The Positive Approach - Lesson 15
Improving Your Relationships
By Peter Shepherd
- Does what you and the other are doing align?
Take a look at what is going on in a current relationship. Do it with the other person if possible. Make an honest assessment of the current situation and then work together to align these different elements:
- What is the Actual State of affairs?
- What is the Basic Intention of each of you regards each other?
- What is therefore the Ideal State of affairs?
- Therefore what Desired Objectives do you share?
- Work out an Overall Plan to achieve those objectives.
- What are the Daily Actions that will be needed?
- Responsible for what?
Examine the responsibility each is taking. Work toward a full responsibility for the overall relationship and one's own reactions, but do not attempt to be responsible for everything about the other person. Their beliefs and feelings are their own responsibility. What are you willing to be responsible for regarding (other person)? What are you not willing to be responsible for regarding (other person)?"
- Is there a competition?
Sort out any issue of competition for territory. What kind of game are you and the other playing? If it is a game, then consider it as such and enjoy it. Is there something there isn't enough of that has to be fought for? If so, reassure that there is enough to go round (love, affection, money, communication, whatever).
- Is there something one of you needs to know?
Upsets between people usually result from a failure of communication, very often one not knowing what is in the other person's mind, and therefore not acting accordingly. Work out what you don't know and get an answer; ask the other what they need to know and provide it.
- Is something being kept back?
With the other person, work over the following questions as long as there is still anything to find on them. With somebody who has been a long relationship, that might be a LOT. What has (other) done that was hard for you to experience? What has (other) failed to say about that? What have you done that was hard for the other to experience? What have you failed to say about that?"
- Lost the original excitement?
Go back to when you first got together and examine what you saw in each other, what was fun and exciting. Get all the details and particularly the feelings. If the other person is available, do it at the same time with closed eyes and arrange it so you see each other first thing when you open your eyes. Transfer the feelings to the present.
- What have you learned?
Reframe the relationship as a learning experience. Find out what specifically each of you might have to learn from each other. Perhaps one person can do some things better, one can tolerate some things more easily, one can appreciate some things more readily. What do you have to learn from each other? What have you learned from each other?
- What do you agree about?
Find out what you both actually agree on, what you see the same way, interests you have in common, stuff you have the same feelings or same reactions to. Come to realize how much common ground you have to build on.
- Communication withheld?
What do you want to say to the person, but for some reason can't say or aren't saying? Why not? Imagine actually saying them to the other person, then do so out loud and imagine the reply. Then go ahead and say it. Allow the other freedom to be themselves.
- Likes and dislikes?
What do you like about the other and what don't you like? Does the other person have to be perfect for you to like them? Are you perfect? Do either of you need to be perfect or would you rather be yourselves? What is unique about you and the other?
- What's needed and wanted?
Ask each other what is needed and wanted from the other person. Honestly inquire what the other person actually wants. Not having any argument or discussion about it, but simply find out what it is the other side would like.
- Talking honestly?
Get together and tell each other what you really want to say about each other. Try to keep to what is personally felt, how things are perceived from either end. No "You ..." accusative statements allowed. Continue until you each learn to respect what the other person says and begin to have more understanding of each other.
Examine what each of you keep secret from each other. Secrets tend to build and make you grow further from each other. Find out what isn't being faced up to, what isn't being taken responsibility for. Is there anything you would never say to the other? Do you have secrets from each other? Why?
- Is there some co-dependence?
Each person needs to look at the responsibilities they have given up or areas they have withdrawn from by being in the relationship. For example, no longer maintaining friendships "because the other wouldn't like that." What does your relationship not allow you to deal with? Is this resented?
- Are you making yourself right?
Look for fixed ideas about what is right. How do you think this relationship is supposed to be? What principle are you operating by? What piece of logic do you use? Is one of you making him or her self right by making the other wrong in some way?
- Are you different?
What is similar between you and the other? What is different between you and the other? What qualities does one person have that the other is lacking? How can you make the most of these differences to complement each other rather than conflict?
- Talking about yourself?
Turn the complaints you may have about the other person around as something you are really saying about yourself. Find the parts of yourself that match it. This is a very common phenomenon, that whatever one doesn't like or doesn't accept about somebody else is really what one doesn't like or accept about oneself. One can't really change it in the other person, but one can change it in oneself, once one finds that part of oneself.
- Are you allowing changes to occur?
Examine your willingness to let the other person change. Sometimes the different parties in a relationship try to keep the other person the same, or keep them in accord with their ideas and expectations. If the other person suddenly changes they don't like each other so much any more. That is not very useful, so increase the tolerance of change when you can. Find the underlying qualities you like about each other, but free up any fixedness about specific required behavior and circumstances. Consider: "What changes would you allow (other) to make?"
- And in the future?
Visualize how you would like the relationship to be in the future. Check if that is really congruent, or if it is just an abstract dream. Backtrack it toward the present. How can you make that happen?