What to Look For To Keep A Relationship From Going Sour
By Art Ramsay, PhD

 Everyone has them, and no one can avoid them relationships. From the time you are born into this world until the day you physically leave it, you are in some kind of relationship. Most of the time you are in many relationships every day. They are the lifeblood for feedback about what is going on within you.  What do I mean by that?

 Using the premise that everything that occurs in your life is created from within you and appears outside of you, feedback about those creations helps you adjust them. For example, you arrive at work wearing a new outfit thinking that it will wow your office members. During the day, you get vocal comments as well as visual ones telling you how they think it looks. You created a new look for work and got feedback from your fellow workers. Pretty straightforward.

 Now let us look at something more subtle. You are having lunch with a friend when you make a remark about something she said, thinking you were helping her see it better. She snaps back, "you are always great at giving advice, but not at taking it; you need to practice what you preach." You are floored. Where did that come from? Whatever you said, your friend took personally, as if it were an insult. You triggered some belief of hers. In the meantime, you feel offended by what she said her feedback. Maybe you also learned something don't give advice unless it is asked for.

 The above shows two very different ways we create events in our lives and two different forms of feedback. There are millions of similar examples and millions of variations. What I am expressing here is that human relationships are very complex. But given techniques to help you see more clearly what is happening regarding any relationship, they can work easily.

 At the very basic level, there is you, and no one else in a relationship, because you are always relating to yourself. The feedback you get from what you do gives you data to make corrections for doing it again. Let's say you come in from outside as it gets dark, finished doing yard work and take off your shoes. You leave them  in front of the chair in the middle of the 'path' between the bathroom and kitchen. You go take a shower and when you come out everything is dark. You walk towards the kitchen to turn on the light and trip over the shoes you left. You reach out to grab something as you fall, hurting both your ankle and wrist trying to hang on. Pain gives you feedback. The lesson learned don't leave shoes in the middle of the floor.

 But now we increase the complexity by adding another person your spouse or partner. There is still the basic relationship with yourself, but now another 'you' is added with perhaps totally different beliefs and habits. You and your partner must come into, and continue this relationship with agreements about how the relationship will work. One of you cannot make the other one into a clone of yourself. We must recognize each other's individuality and personality. Anyone who marries someone thinking they will change him/her is in for an unpleasant surprise you cannot change someone else. It is a myth brought about through so-called romantic love. If you truly want your partner to pick up what you think are great qualities to have, then be the example of those qualities.

 Two halves do not make a whole regarding relationships. Each person must be whole for the relationship to be whole. What does that mean? Each of you must know who you are as a person and live your life with integrity. If you both have issues that surface daily, then you have work to do. When I work with a couple, I talk to each one separately before I ever talk with them together. You must clear your own issues before you can hope to live in harmony with your partner. Suppose your spouse had tripped over the shoes in the example given above?

 Now we add another layer of complexity one or more children. Each child has his/her own diverse personality and due to the child's age, an added complexity. Now you must sort out not only how to relate to these new additions to your life, but also how to relate to the age difference. This new life change further complicates the spouse relationship and you must adjust once more.

 As we go through life we continue to add people to our daily lives at work, at church, at social gatherings, and a myriad number of other places. But the one relationship, the one person that is always there in all of those relationships is you. Have you every noticed that the same issue seems to come up no matter who you are with or where you are? They may look different, coming from different angles, but an issue is an issue, or more to the point, a belief is a belief.

 What to do? Since most people reading this are probably in some kind of primary relationship with another, I will use this as an example. Talk with your spouse/partner and focus on one issue. Decide what and where your 'triggers' are and work on them individually, because the beliefs causing them are most likely different for each of you. Once you have gotten one belief exposed and dealt with, you can move on to the next relationship issue. This is not a five minute process; it takes time; maybe a long time.

 One 'quick' process that could help, follows. You say/do something that offends your spouse. While you know the offense is not really your issue, you could stop from having an argument, or anger and hurt feelings by applying the steps below (instead of 'I am sorry' which only works in the moment):

  1. this is what I said/did
  2. this is what happened (you were offended)
  3. this is what I learned (saying words like that causes hurt feelings and doesn't solve anything)
  4. this is my intention from what I learned (to refrain from responding quickly without thinking)

 The process given above allows you to take responsibility for your actions without pointing fingers as to who is to blame for the conflict. Arguments are a lose lose situation. There is no way anyone can really 'win' an argument. While this article only touches the tiniest tip of the iceberg of relationships, it is a start. You are the only one responsible for your relationships; do all you can to make them work.


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