Back in New York City again, but this time in a different part- Mid Town East Manhattan, so it's nice to get to know yet another part of this amazing metropolis that eight million people call home. Mid town is quieter, yet so many iconic buildings and sites are just a stone's throw away. The city is hot and humid at this time of year, but it never slows down- New York is literally the city that never sleeps.
Big news in this country this week has been the dirty linen being aired about Mel Gibson by his ex partner Oksana Grigorieva (BP must have heaved a sigh or relief when this all blew up). It all got me thinking about the power balance in relationships- and the importance of this..None of us know what it is like for those two in reality- clearly Mel is showing his true colors and in reality is probably the angry and controlling nut-job that we had suspected, following his earlier rants about Jews.. But I think Oksana has been quietly powerful in her own way, in terms of how she has exposed him and turned the tables, even when there was then an enticement of $15 million to shut her up, she was not about to be bought off.
Whilst power in relationships (and again, I'm talking about any close/significant relationship- not just couples) is only one component, never the less, it is an important one. Relationships are always going to be healthier and more balanced if the power is roughly shared... And what I mean by power, includes several different aspects- who decides things, such as how resources (such as money) are managed? Who decides future goals and directions? Are individual views valued, or does one person's view & opinions become subsumed by that of the other? How are tasks and responsibilities managed and shared? Is one person expected to follow the interests of the other, without this being reciprocated? Is one person's development (eg., career, or study) compromised, so that the other person can get ahead?
Relationships can tolerate a power imbalance at times- such as when one person is sick- but overall, the power needs to be shared (even if it is not always an exact 50/50 split), if the relationship is to be healthy and statisfying for both parties.....
What I had meant at the end of the last entry, was that 'the stuff' that settles in, as a relationship endures, but largely takes the place of the sparkly exciting stuff, (which served to get us in to the relationship to begin with), gets overlooked, because it is not AS exciting. But what it may lack in the Excitement Department, is made up in other ways. For instance how many people will tolerate your 'funny' little idiosynchrosies without (hardly ever) complaining, or who else can you be in the company of for several hours, with very few words being spoken between you both, yet it is still OK? Who else is your allie against the world, who else have you teamed up with, to raise a child, or to pay a mortgage? It is that stuff that is at the core of successful long-term relationships, yet it is largely invisible, being over-shadowed by the sexy & exciting chemically driven stuff that helped us to get hooked up to begin with, when the relationship was in its infancy. But if that initial buzz is not there now in the same way as it might have been, it does not mean that the relationship is no longer working. And I am not saying that relationships should still not be exciting as they unfold over time- of course they still can be. But that will not happen without you working at it. And do not underestimate the importance of the other stuff that is the glue of the longer term relationship- that is where the real relationship satisfaction can come from.
Look at the successful long-term relationships that you know of already- what is it that makes them work?
I guess one of the things that helps to really make a relationship endure over time, is how conflict is managed. Conflict is likely to be present to varying degrees, in all our core relationships- not just with our partners, but with our siblings, our parents, our kids, our friends, our workmates, etc. And that is OK- conflict with others is part of the human condition, whether we like it or not.. Therefore it is important to think about our own individual models (or maps) for conflict. How do I 'do' conflict, and what taught me to do it in this way?
There will be a bunch of factors that will shape our conflict model or map. One of these will be our own temperament, but perhaps of even greater significance will be what we were exposed to as maps or models of conflict (and also conflict resolution) were being formed, ie., when we were growing up..So did our parents have a means by which they worked through their issues..Or did we even see any conflict from them at all- did they never argue in front of the kids (probably not helpful, as you could potentially grow up thinking think that there is no such thing as conflict- which is of course inaccurate). Or did they fight and argue non-stop, recycling the same old issues, and never working through anything? (By the way, it is not helpful to have frequent, huge blazing rows in front of young kids - but even younger children can tolerate a degree of conflict so long as (and here's the thing) they see Mum and Dad being OK with each other again soon after- eg., a smile, a laugh, a hand on a shoulder, etc).
So a key factor in our conflict with others, is not so much the conflict itself, but instead how much my model of conflict fits (or not) with the person I am in the conflict with... What does it mean if I really feel quite energised with a good and hearty yelling much, yet the other person has had very limited exposure to conflict, and finds it very scary or overwhelming, and therefore runs a mile? How will we ever resolve anything, if we have completely different maps for conflict management?
There are of course some tactics or strategies that can ensure conflict has less of a negative impact on relationships- I'll talk some more about that later on..It's pretty straight forward stuff, yet not always well known. But what I think is more important is how your model of conflict sits alongside (or opposite to) those people whom you are likely to get into conflict with....
See related post: Conflict and the Noisy New Yorker.
My mission to come to grips with blogging continues. It seems that serious bloggers are very prolific- I know this is true, because I've been subscribing to a couple of them lately. And these people seem to be blogging around the clock, if the rate I receive them at is anything to go by.. Apparently it's a no-no to not be accepting peoples comments and responses to the the things I post here. So I should do something about that. I'm also supposed to think about how to keep postings relevant and interesting. And current- that's where the vampire comes in. Seems they are everywhere these days- books, tv, movies and everyone is a bit besotted by them. Chuck in a vampire or two, and people will come in droves...
But it turns out blog-wise (if such a word exists) I'm not doing too badly anyway- I had close to 400 readers during June, according to my web stats (now that I have figured out how to read them properly...). Not just clicks, but actually lingering readers of the blog. Though it seems everyone is just skipping right over the other riveting stuff on my website (big sigh...), and going straight to the blog, as those other pages got very little action in comparison. But hey, not bad for a Baby Blogger just starting out, who doesn't really know what's going on in The Land of Blog. And maybe I have to spruce those other pages up a bit, make them more readable.
Speaking of vampires and other things that live forever, I'm always a little surprised when I hear about people/couples who thought that their relationship would last forever, but without any actual need for either of the participants to work at it. That the shiny sparkly chemistry that attracted them to each other, and got them into the relationship in the first place would somehow suffice, and they could go the distance based on that alone. The reality is, that it literally was just chemistry and was designed to just hook them up with each other. So yes, probably no real effort was needed, at least to start with..... Eventually though, that stuff was going to wear off, and if the couple did not need to work at things back then, they would need to now (ie., post-chemistry).
Such is the natural order of things- we have to work at ALL our important relationships in life, even the less central ones, so why would it not follow that this central relationship, that is one of the most important of all, would also need to be worked at, if it is to endure? If I go to work and ignore my boss for a week or two, and if I do this periodically, chances are I will not still be employed , there when it comes time to collect my gold watch at the end of my long and dis (ex?) tinguished career. I have to work at the relationship. That involves, amongst other things, being sociable and pleasant, doing what I am asked, plus sucking up to him from time to time: working at the relationship. Hopefully he is working at the relationship too- (but it's a given that there will be a power inbalance in that relationship, so he may not be working at it at all- he's the boss, after all).
Same in couple/marital relationships- people have to work at them. Yet there are people (who should really know better), who will walk away from a relationship (after the initial romance or chemistry has waned- and there is no set period for this) "because I fell out of love with him/her." Lazy, naive, or maybe both. Those that do the work, and go the distance, do discover some important and positive (albeit less shiny) things about their relationship over time.. I'll now have to mention those next time, as I see how much I've now written here....A good blog is a concise blog, especially if you are a beginner.
Happy 2010 Part Two...
"Some occasional thoughts about families, relationships, and other things that distract us...."