I was at a dinner party recently. The host, a good friend of mine is a wonderful cook. She had planned this meal with great care. But during the evening, before the meal was ready, she began to get increasingly uncomfortable. She was worried about the main dish and whether it would be cooked through. She was also stressed about a side dish that took too much preparation in the last minute. I could feel her panic, and so could her son.
Her son asked me if I knew what was wrong with his Mom. I knew she was struggling to make sure everything turned out right. But even knowing this and understanding her, it still didn’t help her child. He was worried that he might have done something, or that she was mad at him or something else was happening with her. He didn’t know what was bothering his Mother because she wasn’t saying anything either. This lack of understanding then left him feeling uncomfortable too.
This is a funny question, but I think it’s a feeling that a lot of us can relate to. I know if I look deep down when I am worried or unsure of something, I can probably identify the root of this feeling and it has to do usually with me and that something is often, “I am not enough.”
I don’t say this out loud, but I feel it inside myself. I feel less than and that might explain why I worry sometimes. This is very common. A lot of us wonder if we are enough. And the “enoughs” can come in all kinds of variety, “Am I smart enough? Am I attractive enough? Am I successful enough?”
I was thinking about a birthday in the family the other day. I remembered to wish that family member a happy birthday, and it felt good to do so. Then I remembered that even though I always remember this person’s special day, they never remember mine. And when I thought about being forgotten, I felt sad.
Then I thought more about it and realized that my family member loves me no matter what. This family member didn’t stop loving me when they didn’t wish me a “Happy Birthday.” There was no withholding of love from me. There was no deliberate act of unloving anywhere. So why would I have a thought about this person who just didn’t know something?
I was thinking of being little recently and I recalled the image of me and my younger brother. I was about 10 years old and he was about 7. We were pulling at opposite ends of our dog, a dachshund. It was something we did every night before we went to bed. One of us would begin the fight and say, “I get to sleep with him tonight! You slept with him last night.” The other would answer, “No, you slept with him last night it’s my turn.” And then the pushing and pulling would begin.
This went on night after night. I can’t remember how it ended or if I ever felt like I won. I just remember this is what we did. And when I recalled the memory recently I thought, “That’s love. That’s the chaos of love.”
When two people fall in love, they usually find many, many things that bind them together. A new couple can feel elevated with the ideas that another person sees things the way they do and feels the same way too. These are the experiences that tell us our partnership is the right one.
But after being with our special person for a while we begin to notice how they don’t really get us sometimes. We see how we think about something yet our beloved will think an entirely different thought as if they are speaking another language. This is quite normal as couples move from the “we are just alike stage” to “we used to be alike and now we are different.”
I was talking to a friend the other day about a trip I was going to take. It’s an exotic one with a different friend to a place that she wants to go and I said I would go along. It’s a lot of money, more money than I have ever spent on a trip. I have the money, but something inside me says, “Wow, you are spending a lot of money.”
This is part of the package of old messages that I received when I was a little girl. We were not poor, but my mother’s comfort at spending money was always on the frugal side. Day old bread is perfectly fine. Shopping at the 99 cent store is good. Hand me downs from cousins and sisters are was just our norm. I did not grow up poor. But the messages I received about spending money were “don’t spend it, ever.”
We all have habits in our life. You know, those are the things we do almost automatically. Like our routine when we get up in the morning, or when we sit down to enjoy a meal, or when we get ready for work. These are our habits, the way we do something. It’s the way we organize the daily activities of life.
We all pretty much know how to do them for ourselves. Yet even when we are in a relationship, we are still individuals as we continue to engage in our own routines and habits. But what if we were to do some things with the intention of doing them for the person we love.
Learning how to handle conflict in a relationship is tough, because it forces us to challenge our instincts.
When people get their feelings hurt, most of us don’t want to go near the person who hurt them. This holds true in families, with co-workers and in relationships. It’s just easier to back away when something painful happens. It’s just the way many humans are wired.
As a couples specialist I know that even with the person we love, for some of us it’s instinctive to pull away when things get messy. I work with people who love each other who just want to know what to do when they fight. They usually wonder if they could do the fighting part better so they don’t have to stay wounded and apart for so long.
As a relationship guide, I spend a lot of time simplifying the most important elements that make a good relationship. The more I teach, the more concise it gets. And I think I have it boiled down to just three parts, three important ingredients to help your relationship thrive.
While they are few in number, the steps might be considered challenging as they require a lot of thought, patience, and trust. The thought part is you thinking about the parts and actually deciding to make yourself do the work. The patience is not expecting to get things right all at once, to be able to allow yourself to develop new positive behaviors in the time it takes. The trust is so you will believe in yourself when you doubt your progress and remind yourself that you can indeed do this.
I was listening to a friend of mine talk about her family situation the other day. She was saying that when her grandson’s mother got sick, she and the mother’s best friend took care of the boy. Now that the mother is well the boy is going back to live with her. But the mother’s recovery was slow and the people parenting the child grew attached. So when the convalescence was over, and the child was about to rejoin his mother the other two temporary care-givers struggled with their own sense of loss.
My friend kept saying that everything is working out really well because all the adults involved kept asking the same question, “What is the best for the boy?” She said every time she asked herself the question she knew exactly what to do.
What if we applied this approach…to our relationships?