I was walking my little dog the other day. She is about 12 pounds, a white Maltese, one of those soft fluffy animals that look like they could be stuffed. She is sweet beyond sugar and one of the nicest dogs I have ever met.
So when she spied a squirrel and began to tug on the leash, foaming at the mouth and growl I thought, “Who is this animal? This is not my little Molly.”
Our Loved Ones have Many Sides
And then the next thought was yes, this is just another part of this mostly sweet little dog. And that might be a metaphor for every one of us. We all have a lot of parts.
I say this many times during my couples counseling and with individuals. I like to remind people of how we carry different energy and emotions that produce various behaviors. A person who is always nice suddenly becomes cross or sad. Someone you know who is always gruff shows you a soft side. This is very human.
Losing Sight of Others’ Facets
Often people get confused about this concept though. I think it’s because we all like to organize the people in our lives in particular categories. These categories are based on how we feel about the person. Let’s say someone named John makes us happy, so when we think of John we will have a light feeling inside and smile.
Contrast that to a woman named Betty who is always sad and depressed. We might have a feeling of heaviness when we think of Betty because when we are around her this is how we experience her.
But both John and Betty are multifaceted, much like little sweet dog Molly. In fact, all of us are. Most of us carry a dominant way of being in the world and interacting with others and yet at various times we are completely different.
The Facets We Show Our Loved Ones
I know that I am often enthusiastic, lively and sometimes loud. This is my personality. And yet at times I can be cross with my husband, and I can sound harsh. This is also a part of me. Even thought I am not too crazy about that part, I can’t deny that it’s there. I also have a soft, quiet side and a deeply sentimental side too.
Sometimes when I counsel couples I often hear, “He’s always mad and controlling,” or “She’s a nag and unhappy.” People in difficult relationships describe their mates with certain behaviors that often exclude their other parts. I am sure the mad and controlling man has a soft and helpful side. I believe the nagging, unhappy woman can be soft and nurturing as well.
Don’t Box Your Spouse into a “Convenient” View
It’s helpful to give our partner’s a chance to be larger then the one label we may have saddled them with. Try and see them as more.
No person is just one thing. No animal, plant or human is just one thing. When we allow ourselves to live in all our parts, and allow others to reveal all their parts we are practicing acceptance. And that’s a key component to a healthy relationship.
Everyone wants to feel accepted for being themselves, parts and all. Just like Molly, who can’t wait to hunt her next squirrel.
Keep Perspective and See Your Partner as They Are
Read a Book About Relationships
Keeping communication channels open and really hearing your partner, and in turn being heard, will help you see each other in the fullest way possible. My new book, Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship can help you keep the flood gates to each other’s hearts open. Give it a read, and discover what it can do for you.
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