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Three Inescapable Relationship Laws

Opening yourself up to a true intimate relationship can be scary.  We all want to protect ourselves from being hurt, from being judged, from being rejected . . . and sometimes, from being fully known.   There are weaknesses, addictions, petty feelings, and dark places that we may want to hide.

A loved one recently explained why she had failed to respond to my calls, texts, and emails for over two weeks because she “afraid to burden you with my problems. I don’t want you to think I’m a loser.”

Here was my response:

I understand. I truly do. But being afraid of a fall doesn’t change the laws of gravity. In the same way, being afraid of the “laws” of relationships doesn’t change how those “laws” impact relationships.

Here are a three inescapable truths about relationships. You may fear them. But you can’t escape them.

1. Relationships are fed by spending time together. Avoidance is poison.

2. Relationships are nourished by open communication. Silence starves.

3. Relationships are built on honesty. Hiding problems is dishonest.

Ergo, relationships cannot grow, improve, or survive without time, communication, and honesty.

I understand your fears. I truly do. You want to show your best self, not your struggling self. I get it!

On some level, we all fear the vulnerability required to be fully present, open and honest.

But none of us can escape the three “laws” I mentioned above.

When our actions are governed by our fears first, and our desire for a relationship second, our relationships will suffer.  It is the inevitable result of the three laws of relationships.

On the other hand, relationships have their best opportunity to grow and thrive when we prioritize the relationship over our fears, using the desire for a good relationship to inspire the courage to overcome our fears regarding being fully present, open, and honest.

 

The Demanding Spouse

“She’s a demanding wife.”  Or, “He’s a demanding husband.”

We’ve heard these phrases, which are usually criticisms.  And while there are certainly over demanding husbands and wives, certainly there are also cases where spouse have legitimate desires and expectations that are being so ignored that a “demand” to give them attention is not only appropriate, but just.

So, what’s the difference between legitimate and illegitimate demands?

Before answering that, perhaps we might step back to the broader question of what it means to be a healthy and mature person.   If demands are arising from selfishness rather than maturity, there’s a obviously a greater chance that they are not legitimate.

Are You Surrounded by Mirrors, or Windows?

The best sales people know what motivates people.  In other words, they have a firm grasp of practical psychology.  So I wasn’t surprised to collect some very insightful notes form a lecture by Chet Holmes, at least some of which ended up in his book The Ultimate Sales Machine.

This article isn’t about sales.  But I want to give credit where credit is due.

His reflections began with a quote: “Maturity is when all of your mirrors turn into windows.”  It may have been uttered by Thoreau , or perhaps it’s just a variation of Pamela Frankau’s “There must come a time when . . . all your mirrors turn to windows.”

Holmes then observes that, “Most people live their lives surrounded by mirrors, focusing on themselves. They see their feelings, their needs. They think about how they come across to other people and whether or not they will get what they want…”

No one with this attitude will be a good salespersons, he argue.

I would add, no one with this attitude will be a good spouse.

A person who is self-focused is concerned about four things:

  • Their feelings
  • Their needs
  • How do people see them?
  • Will they get what they want

But a truly mature person is one who has grown past selfishness, replacing all the mirrors that surround them with windows that allow them to see other peoples feelings and needs.  And these have to be true windows, not partially mirrored ones where they are actually seeing their own images interposed on that of others.

Being other-focused means having concern for four different things:

  • Empathy for others’ feelings
  • Respect for others’ needs
  • How can I see them in the best light?  The least judgmental way?
  • How can I help this other person get what they want and need?

<< To be continued >>

A Bitter and Conflicted Wife

My wife is conflicted.

On one hand, we have two unplanned children whom she dearly loves.

On the other hand, we have two unplanned children who have “derailed” her career plans because she doesn’t want to put the youngest in daycare.  She already put off her career for the five oldest, but that was according to her plans.

It’s these two late comers which have upset her plans.

So how does she deal with this conflict between love for her children and resentment over the obligations of being a parent?

Read the rest of this entry »

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