to get out the door.

Let's say that your partner loves to cuddle at night and you really need your space. That's a third of your life where either of you might be denied something meaningful to you.

Let's say that you make quick decisions and your partner really likes to take his time.

Some incompatibilities stem from likeness. You both like to talk, but not to listen. You both like to eat, but not to cook. You both like to drive. You both like to be in charge.

Some compatibilities stem from differences. You like to talk, she likes to listen. You like to cook, she likes to eat. You like to drive, he likes to ride. You like having a boss, she likes being the boss.

All these little things add up and they're easy to miss when you're dazzled by love. It's not even that you miss them. You just decide that they're not that important, or worse, that your partner will change over time, that he'll come around.

How Compatible Are You?
A fun way to gauge compatibility and identify points of incompatibility is to sit down with your partner and write down as specifically as possible everything you want from your relationship. Do this together, but without looking at one another's answers. It helps to identify categories before hand: sex, meals, sleep, exercise, outdoor activities, indoor activities, talk time, displays of emotion, friends, etc.

Of course any solid relationship involves a give-and-take. So, for every item that you write down on the what-I-want side of the page, write down a corresponding what-I-want-to-give in exchange for what you want.

Once you're done, sit together and compare your lists. You may be surprised on where you're compatible and where you not.

Even Then
Compatible or not, there are some basic tennets that can help you improve your relationship no matter how good or bad it is.
  1. Never take anything personally, even if it was meant to be personal. Any time someone says or does something, even if it's said about or done to you, it's still all about her, what she believes in that moment, how she feels, and what she's struggling with. No matter how much it feels like it, it has nothing to do with you. Really.

    If you respond in a manner where you don't take it personally, you'll actually be able to help. If not, well, you significantly increase the likelihood of exacerbating the situation. The easiest way I've found to do this is to listen to someone talking to me about me as if I were a third party. I guarantee you, if you learn to take nothing personally, you'll see miracles.

  2. Be authentic. Witnesses giving testimony in the US court system are sworn in repeating the words, I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It's the whole truth part that most of us struggle with. I've found that people are often pretty honest when asked a direct question, but less so when volunteering unsolicited information or information that wasn't solicited directly.

    To be clear, I'm not talking about developing Tourette's Syndrome or verbal diarrhea. You don't need to articulate every thought that pops into your head. The key is to become aware of times where you're actively not saying something or you're hoping no one asks. At those points, you're actively abandoning the whole truth component of being authentic.

    To further clarify, I'm not talking about ranting or raging. When you find yourself withholding, simply say what you have to say with as much love and respect as you can muster. If you can't muster much love and respect, simply identify that you have something you'd like to say later.

  3. Express love and gratitude, for each other, for what you have, for who you're becoming. Being loving and grateful is great, but expressing love and gratitude regularly has a magical effect.

  4. No that you're both doing the best you can given what you believe in the moment. No matter how annoying or upsetting or angering another person's actions can be, if you adopt the attitude that he's doing the best he can in that moment given what he believes and how he feels, things change. You open your mind to a new world of possibilities.

Have a Great Relationship
I'm not quite sure why I woke up this morning with all this on my mind. Could be our recent Eila's Day event. I believe that we all want the best partner-relationships we can have, but that sometimes we start to settle for less than that. Thing is, it doesn't take much to take a sidelined relationship and get it back on track towards greatness.

Happy Saturday,
Teflon

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