Issue 50 –
The Top Ten Challenges to Relationship:
Keeping Your Love Alive Amid Life’s Routines
Challenge 10: Maintaining a “Perfect” Relationship
Sometimes we work too hard to keep everything in our relationships perfect. We try to see eye-to-eye with our partners on all matters, we are impeccably empathic and understanding of one another, there are no problems, everything is wonderful, we are always linked energetically, we are indeed blessed, and we do everything together all the time. We put all of our energies into keeping the partnership trouble free and do our best to ignore any feelings of discomfort. The rule we hold in our minds is something like “in a really good relationship, everything runs smoothly, both partners always agree with each other, and they never separate but always do everything together.” Unfortunately, when we try to keep the relationship perfect in this way, we actually break the connection between our partners and ourselves because anything that does not work smoothly is ignored and too much gets left out.
Since relationships naturally ebb and flow and life is not always wonderful, perfection is not exactly an attainable objective. As a matter of fact, if this goal is attained and there is never any friction, we might suspect that something is being overlooked. This does not mean that relationships are always a mass of difficulties. What it does mean is (1) people are different and have different needs, (2) two partners invariably experience some areas of disconnection, disagreement, or misunderstanding, and (3) there is always a need for some separation as well as a need for togetherness.
This is why it is so important to be able to include in the partnering relationship some space for the consideration of what is not working either in the relationship or in your life. If you were running a business and you never looked at what did not work, you might find yourself in deep trouble. For instance, you run a freight service. Everybody knows that you only like good news, so no one tells you that there is a small knocking sound in the refrigerated truck that does your long distance runs. If you knew about it, you could have the problem fixed. But you do not find out about it because nobody wants to bring you the bad news and they tell themselves that since it is only a small knocking sound, it is probably not very important. So the truck breaks down in the middle of the desert with a full load of perishable lettuce.
It is the “small knocking sounds” that tell us what could be improved upon, what could grow into a problem, or what needs fixing. We all need time – and permission – to look at what is not working in our lives and in the relationship. In the partnering model of relationship, it is accepted that each partner can, and will, bring to the conference table “reports” of what is not currently working. This is not a gripe session any more than a business meeting to review the workings of a business is a gripe session.
What might you bring to the table? You would bring your dissatisfactions with your partner or your life. This might include talking about your attractions to others, attractions that pull you away from the relationship. You might include your fantasies, such as opening a new business, or having another baby, or running away to Fiji. You might talk of your fears about money, work, health, or even about the relationship. You might talk about your discomfort with always being together and express your need for time alone, or for a space in the house that is just yours. All these issues keep us from becoming too complacent or stuck in old patterns that no longer suit us, they all open doors into new thoughts and new possibilities.
We feel that it is important to have time set aside to look at these matters. It is not necessary to be formal about this, after all you are not running a business, but it is important to keep current. Keeping current with dissatisfactions or negative feelings (1) helps us to keep the connection with our partners alive, even if the connection is not pleasant at that very moment, (2) prevents a backlog of complaints from building up, and (3) helps us to deal with matters creatively and quickly. We fix the truck before it breaks down. That is what partners are for.
Each partner notices something different and contributes something unique to the partnership. You may become irritated when your partner gets too preoccupied with work and ignores you. Your partner may become irritated with you because you did not follow up on the business opportunity that presented itself last week. You may be great at noticing when the car needs repairing and your partner may be great at noticing when the bank accounts are getting too low. You can see how partnering as a model for relationship brings us the possibilities of using our full human potential as a powerful team.
Meeting the Challenges
The basic theme in all ten challenges is the underlying challenge to maintain the connection in your primary relationship. Most of the time this connection will be pleasant, but there are times, when you are dealing with unpleasant matters, when it will be a bit uncomfortable.
What must you do on a day-to-day basis to maintain the connection to your partner? First, you must make your relationship – and this connection – a priority. All the challenges mentioned in this chapter have a single common element. Each of them threatens to replace your relationship as a priority.
Second, when you feel uncomfortable with your partner or the relationship, or when you sense your connection weakening, don’t ignore your feelings. This is a warning, it is like a fire alarm going off. You may be tempted to think that the alarm is faulty and you may wish to turn if off because you can’t bear the sound, you don’t see any smoke, and you’re too busy to go looking for trouble. But pay attention. There is a gift of disowned energy somewhere in this discomfort.
The third, and perhaps the most important, ingredient in the recipe for a healthy, intimate, and loving relationship is time. The best way to meet all the challenges to relationship is to take time for one another and for your partnership. You cannot run a business without giving it proper time and attention, and you cannot expect to have a successful relationship without doing likewise. Take time for meetings, for work, for play, and for passion. Take time to be happy with each other and time to be irritated with each other. Take time to look at what works and makes you feel just great and time to listen to the small knocking sounds in your relationship and your lives that will tell you what doesn’t work. Take time to enjoy today and time to plan and to dream about tomorrow. Take time to hang out, just to be and not to do anything at all.
Most of all, take time away from the daily distractions and challenges we’ve been talking about to establish and to keep the delicious energetic linkage between you and your partner. It’s a good idea to make regular plans to break your daily routine and get re-acquainted. These breaks can take any form, so be creative.
If partners can keep their linkage, they will keep their relationship. Anything that breaks this linkage can damage the relationship. No matter how sensible, worthwhile, or absolutely necessary the distraction seems to be, it should be handled with great care and not allowed to break the essential connection between partners. It is very easy to ruin even a good relationship. It is also very easy, once we know about linkage, to preserve a good relationship and to make it even better. So go for the linkage, and good luck!