I remembered recently, one of the single biggest de-escalators of conflict, which again immediately can shift a return to heart when we’re getting caught up in the friction of conflictual “stuff” is to be vulnerable and honest long enough to let it show when you genuinely feel like crap for whatever just happened, or you just did. If we look apathetic or are highly objective in that circumstance, many people perceive that as equating to you not giving two hoots about them or showing adequate remorse for the impact of your 50% of the equation.
Rather than hide how upset we may really be feeling at the realisation of having hurt someone that we care about or have a responsibility to care for, it facilitates healing and reconnection to actually let your concern, tears or your pain (depending on the context of the relationship) in whatever form it sits within, show. We can fear doing this because we fear it gives the other power over us and we lose positioning on anywhere where we too may have a part of the story we think the other should be accountable for. But this can be the difference between someone taking an exit because they think you’re apathetic to or haven’t acknowledged their pain and suffering, to reconnecting in the depth of love and care you really have for each other, relative to the vision you as a team share. And like I said above, it has to be backed up with re-commitment to the team principles, vision and plan.
Now, in business, or even in a family crises, there will be time where we just don’t have the luxury due to the urgency of a situation to go there for lengthy periods of time in a particular moment, we just need to get it done and THEN take stock later. But at some point, it definitely helps the healing process to admit and let one’s regret show.
15-Universal Compassion and Trusting in the Greater Purpose and Timing in all things
To take the understanding of the greater purpose we serve in each others lives and the “seeing through our heart eyes” bit a step further, In her book Scared Contracts, world renowned Medical Intuitive Carolyn Myss talks also about the concept that each of us comes to Earth with a predetermined growth roadmap/journey of life and experience in mind and that we have set up a series of agreements with many many other souls, who have agreed to be a part of those same scenarios for their learning and growth too (the understanding that we are all souls here to learn in experience, what are we trying to learn.) It is proposed that we do this for each other out of love, potentially even across lifetimes, a bit like in the movie Cloud Atlas. While this one may not be for everyone, time and time again though, I’ve found for myself and many people I’ve worked with, there is a certain comfort and a heart re-aligning perspective to be gained in the painful moments of relationships of all kinds, remembering that, beyond however angry (which is really hurt) we might be at someone in any given moment for whatever reason, on a soul level, you have a love so strong it transcends and endures through lifetimes and all manner of good and wrongdoings. Remembering that can catalyse a massive shift in a conflict in the click of your fingers. A perspective check of sorts, that is like the stickers on your rear vision mirrors that remind you that objects may be larger than they appear. The pain that we feel right now may not be the only possibility that exists, the “real” ultimate picture of the truth may appear differently than we think.
16-Cultivating our understanding of the ways in which men and women operate differently, cope and respond differently. And how can we better support each other within that.
This one admittedly is one that is very close to my heart and is one that fascinated me for decades. So much so that my best friend in high school literally, at one point, staged an intervention and confiscated “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” from my possession, until I rejoined the land of the living. But I digress, it’s easy to understand first hand as the representative of one particular gender what it’s like to BE that gender isn’t it, but quite another to try and get in the head of the mysterious others. It’s one of the greatest ways we can express care for each other is to try and develop and intellectual, as well as the previously mentioned actual present time experience of how it actually IS to be them. Care then, for the women you work with, can be NOT loading them up with 26 extra tasks that require highly logical and rational thought two days before they’re about to bleed, when the natural order of that moment, is readying to end a months worth of business, death and letting go and her hormones aren’t wired for zen. Or that you load her up with touchy feeling tasks when she’s bleeding and shitloads of social activity and can expect the most productivity when she’s ovulating and needs something to channel all that creative energy into. For women, like the charming video with the nail in the head, it’s understanding that woman language means acknowledging how crap the experience is to have a nail stuck in her head, rather than jumping straight to finding ways to get it out.
Likewise, for men, that means knowing little male nuisances like, that request for sex for the 16th time in the last 3 days and the 3rd in the last hour, on top of your mad pile of kid tasks and housework and client admin that needs to be finished, wasn’t actually just about an orgasm at all. It was one of the few ways society has deemed it acceptable for him to receive the deep intimacy, that desire just to be held that he’s deeply craving, but Western Culture told him he was “weak” to actually ask for. So he’s asking for sex, but really he just wants to hold you and feel your gentle presence and love until everything feels ok again. Or understanding that he may have grown up WITH that orgasm, and the associated hit of dopamine, being one of his primary coping mechanisms to handle stress and emotional overwhelm. And now if you hadn’t had sex in two weeks, and he’s trying to hold out, but he’s experiencing the male coping overwhelmed equivalent of PMT, maybe there’s a reason he’s losing his shit a little. Maybe its not the lack of sex that’s really the issue, so much as the perceived "withholding" of his coping strategy that has now been given over to his partner, by way of relationship/marriage, the perception of the partner having the power over? So what does he need in that moment to help him cope if it can’t yet be sex?
Or that men don’t often stop to cry in the middle of the workday because, from an evolutionary hunter standpoint, stopping to acknowledge one’s emotional fragility before a Lion’s about to eat you for dinner, may not have been wisest use of available time and survival strategy when your family were depending on you to put dinner on THEIR table. Hence his brain is literally wired to divert focus FROM the experience of feeling and sensation at those times. And when they do get upset, it takes them literally twice as long to slow their heart rates and breathing and calm back down again. For women though, we can burst into tears and reset to smiles in under a minute, so you don’t try and stop her crying, you let her cry and trust that, aside from a pothole or two, she’ll be fine shortly and it’ll be smooth freeway cruising again on the other side.
If we know more of these kinds of little things about each other, we don’t find each other so incredibly frustrating all the time, do we? Suddenly we start to have compassion in new ways for the opposite sex, and their fragility and maybe a laugh or two about how simultaneously fascinating and and yet a little cray cray we are at the same time :-) Bless.
17- Limitation of Values
So in part 1, we talked about the importance of visual and relational roles and values. But values also can have a flip side when it comes to relational longevity. Do you end a relationship every time one is transgressed? If we do, then relationships would and do have a very limited shelf life. And if our emotional threshold, or the emotional bank balance as Stephen Covey put it, is cumulative of more of the transgressions, but the bank statement is not showing the deposits, we might just be in trouble.
We have to thus have a good understanding of what our non-negotiable values are to set from the start of any given relationship and be true to those from day one. But to survive in a working or a personal relationship long term, one also has to capable of forgiveness, the natural cycle of letting go, death-rebirth and recovery when a value IS at some point transgressed, because it is ultimately, wether we meant it or not, inevitable as humans that we’ll drop the ball at some point. In which case, our values become like a GPS route to our recovery in those moments, and the transgressors conviction and commitment to the journey may be the determining factor of us staying on course.
But values can equally be the scapegoat someone uses as justification to give you the flick, guilt and abandonment free by using values to making us the bad guy, as opposed to actually just owning that they want something else now and speaking to that, even if it means the working relationship or personal one will come to an end.
And sure there might come a limit if someone says that they are in alignment with your values, but in reality, experience proves time and again that they can never meet you on that whole honesty upfront thing, or that fidelity or that not drinking at hitting you thing, or them following through and them doing the 20 remote hours work you’re paying them to do thing, suppose they never actually gets respected in action, maybe there should be a statute of limitation in the relational contract, if the person shows no willingness to honor your values with action? Ultimately, its up to each to decide for themselves as per that relationship and team vision. Such are the ways that values can hinder, as well as aid our growth.
18- Balancing Safety with Adventure
Firstly, the willingness to get out of our comfort zones at work. Believe it or not, that’s a thing.
At work, in teams, this is about getting over the need to only have a time full of like-mindeds, in favour of getting out of one’s comfort zone and recruiting the kind of diversity that will be complimentary to your own weaknesses or the tasks you wish to delegate. It’s also about making your workplace a little fun as well as a place with structure for getting important shit done in a timely fashion. My working life last year was as much an educational laptop lifestyle experience into the amount of work one can get done in the carpark of a lighthouse or at a cafe by a beach, and making some time to go play with whales, as much it was an exercise of creating enough routine and structure that I could get my sales calls in AND get an event organised to the A+ standard I desired to deliver through my business. Balancing safety with adventure has it’s place at work for sure. It makes for more fulfilment and work life balance.
Finding the balance between our safe zone and our adventure zone in romantic relationship
If you saw Esther Perrel’s 2013 TED talk on the subject, you’ll remember the million dollar question that is inherent to all long term romantic partnerships of the modern day. How do we simultaneously fulfil our need for safety, stability, security, reliability in order to build trust and deepen the connection, while simultaneously satisfying our need for adventure, novelty, spontaneity, surprise? Because both are needed for maintaining a relationship over the long term.
If you were to take the whole blog series so far from a romantic perspective so far, you’ve got a great recipe for creating love and safety. It is the effort over neglect piece that helps grow and maintain the garden that is relationship over the long term. But this blog wouldn’t be this blog unless it also included desire. As I worked with hundreds of clients on their intimacy stuff over the years, I too found that I certainly wasn’t alone in my complete terror of what happens when the desire dies in the ass…and what does that mean, anyway? I gave you part of the answer when I talked about authenticity, right?
But, I’d known for as long as I could think about relationships that ultimately we also need a) ample distance and room to observe our partner from a distance so that we can remember and appreciate why we felt so drawn to them in the first place b) time to ourselves to be able to again imagine, experience the fantasy of what it’s like to be with them so that we have ample room to both miss and hence desire what we don’t currently have again and c) the freedom and room to feel ourselves and explore ourselves as a sovereign, independent being and what floats our boat, as well as to then reconnect as a part of a couple.
If the other can’t cope though with us having that distance to do all of that, the neediness and dare I say it potential mistrust and fear that plays out can just as quickly kill that desire again. Just as can the expectation that our partner needs to be the whole village of people for us and then some, because it’s exhausting.
People assume sometimes that, because I’m not married at 36 that I must completely suck at romantic relationships, but that’s not what all the feedback has been. Every man I’ve ever been with has named me as one of the best friends and the easiest relationships he’s ever had. And for the most part, all of my longest relationships have been conflict free. I’ve got the love and safety piece down pat. On the first one though, the desire (really the authenticity) died the second his ex put herself back on the table and intellectually, he chose me, the smartest and safest option, while in hindsight, I think our bodies told the greater story of he left his hearts desire on the table when he didn’t choose her and mine told the greater story that HE left safety for me on the table when he wouldn’t quit drinking and trying to stuff the giant hole of having not gone after his heart and having lost temporarily his sporting life purpose. I could create all the safety in the universe but only he could chose to remedy that and when he didn’t, I left. All that and the next guy who had the same need for healing thing going on, taught me this, no 1, I actually rock at relationship, no 2 I needed to let go of any investments I had in needing a guy who needed to be healed and to let him take responsibility for his life purpose and maintaining his own wellbeing no 3) I need to finish healing and creating safe boundaries for family in my world 4) I needed more than ever the possibility of travel in my work and maybe even to have the option of living in a second house, so that I had the freedom to maintain my sovereignty AND come back crazy loaded with desire AND 5) no one person CAN be the whole village for a particular person, its exhausting.
And that, is my final point:
19- Living a life of work tech life balance
A healthy relationship is better supported by viewing it as an ecosystem than a single garden plot. The garden needs some signage and a lockable gate, clearly indicating that you are the custodian of that garden, that you need to be willing and able to protect and defend when people come sniffing around wanting to dig out all your plants and plant their own, in your garden. You both get to decide when the garden is communal and request when the community help you maintain it and when the gate gets locked and it’s private property, no trespassing.
Which means in practice, you need both the connection with your partner and each of you needs independent support people, e.g. friends, maybe occasionally professional support people, family IF they’re totally FOR your relationship, other people who can take care of the kids where and when needed so that you can maintain the relationship safety vs desire piece, plus people you share common interests or hobbies with just for fun.
Each person also needs a secret garden within that is independent of the other. A place where you cultivate your own experience, grown your own independent purpose and reason for being in the world, where you grow your own desires, where you love and care for yourself and care take the wounded part of you and maintain a sense of who you are, separate to the romantic relationship you’re in and any other relationships you participate in in life.
That means having an active life purpose you love, working with and for people you love.
That means having a clear sense, a clear boundary around when you leave work at work and step into either of personal, relational or family time and making good use of your ability to handover and delegate to your support team.
It means having some recreational things you do alone, just for you. Yes even in family. Especially in family. And not just alone moments spent hiding in the toilet, the walk in robe or the drive to pick up some more milk.
That means having a detailed self care plan for ourselves and our independent holistic wellbeing.
That means maintaining sovereignty over your own body and maintaining a sensual and physical, at times sexual relationship to self that your partner has no ownership of. In addition to the times and the agreement you have to share yourselves with one another.
That means not getting to caught up in the seriousness of life and the routine all the time, but cultivating ways to share constant laughs and playfulness with your partner in a thousand little ways, especially in life’s challenging moments.
That means getting away from tech and social media addiction and connecting with nature and real people where you can.
That means having friends with whom you grow, feel like more of you and feel expanded, as well as ones with whom you can have a whole bunch off fun. And having good clear emotional boundaries with them at the same time where needed.
And maintaining balance in all so that no one particular dominates over the others and thus you maintain some degree of work- tech- life balance
I could go on, but as I thought about some of the things that have worked for me in romantic relationships of the past (the one thing all of my past partner do agree upon is that we were amazing best friends, they were one of the easiest relationships they’d ever had and the most conflict free. But for each of us, there were things I outlined in this blog that, had we both known to do at the time, maybe we would have growth through and maintained the whole thing. But it is by the virtue of those moments of having not put all of myself on the table, trauma and all, through experiencing those moments where neither of us had enough support, through having learned that the care-taking role I had grown up having as normal in a childhood where a woman, my mother was dying and then learning how to UNlearn it in the trust that men can find their OWN life purpose and care for themselves, through later having connections that allowed me to go all in with the exploration of the exclusive and non exclusive desire piece and thus confront ALL my stuff about self worth, jealousy and possession) and then through all my work with clients over the years, both business and leadership related, community service related and relationship related, I’ve come to have an exceptionally detailed understanding of what, does and doesn’t work when it comes to maintaining relationship over the long term.
But then, so does each of us who’s ever lived a human relationship of any kind. Every single relationship has been a source of immense growth and learning for us all, right? Because that’s the beautiful thing that commitment to any given relationship affords us, through the depths of the resulting intimacy and safety, is the possibility to grow in a way that doesn’t quite happen in the same way on your own. There is a power we have, personally and professionally, when we work together that affords us the opportunity to get way more done, as well as understand on so many levels what it truly means to live a life you truly love.
What wisdom would you add to the long term relationship longevity picture?
Until next time, have fun, take care.
Covey, S.R., Principle Centred Leadership, 8th Edition, Simon & Schuster, London, 1992
Drexler, P. Why Cant Men Love Like Women, Psychology Today, Sep 14 2011
Perel, E, The Secret to Desire in Long Term Relationship, TEDSalon NY2013, February 2013
Nat talks about Self Expression, Heart Centred Communication and Lifestyle for Leaders.