Some areas of behavior are so deeply a part of a relationship that they seem to occur naturally and receive very little conscious attention. These very same areas can often be critical pillars upon which successful relationships are built.
That’s how it is with maintaining balance within your relationship. Balance, you ask, “What exactly do you mean by that?” We refer here to a way of being with each other. One in which the bond of union and the sense of being connected and on the same side pervade all your interactions: the way you speak to each other, the tone of voice you use, the attention you pay, the way you listen to your partner, the respect you show.
But nearly everyone has had a relationship where something went wrong: you were bad-mouthed or felt unsupported, a financial agreement was breached, or even worse. The ensuing argument can get pretty bad, especially when other wrongs are dragged in – “Well, you always….” This is what Maude refers to as keeping lists, even if not consciously; they emerge in an argument like a pile of rocks at hand, ready to throw at the enemy. The argument escalates, spreads, and finally ends through resolution, surrender, exhaustion or revelation, but it generally leaves wounds and scars that can affect the relationship for some time, just as a damaged knee can bother you for years.
Be clear what your relationship values are; don’t stray too far outside those boundaries Click To TweetBetter than an auto repair shop is not getting into a crash in the first place, and in relationships, the method is counter-intuitive: have a low tolerance for mistakes. Be very clear about what your values are for your relationship, and don’t allow deviations too far outside these boundaries. This is probably one of the only areas where a low tolerance is appropriate!
Some time ago Phil expressed what might be described as a snippy attitude several times, and Maude called him on it immediately, pointing out that this type of behavior created rather quickly a distance and distrust that had no place within the relationship. Phil reflected on it and saw that truth right away, and Mr. Snippy was permanently retired! Crisis averted long before it even became a point of contention.
So by being very clear about what our values are in our relationship, we are able to live that way and remain in balance. Letting things slip and get out of balance is when you fall off the bicycle.
You might think that this advice is completely at odds with our frequent admonition to let your partner be completely themselves, without you controlling them in any way. It’s not. By bringing up the issue early on, when there is no intense emotional charge, and by making it personal, as in “I feel uncomfortable when…” rather than accusatory, you start a dialog that may lead to a realization that how the dishes are done is simply a cultural difference and not a life-threatening crisis, or you may conclude that respect is a core value for you, and being snippy is incompatible with that.
A peaceful relationship exists in a place where no matter what is happening in your external world and no matter how you feel, a natural balance in your relationship underlies all of your interactions. It is not dependent on the changes we all experience or the vagaries of our lives. This place of calm and love that is shared stands apart from any such changes.
So be tolerant and accepting of each other, but do not let those old destabilizing actions enter your exchanges. Stay in balance, the same way constant little adjustments keep you balanced on your bike. Be loving and present with your partner and guard that precious union, not ever taking it for granted. Happy riding!