Good day, gentle reader.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece on some easy ways to f*ck up your relationships, and it occurs to me that sharing some of the tools I’ve learned over the years that HELP relationships would present a nice balance.
These are tools are all simple, and I doubt any idea in the list is new. In my experience, when I am operating with these behaviors present, my relating is healthy.
As is always the case, unless otherwise noted, I’m writing about relationships that occur in a context of consent and that are free from abuse. Your experience will be unique to you. I’m simply sharing what works for me.
1. If you can’t take a person as they are, then do not engage.
Accepting that, over time, your needs might shift, as might those of your person, ask yourself this “can I be with this person as they are right now, today?’. If the answer is anything other than a resounding YES, then consider not taking them on in Relationship.
2. Own your emotions.
Briefly: learn the distinction between stimulus and emotional response. Spend time cultivating maturity and skillfulness in managing your emotional response. Repeat as needed.
This idea is a way for you (and me) to stand fully in your power and own your shit. You (and I) get to feel fully the anger, and the love, and the happy, and the sad, and the grief, and the guilt. This tool – the tool of understanding the distinction between stimulus and response –can help you end codependent behavior patterns. This tool can help you unpack and recognize where your triggers lie; and you can use it to gain clarity and perspective.
Something that I adore which arises out of being responsible for my own feeling-state, is that I am far less likely to engage in controlling behavior. I am also far more likely to be able to follow the third guideline in un-fucking relationships:
3. Negotiate Behaviors Rather Than Feelings
This was a big one or me – embracing the idea that asking for behaviors is healthier than asking for feelings. It was so big, that all of my relationships transformed in an instant. Every. Single. One.
Here are the main steps in this process:
· Figure out what behaviors help you have the emotional responses you need or want.
· Ask for the behavior with the knowledge that your request might be declined, and that’s OK.
· If you can’t live without the behavior, then consider re-framing the relationship.
Repeat as necessary
Notice here, please, that the first step is for you to do the work of identifying both your NEED and the BEHAVIOR you are requesting.
4. Be Vulnerable
I can’t say it better than Brene’ Brown, so I’ll share some of her words here: ‘Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
Do it. Get on that path and walk it.
5. Clarify if you’re solving a problem or needing to vent before you have the conversation.
Have you ever had the experience of sharing/processing something that’s up for you, and the person with whom you are speaking replies with solutions to your problem, rather than simply listening so you can process it? Have you been on the other side of that conversation coin?
Here's a simple question you can ask if someone starts 'dumping' and you don't know what they need: ‘Are you trying to solve a problem here, or are you more needing to vent/process?’ wait for the answer. Listen in alignment with the need of your person if you can. Be kind in declining the conversation if you cannot.
If you are on the giving end of the conversation – meaning, you’ve initiated it, get consent from your person before you have the conversation. It’s the kind thing to do.
Personally, I have a strong preference to reach out to the person with whom I want to process/problem solve first, and then have the conversation. Text works great for that 'hey there. do you have some time to listen to me cry about something?'... that way, they can accept or decline.
6. Stop Reading Motives
Reading Motives has to do with assigning internal reasoning to someone else’s behaviors based on what you know/assume about them. You’ll know you are reading motives when your inner dialogue sounds like ‘She did that because she’s __________’.
Reading motives is a way to judge, assign blame, cultivate expectations, and stop listening/learning a person. None of those things do much to increase connection and create safe space for vulnerability.
Your mantra for this, should you choose to accept the challenge is: “only don’t know”.
7. Embrace the possibility that your values might be opposed to those of someone else, and that both of you can still be ‘right’ and ‘good’ people.
It is entirely possible for two virtuous values to contradict each other in practice; take loyalty and integrity as an example. If you are a person for whom loyalty is paramount, you might be more OK with lying/manipulation than someone for whom integrity is paramount.
Imagine learning that someone you both care about is having an affair. From a loyalty perspective, you might keep that information to yourself, because you don’t want to hurt your friend’s relationship. Your partner, however, being a person for whom integrity is the most important, might choose to disclose the affair because truth.
This could be sticky inside the context of your relationship with your partner – ‘how could you do that?’ being met with ‘how could you not?’.
In those moments, you have an opportunity to discover and uncover deep, core values that your person has. Maybe the incongruity is a deal-breaker. Maybe not. You will never know unless and until you listen to understand
So there you have it, folks. 7 ways to Un-Fuck your relationships. I’ll expand on each of the strategies in future posts.