Where is Your Relationship Leading You? (Part 2) In 2001 I decided to explore what the key indicators were, which determined the direction intimate relationships would take – growth or atrophy. Below are listed some of the influences in most, if not all, intimate relationships. Agreement (Covered in Part 1) Appreciation (Covered in Part 1) Individuality/intimacy balance (I hour creativity per week) Emotional transparency The sacrifice/indulgence factor Accountability; increase of blame, complaints, criticism and judgment
People enter into and remain in intimate relationships for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from the romantic to the practical; the material to the spiritual. This article is intended for those who see their partnerships as opportunities to learn and grow in love, happiness, and emotional maturity.
Most interpersonal conflicts seem to be fuelled by the feeling of being unfairly treated, being misunderstood, or both. In the outer world, or “Storyland”, there are millions of details to every conflict or power struggle, and we often explore the details constantly in our minds or through our arguments. We either use the details to come to an understanding of all the sides of the argument, or to reinforce our position and prove we are right. Meanwhile the underlying feelings in the inner world are rejected, suppressed or ignored because they seem to be too painful to face at the time.
In my experience as a relationship counsellor, and as a husband of over 25 years, it has always seemed like a good idea to discuss every major issue with my partner until a truly satisfying agreement has been reached. It creates a sense of flow and intimacy, two basic ingredients to true partnership.
Although the word “conflict” has been shaded with a rather negative connotation, the fact is that it is through the stimuli within conflicts that life provides an opportunity for growth. There is no conflict without the presence of some degree of irritation, but it is the defensive reaction to irritation that extends the conflict and can magnify it into a power struggle — even an all-out war.
How Relationships Help us to Grow Up I have begun many relationship and emotional adulthood workshops with statements such as the following: “Regardless of your age, educational background or religious / life philosophy, it is very likely that you have acted like a child from time to time in your important relationships. If you’re the boss of a company, you’ve probably thrown a tantrum or two….
The Expectation/Fantasy Cycle Human personalities carry with them four basic tendencies—emotional obsession, behavioral compulsion, mental fixation, and physical addiction. These four tendencies lead people into repetitive and predictable patterns of thought, emotion, and action. Once we identify with a need, and insist that this need must be met in order for us to be happy, secure, and empowered, we launch ourselves into a specific cycle as illustrated and explained below.
In close relationships, expectations are emotional stresses that are often fuelled by the expecting person’s need for belonging and importance. The expectation is often looked at as a “right” by the one doing the expecting. Examples of this include: You are my wife so you should behave in a way that doesn’t upset me. You are my husband so you shouldn’t be looking at other women. You should want only me all the time. You’re my friend so you’re supposed to take my side when I disagree with someone or something, even if I’m wrong. You’re my parent so you should support me financially. You’re my girlfriend/boyfriend so you should give me sex when I want it. You’re my employee so you should always agree with me You should remember my birthday. You should consider my feelings before making a decision. You should do what I want to do. You should feel the same way I do.
The question “Why?” may be helpful when dealing with mechanical, scientific, medical, and math problems, but it can create a huge distraction and delay when you are dealing with an interpersonal conflict in your marriage, family, friendships, or work situation, or any personal issue that has an emotional component to it. In other words, if you are confronted with a situation in which you are feeling annoyed, anxious, or otherwise irritated, asking “Why is this happening?” or “Why did you do that?” will be of little or no help to you in coming to a happy and peaceful resolution to the issue at hand.
Of the eight children in our family, my brother Douglas was the most troubling, if not the most troubled. When I was a young boy he was a lot of fun to be around—playful, generous, funny, and always coming up with creative ideas regarding games that we could play. He seemed to be constantly organizing us younger siblings into games of tag or hide-and-seek with the other kids in the neighborhood, and even organizing amateur concerts where we would sing or act out skits for our parents.
“I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid, and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.” – George H. W. Bush 1990 When I first read the term “Emotional Adulthood” in a book by Jed McKenna, it struck a chord in me. I am still not completely sure what he meant by it, but those two words conjured up childhood memories of observing my parents’ behaviors, especially when they were upset. When I was fourteen years old, it dawned on me that my mother and father often behaved childishly when they were confronted with emotionally uncomfortable situations.
My son was unemployed and temporarily living with us. He had completed a four-year degree program at a Montreal university and then spent a year at Taiwan University to master the Mandarin language, and now he was ready to face the working world. Only the working world did not seem to be opening any doors for him and he was faced with the age-old Catch 22, whereby he needed to get a job in order to have the work experience that all the companies were requiring in order for him to get the job that would give him the experience, et cetera, et cetera.
If you think that you are missing something in your life, your attention will often be preoccupied by what you need in order to feel whole or fulfilled. This lack inside may be expressed through the search for Truth, pursuing success, attempting to heal your past or present, taking risks to increase your confidence, trying to achieve some great feat, or through any number of personal endeavors. Accordingly, the people who come and go—as well as those who stick around—will reflect your quest for fulfilment by taking on certain roles. At any given time, an individual will represent a Threat, a Cautious Friend, or a Conditional Teacher.
We are not human beings searching for a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings immersed in human experience. —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin As I type in the above quote by the famous Jesuit philosopher, my first response is to ask myself if the statement is true. More accurately, I ask myself, “Does this statement point me to the experience of Truth?” The intuition of my heart tells me that it does, although I have no empirical evidence to prove it otherwise. However, since trusting my heart over my intellect has always led me to profound life experiences, I follow it once more. Suddenly this insight leads me to look at my wife and recognize her as more than a physical entity or familiar personality, and a wonderful sense of recognition comes over me. The words appear: “I know you.”
Relationship is simple. That’s not to say that relationship is easy. Actually, I’ve found it to be among the hardest paths to follow effectively on a consistent basis, perhaps because the relationship path involves other people, and while you can share wonderful moments with other people, you also go through occasions that can be irritating, frustrating, intrusive, and challenging from time to time. The most irritating people tend to be the ones you are closest to. Typically, the most irritating person in your life will be the one with whom you enter an intimate relationship, a fact of life that often causes people to believe that they have chosen the wrong person to be their life partner. But this blog is not solely about intimate relationships or marriage; it’s about the relationship dynamic itself, regardless of the level of intimacy in that relationship.
My body is basically a system of knotted muscles that surround tight tendons or ligaments. It’s been this way since I was at least five years old. Whenever I mention that I feel as if I were made of wood, I am invariably advised to practice one of the seventeen kinds of yoga in my neighborhood. I deflect these suggestions with various excuses because… well… I realize I may be the only person in the world that’s like this, but… well, I don’t like yoga. For some reason, people who are really into yoga believe this is because I never tried it, and they insist that if I did, they are sure I would come to love it just as much as they do.