In each of the following examples one of the partners isn’t listening well, isn’t trying to understand and certainly is not working to compromise. And yet, if I asked each of them if they loved the other, the answers would be “Yes.” If I asked each of them if they respected the other, the answers would be “Yes.” But, is this really how love and respect act?
Ashley and Ryan are both 54 years old; they’re engaged. They have very different personalities. Ashley is the Type A, Superiority type: a driver, so goal-oriented that she cannot “waste” any seconds or minutes. She’s got to be busy moving toward one of her many goals all the time.
Ryan, on the other hand, is a Pleasing personality so he often gives Ashley what she wants. But even Ryan has his limits. Ryan is a more balanced person. He has goals but he knows his body’s limits. He’s more realistic about how he uses his time, especially at the end of his day. His job is making purchases worth anywhere from 5 to 15 million dollars for a large airplane manufacturer. So, Ryan’s days are intense and generate a huge amount of stress. He’s understandably tired when he’s at the end of his workday.
Ashley and Ryan take a yoga class together on Wednesday evenings. The instructor is always a few minutes late. During that few minutes Ashley insists that they practice their tango steps even though the space is very limited. The space thing makes Ryan uncomfortable; he feels rude stepping over people. Or, she wants them to run the track to “warm up.” Ashley knows Ryan is tired; he has told her. He’d rather spend those few minutes sitting quietly, talking or stretching. The truth is Ashley doesn’t respect Ryan enough to really listen to the meaning of what he’s saying. And, she’s nowhere near compromising. She just wants her way. It’s interesting that Ashley has brought Ryan to me to “fix” so he’ll do what she wants, when it’s she who needs some skills.
Larry and Jan have been married for 36 years. You’d think they would have accepted each other’s personalities by now and arrived at some peaceful place together. But, no. They are both on-guard, defensive and competitive. They each want to win. They haven’t realized yet that in healthy relationships, winning can’t be a goal.
Neither Jan nor Larry has actually tried listening to the meaning that the other is speaking. Neither has accepted that the other might be saying something of value that they could use to improve the relationship. Instead, their “talks” usually end in a standoff with each one complaining about the other. They’ve spent 37 years of marriage competing over who’ll change who. It’s so sad.
Amy has been married to Steve for 41 years. They moved into the house they’re in 35 years ago. For 35 years Amy has brought in the mail because she’s home from her job first. For 35 years she has sorted her own mail out and left Steve’s for him on their kitchen counter. That’s what he asked her to do. The problem? Steve lets the mail pile up even though Amy has repeatedly asked him for years to put it in the basket next to the counter. Think about it: all that time. Such a simple thing, yet he doesn’t do it. And in fact, when she mentions it, he gets angry (a convenient, powerful defense for him, and for Amy, a scary one). To add injury to insult, when Steve decides the pile is unmanageable on the counter, he takes it downstairs and lays it on the end of their ping pong table, which makes Amy even more resentful. Steve just doesn’t respect Amy enough to listen to her simple request and do what he should.
What’s Wrong With These Sets of Partners?
A few things.
- When we enter any kind of relationship we should expect differences. We should expect to work out our differences by:
- listening to our partner to understand how he/she is different,
- willingly negotiate and compromise so that we each get some of what we want, instead of one person winning and the other losing,
- respecting our partner enough to be open and genuine,
- become acquainted with our own defenses and work hard to drop them.
Webster says that the word “respect” means: to prize, cherish and value. So, if we value our partner and learn the skills of problem-solving and compromise, the relationship should go well.
- We should expect that that other person will not change his/her basic personality. We can expect our partners to be interested in our personal likes (Ryan is taking a yoga class with Ashley even though yoga really isn’t his thing). But, Ashley isn’t satisfied with Ryan’s gift; she actually expects him to change his body rhythm. I don’t think so. And sadly, as the three of us talked I could see the resentment on his face, though he didn’t express it. The relationship is already suffering from Anna’s disrespectful Control.
- Focus on your partner’s positives. Aren’t those traits one of the reasons you’re together? Decide to actually like your partner. In healthy relationships liking is nearly as important as loving. Think about it: When we like someone we gravitate toward them and we want to get along; we want to be around them. So, concentrate on knowing and liking the other person.
- Bring your best self to the relationship every time you have the opportunity to be together. Yes, we all have days when we’re tired or cranky because something’s gone wrong or we didn’t get enough sleep, or whatever. But, you can tell that to your partner, alert him/her that you’re not at your 100 percent, he/she should hear you. Things should smooth out.
So, do you notice any of these negative habits in your relationships? If so, I hope you’ll plan to drop them. Really, they’re so destructive, you’ll just want them gone as soon as you can manage it. Good luck!
If you’d like more specific information on relationships and/or the personalities that make them, just leave a comment in the website’s comment section or email me.
Until next time, warm wishes
to you and yours,
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