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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Relational Awareness: Being Aware of Your Relationship Surroundings.

Time and time again, I've heard that one of the keys to a successful marriage is communication.   It sounds good as an open line of communication is good in any relationship--friendship, professional, parent/child, sibling etc.  However, what does that mean in practical terms?   I've thought about that from time to time as I have explored or considered ways to improve the various relationships in my life.  I never could find the words to express it however.   I finally stumbled upon a phrase which captures it for me: Relational Awareness.

What I am talking about is: how to be yourself, but also be a good partner, friend, parent, sibling, etc.   I'll start by exploring (from my perspective), what I consider the unhealthy relationship personalities.


  • Co-dependence 
    • It can look like selflessness or thoughtfulness, but in reality it may be anything but that.
    • The co-dependent may truly and actually sacrifice, but often for the wrong reason or motivation.   Often the difference is subtle.
      • The codependent may truly be sacrificing, but it is hopes of gaining approval or in some cases just keeping the peace.
      • Behaviors/actions may be guided by a desire to keep (or make) the other party happy, not because it is the best course of action.  In other words, minimizing yourself in hopes of being approved of.
  • Ambivalence
    • Expressing mixed feelings or sending mixed messages.
    • Caring about the other person, but not necessarily being fully invested.  
    • It can at times appear one partner doesn't care about the other, but in some ways it might actually be caring too much, just not always showing it do to being in a conflicted state
  • Narcissism
    • Can play out in a few ways.
      • Obvious indifference to the other.
      • Actions/behaviors undertaken are taken without regard to what is important to your partner.
      • To the extent it seems like a narcissist cares about the other, it is usually based on subtly manipulating them for advantage.  Examples can include:
        • Being the 'helpful' or 'generous' one, when the real goal is to gain allies in quest for position.
        • Offering to buy a home security system or installing security on electronic devices when the goal is to monitor or keep track of another.

I'm sure this is not a complete list, but really my larger point is this: What characterizes good communication.  When I speak of communication, I don't just mean things spoken, but things unspoken too.   Each relationship personality type, is an example of what DOESN'T lend itself towards good communication.  

--

It occurred to me, a couple can best succeed if they have what I call relational awareness.  Some of the characteristics I see in relational awareness.
  • Being willing to step outside yourself and be willing to see others through a filter not your own.
    • Thinking of an alcoholic as a selfish jerk who doesn't care about others, when he may be a broken man who lost his family.
    • Thinking a kid who doesn't do their homework is just lazy, when the truth is the kid is struggling and is too embarrassed to ask for help.
  • Taking into account the other's circumstances/background in how you relate to them.
    • This doesn't mean letting relating to them completely on their terms as that can diminish your own self/needs.
      • Adopting their point of view (POV) or way might in some circumstances be beneficial anyway.
      • In other circumstances, adopting their POV or way may not be beneficial, however, being respectful of it can be helpful.
    • What it means is finding a way that respects both people's needs.  Your need to be 'heard' and their need for a type of communication which is healthy for them.
    • For example, a partner who grows up in a household beset by yelling and fighting.  That partner may respond poorly to yelling and fighting.
      • You work to see if the partner can unpack what bothers them.  
      • That doesn't mean never show displeasure at the them.  Instead, you might consider different ways to get the same point across before losing your cool and/or you might consider whether the issue is really worth losing your cool.  In other words, reserve or limit your 'loud' hostility to really important 'battles'.
  • Being willing to accept that there people have a way that works best for them and respecting that instead of trying to 'fix it'.
    • That doesn't mean you never provide or show an alternative way.  It can mean putting it out there, but not insisting.
    • It means that they may not be open to an alternative way at this time and considering whether it is an important enough point or issue to conflict on.
    • Realize that sometimes people come to the same conclusion in different timing.  It may just be they need to internalize another way as their own before they embrace it.
  • Being willing to consider that people have different ways of communicating and learning to accept it in many cases and work with it in other cases.  For example...
    • Some people need to talk it out as they process.
    • Some people need to heavily process before they talk it out.
    • Some people talk out only what they consider the important things.  When the 'important things' are agreed upon, the little things will tend to fall into place better.
    • Some people like to talk out what could be deemed as less important.  The 'big picture' is made up of countless 'little pictures'.

In short, it doesn't mean just conceding to the other person, but it does mean 
  • Accepting that other points of view can and often do have legitimacy.
  • Accepting that even if your way may look better objectively, their way may be better for them or better for them at this time (in other words, it may be something that can be worked on, just not forced upon them).
  • Accepting that some battles just aren't important enough.  In other words, you can disagree without being disagreeable, especially if their intent is good.
  • Accepting that a relationship is a work in progress.  Like any journey in life, the moment you think you've arrived, you stop growing.

If communication was easy then the country would not be awash in marital counselors.   If it was easy then people would never fight.  If it was easy the divorce rate would probably not be as high.

To me this is really an extension or expansion of my prior post about 2D vs. 3D relationships.   It is important not just knowing things about the other person, but really having a sense about what makes them tick and trying to work with that knowledge.

Jut my 1/50th of a $1 for the day.

Cheers,
Rich



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