More Tips for the Starting Line — Improving Your Intimate Relationship
Are you trying to improve your relationship? Make it better?
Here are a few more tips for getting started.
Hold Your Horses…
Do a little due diligence and give yourself some time to investigate and reflect. Don’t be in a hurry. You have months or years and plenty of energy invested in your relationship, so give yourself the time it takes to see what’s really going on.
If you don’t know how to do that, get help.
Otherwise, it’s like trying to fix something without really knowing what to fix. Or trying to repair a sputtering engine without doing a diagnostic or checking the basics. You can fix this and fix that, but still the engine doesn’t run well. You haven’t found a main issue yet.
Hey, How About A Little Duct Tape?
For example: “Oh, we’ll just tell our customers we’ve had an unexpected and unavoidable delay. It’s out of our hands, but we’ll get the product to you as soon as possible.”
Maybe that’s true and maybe it’s a convenient story. But it’s duct tape. It’s only going to hold things together until that emergency is over.
Instead of being pro-active, and making a long term plan to create a different outcome next time, often we’re relieved that the emergency has passed and we simply go back to business as usual.
But sooner or later another emergency arises, and out comes the duct tape. Maybe that same problem rears its head again and maybe it looks like a new problem.
The Problem With The Quick Fix
But here’s the thing. Duct tape can only do so much — it has its limits. It’s not going to fix a foundational issue. Swooping in with a quick fix of any kind does help with symptoms, but not main issues.
Relationship emergencies are no different. You can duct tape until the cows some home, but it’s not going to solve anything foundational. Are you tired of duct taping your issues and making things appear reasonably OK? If you don’t know how to get through your yeow-ly moments, disagreements, crashes, problems — then you’ve got nothin’ but a circus on your hands.
Seriously. You’ve got a Barnum and Bailey Circus Extravaganza — in your relationship!
Been There, Done That
There’s a big, awful disagreement between me and my beloved. Now it’s over. But there’s something we’re supposed to do in a few hours, a dinner with friends, and on a good day, we’d really want to go.
So we take a deep breath and gather a little inner strength. We put our lions and tigers away in their cages — lock ’em in tight. We make sure the snakes and the tarantulas are all quiet, too, and we get all freshened up. And, yes, we go out to dinner with our friends.
During the evening, there is always that chance, (and you know exactly what I mean here), that one of my personal tigers could get loose, say, after that second glass of wine.
And wow. It can be a pretty profound and defining moment.
Here’s how it might look.
First, let’s be clear that I’m not over what happened a few hours earlier. Let’s also be clear that I’m pretending to be present and I have put on my “I’m fine” face.
Instinctively, I set my tiger loose.
I set my tiger loose ’cause (in my defense) I saw one coming at me — from someone at the table.
( I TELL YOU — there WAS a tiger coming at me. I had to save myself.)
Maybe it’s from my beloved partner (with whom I had the earlier squabble.) Or perhaps it’s (an annoying) family member, in-law, or someone I’ve never met who miraculously got invited to this dinner and gets under my skin.
But, in any case, I react.
(It’s out there. I can’t take it back.)
Now, in that looooong pause while the others at the table are staring at me waiting to see what happens next and wondering if the scene’s going to get ugly(er) — it’s tense.
It’s tense for me. It’s tense for everyone.
Someone lit my firecracker (they hit my personal reactor button) and did it blow things sky high?
(Well, yes, actually, I did feel something explode…)
Table mates are wondering, “Are we all going to be on pins and needles from now on? Am I going to be able to digest my Scampi and Risotto? Or shall we all rise to the occasion and spin happy circus plates in the air to distract ourselves from all this disgruntlement? Shall we pretend??? Act nice? Try to help? Ignore it completely and start a side conversation? Join the ruckus? Get out the boxing gloves?”
Whatever shall we do?
We’ve been there…. we’ve either seen it or done it.
How Do I Turn This Around?
So… back to the more personal example at home.
If you want to calm things down, slow things down, and take a look at what’s really going on in any kind of chaos, start in an easy place. Look for the little places — not the big places — where you react to your partner or someone you relate to on a daily basis. Make notes.
Here’s what I mean by a reaction.
- You know that thing s/he says or does that instantly makes you angry? And you have a reaction? And it’s not a good reaction? That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
- Or s/he is predictable — oh, here we go again. The same (damn) story. The same (damn) habit. The same (damn) whatever. And you want to run away screaming?
- Or you feel disappointed when your partner doesn’t do something. That’s a reaction.
- Or your partner isn’t holding up his/her end of the bargain. S/he said employment was in his/her future, but it’s not happening. And you have a reaction.
- Or your partner criticizes you? Cuts you down? And you defend, explain, justify? All of that is reactive (both sides). It’s not creative. Reactions aren’t wrong — they just don’t help you thrive. They are simply inefficient. They aren’t helping you get what you say you want.
You may think, “These reactions are really no big deal. Everybody deals with these. Everybody has them.”
Yes, that’s true. Every human being has reactions.
And the reactions sound small individually, but when you put them all together, and then add years and years of practice, and you’ve got a big clump of icky that’s not much fun. It can weigh on you and weigh on the relationship. It can be awful.
A thriving relationship moves from being “reaction based” to a place where you can be more creative together.
Which means that YOU move from reactive to creative. Don’t worry about your partner, just concentrate on YOU about this.
Instead of ups and downs, or one crisis after another, and a lot of strong sticky tape, quick fixes or courses in Circus Management, the ride is smoother. You are more present. You see each other. You appreciate. You listen more, defend less.
For a relationship to thrive, shift gears. Shift your focus. Shift your perspective of the circumstances.
(Yes, I know, easier said than done.)
For instance, shift from “We have a problem and this is a PROBLEM, this is bad, OMG…”
…to “We have a problem and this is a golden opportunity.”
Just start there.
Yes, there is a way for a problem to bring you closer. I really mean that. The solution to the problem can help your relationship, if you let it. You become closer because of that problem. No recovery needed.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if your “big problem” creates a solution that strengthens your connection? Yes. It’s totally possible. It’s possible if you see your “problem” as an opportunity to become more of who you are.
I’m in favor of wandering time in the morning, listening to the birds calling to each other in the woods all around me.
Making fresh food is one of life’s big yummy pleasures, along with singing – especially creating heavenly, improvisational, prayerful, meditational sound.
It is my experience that children are born to teach (remind) parents, not the other way around. I’ve learned more from my daughter than from all other humans combined.
I believe that poet Mary Oliver writes the best bedtime stories available on Earth.