Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Maintain a Relationship

“When it comes to love, you need not fall but rather surrender,surrender to the idea that you must love yourself before you can love another. You must absolutely trust yourself before you can absolutely trust another and most importantly you must accept your flaws before you can accept the flaws of another.“
~ Philosophy: Falling in Love
Relationships with our spouses and girl/boy-friends can be one of the most rewarding aspects of our lives. We hold a special place for that someone with whom we’ve shared countless moments of joy. Personality differences are inevitable, and what makes us unique as individuals can result in disagreements and conflicts during our relationship.

When these disagreements are not properly understood and managed emotionally, trivial exchanges can stir into full-on battles, and possibly end what we’ve spent months or years to build.
Yes, there are relationships where personalities are mismatched and breakups are beneficial. However, many breakups are unnecessary, as a result of built up anger and destructive cycles. When they happen, we experience a tremendous amount of pain and emotional hurt.

By facing our partners with awareness and a genuine desire for understanding, I believe that we hold the key to wellness in these special relationships.

The Truth

Before digging into ways we can overcome arguments, disagreements and fights from a relationship, let’s have a closer look at what happens when we are in this uncomfortable state. The following are some insights we’ve observed from our argument patterns.

Playing the Crying Baby – We take turns becoming a baby. At any one point during a fight, one of us is calm, while the other turns into a baby. That person becomes irrational, severely emotional, whiny and defensive. They say things that are regretted later. Once the baby finishes expressing him or herself, slowly rises on become clam, the role switches and the other person becomes the crying baby.

Attention, Appreciation, Acknowledgement – When we fall into the crying baby state, we are really seeking attention, acknowledgement, appreciation and care. The root for our emotional reaction when we are in this state is seeking reinforcement for why we matter.

Selfish & Self-Serving – When our inner baby subsumes us, we are selfish and self-serving. We cannot understand why our partner does not sympathize. The more we try to express ourselves, the less they seem to tune into what is bothering us. In this state, we lack the capacity to consider our partner’s feelings, and forget that they too are hurt.

Victim Mindset – When we become a baby, we feel that we are the victim. Our mind is focused on seeking evidence that support our victim story. By doing so, the other person becomes the unreasonable one. Once we find our evidence, we start playing scenes of ourselves as the victim, and we play this on repeat. We feel pain in our hearts, and we seek more pain and more reasons for pain. In some unconscious way, we enjoy this pain because it allows us to play the victim role, thus feeding our fears that life is full of painful relationships and no one truly understands us.

Right & Wrong - Superficially, the battle can be distilled down to who is right. We believe that we are right and we must prove that the other person is wrong. The disagreement quickly turns into a battle of the egos. In this state, we have a strong urge to prove to the other person that we are right, after all.

Bottled Emotions - As the crying baby, we express purely the self-serving thoughts that arise in our minds. The emotions bottled deep inside us are causing those thoughts, but they are often unrelated to the situation. Having bottled emotions does not mean that we cannot communicate our feelings. Often times, we are not even conscious of these feelings until they manifest into our lives. For example, we go out to watch a movie, but we really didn’t want to go see the movie to begin with, so we unconsciously sabotage the movie outing with a problem: complaining about bad seats, or complaining that the ticket line is too long.

Alternative Meaning - We collect words expressed by the other person, jump to conclusions, and assume the worst. We find a meaning that serves us but is not the true meaning of their words in that moment. We tell ourselves that this meaning is the absolute meaning, and is definite and permanent. Truth is, when we are irrational, we say all sorts of things we don’t mean out of heightened emotions.

Differences Between the Sexes – Men are just as emotional and sensitive as women. The difference is in the way that men and women express themselves, and this is often misunderstood. Here are some differences we’ve observed. Keep in mind the following three things while reading:
1) I realize that this is a generalization, so bear with me.
2) When I speak about “women”, I am referring to feminine qualities and tendencies instead of the gender. Similarly, when I mention “men”, I am referring to masculine qualities. It is possible for a woman to have more traditionally masculine qualities and vice-versa.
3) I am using male- female couple in the examples, but this is applicable to same sex couples as well.

  • As women, we tend to hide our inner thoughts. When we are upset about something, we assume that the other person is a mind-reader and should know exactly what we are thinking without telling them. We throw hints by being upset and frustrated. This is extremely frustrating for men (or other women), since they want to help, but cannot seem to get anywhere and cannot understand why we are so upset. At the sight of our partner not picking up on our clues, we get even more upset and hurt.
  • As men, we tend to be more verbal, we think out loud. We may internalize some or all of our feelings, but our thoughts are externalized through speaking or writing. Because we speak our thoughts, we often get in trouble with the women in our lives, since she can be hurt by what we say. Society has trained us to have an alpha-male ego, which acts like a wall defending the integrity and strength of our character. This strength defines us and our thoughts, keeping our less-than-rock-steady emotions well guarded. We are actually highly perceptive and more sensitive than society gives us credit for. We can easily sense when our women are unhappy and we want to help by making her happy again. But she remains upset and assumes that we are mind-readers. But we just don’t know what she is thinking. This is really painful. We wish she just told us exactly what we can do to make her happy again.

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