Say you are really committed in a relationship to someone you adore. You get along quite fine on all the big things that you think really matter. Like choosing where to live or finding the right schools for your children. But then, there are these itsy bitsy nagging fights that chew away at your heart. These are the Achilles’ heels that force you to really reflect on wanting to get to a point where you feel in unison with your better half. Your vision may be of something serene. Not constantly feeling you are testing the waters.
You may be committed to not wasting time with the nuisance fights. Let me tell you that that the little things do actually matter as they dictate the quality of life. Indeed, figuring out how not to ignite the firecrackers between me and my beloved and wanting to wrap myself in an enchanted life is my vision.
The reality: there are strong feelings in all relationships. We give permission to tell ourselves that differences are inevitable in any relationship and may come to grudgingly accept that as a fact of life. But I want a solution. I want to get the formula right.
When dissonance raises its snarling head, it is between one of these two scenarios. One may take pride in being astute and rational. To assert and not cave in, and lay out the facts to clarify and resolutely straighten a perceived convolution or misperception. It is about correction–you have the urge and even feel the responsibility to make it right. You hope for his or her enlightenment. This may lead to the episode of the partner saying, “Forget it. I am not going to tell you anything.” This leaves you nowhere, but hanging loose and annoyed. Then there is the other approach. “Oh well, why fight,” you tell yourself. “I am going to be submissive and kind. I will let it go,” like Del Carnegie’s famous adage. But that builds resentment.
Any smart and independent thinker weighs both of these modes—to stands the ground, or to “give in” as a way to cope. And make it better. What is so interesting to me is that both these options lead to binary solutions of win-lose. There is no real res
olution. When you track the interactions in a relationship, it is an active and dynamic process. It is not a peace-finding mission. I almost think peace is reserved for the individual pursuit. When two people are involved, peace is not easy to achieve, at least not all the time. There is another person to manage. It is not an easy thing to think on the spot and go on pause mode.
Intimacy trumps empathy very often. By that, I mean that we take, with whom we share intimacy, for granted. We assume the goodness of our significant other; that they are set up to receive our responses, which may come with the assumed guarantee of a marriage. I say this because we don’t seem to argue with work colleagues or neighbors. We do not tend to cross the line in the same way.
Here is my solution. Actually, this was constructed as I was helping a family at work in responding to their teenage son. You listen first ofcourse, but beyond that…
At times even if we disagree, if I hear a sweet sounding tone, my antennae fold inwards. I would begin there, being kind in tone as a trigger of act to begin the process. Then, it is important to be patient and give it the time it takes. Often we are all in a big rush and do not pay attention to giving the time or energy it takes to slow down. That slowing down will help to be in the moment to watch what is going on and focus with mindfulness. As you gather yourself and observe what is in operation, you can formulate an empathic response recognizing the good intention of the other person. At that point, you can always convey what you intend to share thoughtfully that will help others get your message. If still someone is upset, you can then be proud of yourself that you did everything you need to, and really let go.
Be free, and peaceful like a rock. The concentric circles of layers in communication are automatic if interaction is smooth. It can be a bit like a novice driver learning to stop, braking abruptly, jerking and accelerating again if you are dealing with harsh or angry folk where thermostat goes up quickly. That requires well- oiled practice. It is fun to try this at home with your loved ones and then begin to apply everywhere else! My boys say- mom you are calm, do you really need this? I think there is such a thing as internal thought process. Action matters. And mind matters even more.
Ultimately, the inner peace must come from within you. Not in the context of a dynamic duo. Not everyone has a sense of humor that can be so handy. Not all of us can laugh off or come up with punch lines. At least, I have a choice. I will practice feather dusting hard communication, really with anyone.
1. How do people who are brought up differently throughout their formative years – with their own ‘luggage’, ‘baggage’ (in positive sense) come together and share rest of their life? Can we hard wire using any of the available cognitive techniques and bring folks on same wavelenght though it becomes robotic and routine?
Thanks. That process begins through empathy and truly may begin through reflecting on what I wrote here..Especially for new couples…but understanding the process and getting used to living together takes time. When I joined child psychiatry, my mentor taught me to focus on the positive, ignore the negative and special time. I applied the same principles also at home with my husband. It was so cool! The thing is these principles are universal and offer an anchor!!
Mani I t is easier said than done ” to focus on the positive and ignore the negative”. It is human nature to ponder on the negative and be anxious about the insecurities and uncertainties in life. There is an Urdu word called “nafs”. How does a human being harness their nafs to focus on positive and ignore the negatives. And if that was true and possible there would be no depression in this world.
Munnavar, Thanks!! It is absolutely true. I think it is a constant practice with nafs. Life is a work in progress. But everytime I remind myself to think and dish-out positivity and practice, I feel a tad stronger and a tad less insecure as I see the joy in those I love. Like a simple smile as I look in the eye. Also I tell the young that aging helps some and to not rush it. We grow naturally and organically. We perhaps do not want to control too much of what we do as we go with good intuition, but some self-discipline, empathy and practice will help along the way, I think. I also think frameworks of thinking help clear your mind in the quagmire of life’s criss-crosses. In summary, I agree.