Quality of Your Relationship is Your Responsibility
We are always upgrading our skills. When we are born we know how to cry and how to sleep. We feel hungry and we cry, then someone feeds us and we sleep. As the months go by we learn to recognize faces and know who is useful to us. How we respond to them depends on how they respond to us. Some of those learnings we abandon as they are no more useful to us, some we keep as they help us on our onward march towards fulfilling our potential – though we are not always very accomplished in making those choices.
When Microsoft introduced the Vista, I changed over as it seemed fashionable to have the latest operating system on my new laptop. However, I did not find much use for the same as I was not conversant with the system. It resulted in many crashes, frustrations and sometimes anger. As time went by, I realized that the only way I could handle the new Vista OS was by upgrading my relationship with the Vista. So I took some training, read some manuals, did some practice and got to learn all the finer details about the program. What would have happened if I had waited for the Vista to get used to me? What if I had said that I need to wait till MS fixes the Vista until it is completely user friendly? I would have had to either go back to my old ways (the XP) or lost the use of my laptop.
Transitions come in our relationships as they come in our material and physical life. The same way that we have to master the environment when our physical environment changes or our material environment changes, we also have to change when there are transitions in our lives due to changes in relationship dynamics. How often, do we lose the opportunity to upgrade our relationships, because we silently plead for change in the other to respond to our needs? To quote, “Happiness is not getting what we want; it is appreciating what we have”. How often, do we say to ourselves, I am going to upgrade myself so that I can meet the expectation of the other, rather than telling the other to upgrade to meet my expectations? As with the MS Vista we have to put in the time and energy to upgrade our relationship, if we wish them to be meaningful.
Just think back to the days of your primary education. I still remember when our son Srujan at the age of four wrote the numerals 1 to 21 and then the first 2 of 22, and got stuck for three days on how to write the second 2 of 22. It took immense patience, frustration, some anger and shouting – for three days before he could unlock his mind to realize that the second 2 is the same as the first 2 in 22. Yet, when he got married at 22, he had no help at hand and had to put all his 2′s together to make his own 22′s, and I guess he has to do this all his life – otherwise he runs the risk of getting stuck at 22. What I am getting at is, we take years to learn the basics in school and yet we falter at every major step. With each failure we add a new experience to upgrade our learnings and skills until we succeed. When it comes to relationships, we get no training at all. If we do, they are mostly the toxic relationships of parents and elders – if there are any loving relationships there, they are conducted behind closed doors. When we succeed, it is because I am so smart, when we fail, it is because the other is so dumb. Sometimes we own up our faults, “Sorry, mate, this is who I am?” Sadly, we are unwilling to spend any time and energy to upgrade our skills to communicate and relate in our relationships. No wonder, after a few years there isn’t anything left to communicate.
We all want a great and blissful relationship. Why do we shirk our responsibility to have that great relationship? Why do we refuse to upgrade our relationship skills to get what we want? What is the pain involved in upgrading? Why is that pain so great that we are constantly running away from the anticipated pleasure of attaining our goal of blissful relationship? Let us try to honestly answer some questions that may lead to an upgrade in our relationship with full responsibility with self, rather than the other.
1) What does it take to be an effective partner? What are the required skills?
There are no generic skills to be an effective partner. As much as individuals differ, relationships also differ. We get what we give is a good premise to start with. So ask – what skills do I need from my partner? What do they do that I like? What do they do that I do not like? What do they not do that I like? What do I want more of? What do I want less of? When you have some answers, reverse your position. Take those answers to be those given by you to your partner. Start to make them happen.
Make a list of all the complaints your partner has ever made of you. How many can you address immediately? How many do you need to work on until you can address them? How can you just do it, and not just be trying? What is stopping you from doing what is so glaringly expected of you? What will it take for you to share with your partner the reasons why you cannot comply?
We all have dominant response mechanisms. Some respond to s sense of touch, some auditory, some visual, some intellectual. What is your partner’s dominant response style? Six key values, which we all have to some measure but rarely use – humility, wonder, compassion, empathy, authenticity and love if shown in ample measure can upgrade our relationship to the highest levels. The opposite values of arrogance, cynicism, judgmentality, alienation, deception and reification ( to treat a person as an object) downgrade our relationships to the bottom of the pit. A simple test is to keep a diary for one week, as to how often we use each of these values in our relationships and what responses they evoke.
2) What skills are already available and may only need some refinement?
All of us are equipped with most of the skills. Some of them have fallen by the wayside because of disuse. Some, we deliberately do not use – our belief systems come in the way. We have believed for eons that vulnerability is a weakness in relationship because it exposes the vulnerable to being taken advantage of . Now, just take a minute and think how many times vulnerability also helps to make things easier and enhance relationships. All skills are just skills – it is in their use, disuse and misuse that we come up short. All skills are also useful and not so useful in their context. Just because someone took advantage of our vulnerability at some time, does not mean that all people at all times will take advantage of our vulnerability. The trick is to find out what works in your relationship and practice them until it becomes a habit. Remember all habits are learned, Unlearning habits is also a learning. Learning new habits is also a learning. So just do more of what works, and less of what does not work.
3) What habits interfere with the quality of your relationship?
Most of us have habits. Some of them we are proud of, some we would like to put under the carpet and some we would like to work to eliminate. But, let someone else tell us that we need to change a habit and we are ready to fight to keep it. I have had this going on for thirty years and found an answer to it. I like to keep my things disorganized – there is an organization in my disorganization. I can find any of my papers and documents in a jiffy. My spouse is extremely organized. She must keep everything in place (whatever place means to her). That’s it, every time she keeps things in place, I cannot find where I kept what I kept in my mind map. Two habits, the cause of many mishaps and frayed tempers and the end result is a downgraded relationship for many days after the event. I have learnt to not look for things which I can’t find. This has reduced the tension of – “who ate my porridge” syndrome between us.
What about when I am told why do you look as if you are upset? That really pushes some buttons in me. I just flare when it is assumed that I am upset – now that just upsets me. However, this just devastates her, as she really is genuinely concerned when querying about my current mental state. This is a very common occurrence in relationships. A genuine query is taken as an affront and leads to many unwanted and unexpected consequences. This is how I deal with this kind of queries. First just cool it. Take a minute to understand what I am going through – self awareness exercise helps. Once I recognize the emotion, the next is to replace it with another emotion that will work to upgrade the relationship. Then I have to learn as to why I feel upset when something does not meet my standards. What does it do for me? What can I do differently? Who does feeling upset harm? Can I treat all intentions as good intentions? Ultimately how I deal with events is up to me.
4) Upgrading your relationship requires commitment of time – are you willing?
If your relationship is important, and you seriously mean to upgrade it, you just have to find the time. Often, we give this our last minute – if there is a last minute. The plates must be cleaned, the children must be in bed, the last bit of office work must be complete, the unfinished conversation, the TV and there are many other things to do. Often by the time we find time for our relationship, one or the other is too tired, bored or simply lost interest. One of the easiest things to do is to fix a schedule, much like a dentist’s appointment to give your relationship a few minutes a day, a few hours a week.
5) Are you willing to learn newer skills to upgrade your relationship?
How many years did it take you to learn what you are now accomplished at? How did you acquire those skills? Most anyone would spend hours in the library going through the books, done tonnes of homework, had teachers to teach the fundamentals and practiced hard. Learning takes effort. So what about learning to know your partner? Are they as complicated as calculus or may be more. You will need the same skill sets, self-discipline and practice to know more about your partner. Are you ready to do the hard work? Think of learning from a coach, a mentor, books and reflective exercises. Then practice what works – do some home work.
6) Are you willing to relate from a position of win-win?
There is no right or wrong in a relationship. There is either win-win or lose-lose. When we win the relationship loses. Would you rather be right or rather be happy? Upgrade your relationship today.
Quality of Your Relationship is Your Responsibility
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