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Know You are on the Same Side in Your Relationship

In any relationship, there can be a feeling of being on the same side that is quite delicious. It may be no more than the grizzled assistant at the hardware store helping you decide the best way to construct a raised flower bed. He’s not trying to maximize the sale; he’s working with you to find the best approach. Or maybe it’s you and your partner planning the garden or a trip or the blog you write together.

Whatever it is, become attuned to that feeling, because if it vanishes, that’s a warning signal that you may be swerving into the path of a full-blown argument. The feelings are of distance and not being understood, and there are physical clues too: crossed arms, lack of eye contact, physical separation, tone of voice. Of course, you may both enjoy monumental rows, in which case, go for it. That may be your preferred way of exploring separation and togetherness. But if not, remember that you are on the same side. You share larger goals and core values. As Maude said in last week’s blog, act from love.

You can ease back into that feeling of connection by using a process we describe to make decisions and resolve conflicts. And as stated, the first step is remembering and then affirming out loud to each other that you are on the same side.

Dig as deep as possible for what you are feeling, and speak it. Listen to the other person. Own your own feelings, but don’t own theirs, or the boa-constrictor of codependency will crush the life out of both of you.

The most important element is to realize that you are co-creating your decisions and solutions. This is an active time together where you are listening to each other and aware your viewpoint will be expanded, enlarged by hearing your partner. You are aware that what your partner says is not an attack or an attempt to change you, but rather your partner is adding more information to the pool of what you both know and can think of. Out of this mutual pool, brand new things arise which are better than any idea either of you could have had alone.

In a relationship, you are not fighting over some limited indivisible resource. It is not a zero-sum game. You are on the same side, with the same big-picture goals. Never forget it.

Next week: more specifics on mutuality.

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner


In this week's blog, we discussed the experience of being on the same side, how to recognize it weakening, and what to do about it. We found hardly any articles that focused on that experience; most write about how to return to that state, rather than how to avoid losing it.

The Fine Art of Deciding Together "Contract thinking begins with the self-absorbed idea that life owes us something — happiness, comfort, ease, whatever — and that relationships shouldn’t get in the way of us achieving these things. ... By contrast, covenantal thinking begins with the idea that the bond means everything, beginning with a thankful heart and an eagerness to work with others, not around them. Covenantal thinkers don’t begin with “you and me,” but rather “we,” and they build togetherness by promising to be loyal, to work through issues, and perhaps most of all — to make decisions together."

Solve Your Relationship Problems Once and for All "Does it seem like you have the same fights, over and over? You’re not alone.  Learning to rethink how you view conflict can help couples grow closer. Then, the next step is having the right strategies in place for dealing with your problems. Here are three different ways of solving your relationship problems:"

The 7 Best Tips for Handling Anger and Resentment in Relationships "So what is the solution to dealing with resentment against your spouse and its possible escalation to anger? The solution is to channel the shock at your spouse’s behavior into empathy, to try and understand them, and to come at the situation trying to see their perspective. It’s trite to say, but that’s because it is advice which is perennial. If it were easy, no one would need to talk about it much."

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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