"The hardest-learned lesson: that people have only their kind of love to give, not our kind.." Mignon McLoughlin, "The Neurotic's Handbook." 1960
I know- you are probably wondering what else can he possibly say about conflict. It's been a frequent topic here over the last few months. What I want to mention today does makes a slight shift. I'm going to talk about some practicalities of conflict management in our close relationships. And I'm going to list these as bullet points (how did we ever get by before the bullet point was invented?). I want you to know though that I'm only using bullet points so that I can fit-in better in The Land of Blog. I don't like bullet points when it comes to talking about human relationships- our relationships are too complex to be summed up tidily in a silly little bullet point. But I know too, that people will not read anything on the net that is much more than three or four paragraphs long. And to even get people's attention for that long, it needs to be set out in an easily readable format. The minute people turn on their computers, it seems they have an attack of Attention Deficit Disor- wow, these new shoes are so uncomfortable....
"A relationship is an organism - you created this thing, then you starved it, so it turned against you. Same thing happened in 'The Blob.' "
Wise words indeed from Jerry Seinfeld. If you were a fan of the tv series, you will recall that he and his posse (I do miss those guys....) were all complete disasters in the relationships department. Yet there is so much wisdom in this statement.
Chances are the term 'relationship' is more likely to be considered to be about a couple. But again, there is relevance for all relationships - or at least with those people whom we are close to, and if the relationship is one that is really important to us..
I'm struck time and time again by people who think they do not have to work at their relationships. Or, in the case of couple relationships, thinking that the real work happens in the early stages of the relationship - that from then on, no real effort is required, because love occurs naturally and spontaneously, and that is essentially all that the relationship needs. Love will be the launch pad, and that will be all that is required to sustain it through the years ahead. Well, if only it were that simple!
It's easy for couples to get caught up in the demands of their day top day lives. Couples with young children can be at a demanding life-stage. Lives can be busy with careers, the needs of wider family, and the challenges of raising children. There will be competing needs from all the people that feature regularly in the lives of the couple. There will be the likely financial pressures that are a sign of the times for many couples. So it's easy to understand that the relationship gets bumped down or even off the list of priorities. The couple then begin to notice that they have less tolerance for each other, they become more irritable, hanging out together is not a priority, displays of affection for each other diminish over time. If they were to view the relationship as an actual third party, well then yes, it has turned on them. The Blob has arrived.
I've talked with many couples over the years about the importance of staying focused on their relationship - that if they do not do so, the demands of life as mentioned in the paragraph above can cause it to slip right off the radar. And yet it is this very relationship that is the cornerstone- in fact the very foundation- for all of that other stuff that could not/would not happen if the relationship did not exist. If the couple relationship had not been there in the first place, then other things such as kids, a mortgage, careers etc, would not have arisen out of it. Yet these other factors will often wind up being viewed as being more important, or more of a priority than that original relationship that kicked it all off to begin with.
It is so easy for couples to rationalize as to why they share less and less pleasurable time together- that they will not have the energy to do so, once all the other demands of family life have been met- a catch cry can be 'we were too tired to go out,' as though the going out together would be an OK thing to do, but we have no money/are too tired/have no baby-sitter. It is important that time spent on the relationship is not seen as a luxury, that it is not an indulgence. It is not only a necessity, it is a form of insurance for the whole family. All those other parts of couples lives together will run more smoothly, when the central relationship is in a good space.
Any children too, can only benefit if parents take the time to stay focused on the importance of the couple relationship. This provides not only enhanced stability for the children, but also important role-modelling in terms of the way healthy adult relationships work. And in reality, it is not hard to do this- in the early stages of being together as a couple, the couple relationship was a fun, satisfying and rewarding place to be. And very little effort was required.
If you want to get in on five simple, yet effective strategies that can help your relationship stay on track, check out what's over here.
Stay focused, stay on track, put the relationship first- keep The Blob at bay.
"Some occasional thoughts about families, relationships, and other things that distract us...."