How Are You Committed to Behaving in Your Relationships?
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PHIL: We had a long talk yesterday that arrived out of nowhere. Maude was feeling that we are somewhat drifting through life and not taking full opportunity to do things while we are still able to. But the details of the talk are not what I want to write about; far more interesting and useful is how it went and why it went like that.
Maude was clearly upset and struggling with this, and I could easily have taken it as criticism. I have become somewhat of a stop-at-home in recent years, comfortable in my daily habits, so it would have been easy for me to hear Maude’s plaint as a complaint rather than a lament, but I didn’t, neither did I look for a compromise that might appease her.
Now all of this was happening without rancor; we just sat in contact (important!) and talked. In the process Maude came to hear more clearly what was initially a diffuse dissatisfaction. We have seen this again and again, where talking about something not only communicates to the other person, but makes the speaker see the issues that initially only manifested as turbulence.
Operating like this is completely normal for us, and I think it is because we both see our relationship as based on cooperation, not competition. Because there is no risk of attack, there is no risk in speaking personally and openly, and the benefits are that we feel heard and have a greater understanding of each other.
That’s nice for you, you might be thinking, but what about the rest of us? And I think the answer is that you don’t have to drown in other people’s drama. You can use the occasion to reflect on what is important for you, and I hope the answers are love, goodness, and peace.In a peaceful relationship, there is never any energy spent on power or dominance #relationship Click To Tweet
MAUDE: Yesterday, Phil and I had an experience that was both illuminating and deeply validating. Before I get into the what and why of that, I want to share that it made me really aware of our commitment to each other. It’s a commitment that encompasses not only being in and remaining in partnership with each other, but one which is about so much more. I’d like to suggest to all of you that it can be really enriching to look at each of your relationships and what you are dedicated to in them.
But I’m putting the cart before the horse here. Let me start at the beginning.
We sat down yesterday to talk about an interesting project idea suggested to us by a dear friend. At least that’s what we thought we were going to talk about. Instead, I found myself sharing my thoughts and feelings on a broad array of areas concerning our daily lives, our balance of being and doing, and a sense that some changes needed to be made; even that there was some imbalance.
I hadn’t planned this, in fact I hadn’t even thought it out, so I was all over the place, hitting on many different things in no particular order. Sometimes, when I speak about my feelings or thoughts, it helps me to actually hear them, filter which ones are true, and find what it is I’m trying to put into words. I can do this with Phil because of the kind of being together we are committed to.
We are completely undefended with each other because we both know that neither of us is ever going to attack the other. We are not in competition. There is never any energy emanating from a desire for power or dominance. This knowledge allows for a deep trust and the assumption that even if the way something is formulated sounds like blame or accusation, it is not meant that way.
So, as I rambled on, searching for the essence of what I felt, Phil listened from this place of understanding. He could have taken some of it as criticism, he could have made it about him, but he chose not to. He chose to listen openly, allowing me to feel heard and acknowledged, and allowing himself to really hear something that was important for us to look at together.
I saw in this exchange the full depth of our commitment to each other; we want the best for each other and for the “we” that is us. We support each other from a place of trust born of experience as well as intent. This way of being lives in the presence of each moment. We choose it every moment.
When a choice like this is made, it can be applied in every relationship, including those where this kind of commitment is not practiced by both parties. Each of us can decide not to act defensively, regardless of the other person’s projections (We are not referring to situations of abuse here.) It is possible not to participate when confronted by blame, or recriminations, anger or accusation, tone of voice or power plays. It is not necessary to take this on or to be derailed. In these moments, we can choose peace, we can choose love. We can make that our relationship commitment.
Photo credit: Phil Mayes
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I Love this!!! And I love the photo of you two.
Always thanks —
In response to Maude asking for feedback on whether we are talking to the void:
You’re not writing into the void. Your posts are thought-provoking.
Kathy Jean Schultz
I appreciate how life can be a process rather than an ordeal. The secret, as you have mentioned, is to not take what is said as a personal affront. Cooperation works better than competition for solving problems.
This is so beautiful! I need to hear this right now and reinvigorate my own commitment to peace in every single interaction. Tomorrow I’m meeting a friend – we’ve had a big rift in our relationship. I am pretty sure that I don’t want the kind of closeness we were trying to have for many years. I want to show up with her and myself listening…as love and peace. And this doesn’t mean that we will have a close friendship again. I’m open to all possibilities – but so far haven’t seen her capable of or willing to be in the level of authenticity I thrive on in my relationships.
So much love to you both….
I’m envious of your relationship, and specifically of your ability to communicate without taking things personally.
A good start is to not cause those in your intimate relationships to feel defensive. If you are not attacking ( overtly or covertly) you will be less likely to assume others are.
I’ve become reasonably skilled at that. I just haven’t had an intimate relationship for quite some time now. So that’s what I’m envious of, although envy is too strong a word. I just miss it.
The how is often more important than the what. It seems you two have learned how to be, care, listen and share with one another. I did a radio interview yesterday and the interviewer told me about a course she did on creativity where she wrote activities on pieces of paper and put them in a hat and then wrote characters on pieces of paper and put them in another hat and had people draw from each hat and then draw a cartoon. That could be a good stay at home activity.