Is Your Relationship Working?

Keep a daily tally of both positive and negative occurrences.

One of the most common questions that people ask when they are entering or are about to enter a long term, committed relationship is, “How do I know it will work?” At some point, every couple with whom I have worked has asked this question, or some variation of it. Well, at least one of the people involved would ask. In the spirit of full disclosure, that used to be me. The short answer to that question is, YOU DON’T!

The reality that most people don’t want to hear is that there is no way of predicting how one will feel tomorrow, let alone 20 years down the road. “I will ALWAYS love you” is a sweet sentiment and in truth, is an exclamation that can be made without running the risk of giving false hope – if the statement is taking literally and without assumption. “I will always love you”, does not mean “I will always be with you.” What it means is that, for what ever reason, there is something between the two of you that holds significant value to the proprietor of that statement. A value that will never diminish in his or her eyes. While there is no way to guarantee the outcome of the relationship, that value is something that can be used to determine if the relationship is working for you right now.

To sum it up, you need to see more positive than you do negative within the relationship. In other words:

NET POSITIVE > NET NEGATIVE

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it may seem. Reason being that each person holds a different point system for the values that mean the most to them. You can refer to the article on core values by reading an article on arguing. It’s not enough to make a pros and cons list and simply list the things about your relationship into their respective category. This is a part of it, but first, you have to sit down and assign a point value to the issues in your relationship, be them positive or negative. For example, I firmly believe in the love language philosophy. Simply put, the book by Gary Chapman explains that every person has their own language which depicts the manner in which they give and receive love. For me, physical contact and terms of endearment are my top two languages. These are the most common ways that I express that I love someone and the best way for me to feel loved by someone. Therefore, I place a higher value on these occurrences within my relationship than someone who likes to give and receive gifts as one of their primary languages.

To help determine if the current status of the relationship works for me, I use a five point scale, ranging from (+2) – (-2). It is easy for me to sit back and think about the daily interactions that I have in my current relationship. Actually, my girlfriend makes it pretty easy for me because we happen to speak the same two languages. She is never shy with telling me how much she loves me and she is not stingy with walking up and giving me a hug and kiss for no reason at all. I’m a lucky guy! But getting back to the point, I realize that most couples do not speak the same language. More importantly, even if they do, it is a scientific fact that negative occurrences far outweigh positive occurrences. It takes (on average) five positive occurrences to equal one negative occurrence. Looking at things in an objective manner is difficult for anyone to do.

The suggestion I give is to carry a pocket sized notebook with you at all times. Write down each occurrence with your partner and tally the results at the end of the week. By occurrence, I am saying refer to the list that you make yourself of the things that hold the most and least value to you. Below is a sample list of positive and negative occurrences.

POSITIVE

  • Tells me she loves me – +2

  • Physical contact – +2

  • Gifts – +1

  • Honesty – +2

  • Spend time together – +2

  • Wants Kids +1

NEGATIVE

  • Lies -2

  • More time at work -1

  • More time with friends -1

  • Abusive (any kind) -2

  • Cleanliness -1

NEUTRAL

  • Politics -0

  • Religion -0

  • Similar family structure -0

Notice how some of the list is generalized and won’t change, (eg Wants Kids). Others are ever changing and the number of occurrences can greatly impact the results. This list is just an example of some things that can go toward your own list of the overall determination if the relationship is working for you. For the sake of the exercise, keep track of things that can fluctuate, such as physical contact. You can be as detailed about some of the list as you want. For example, in your notes about contact, you can put that you spent 20 minutes sitting on the couch holding hands or you can simply put a check mark indicating that there was physical contact in a positive way.

You can also determine how long you keep track of these occurrences, however I suggest that you spend at least a month doing so. Every couple goes through ups and downs, so observing things under a microscope will need to occur for a length of time for an accurate picture. Here’s the other thing to keep in mind; if you end up with results that yield more of a net negative than a net positive, that does not mean that you should end the relationship right then and there. If you want to see the relationship work, then share your results with your partner. Put the ball in their court, but do so tactfully. I strongly caution against giving ultimatums unless it is absolutely necessary. Saying “If you don’t change this, then I will leave,” is an extreme step to take and in most cases, will result in you having to enforce your statement.

Instead try eliminating finger pointing words when addressing occurrences that hold negative values. Only spend a little time addressing the negative aspects of the relationship by mentioning it once, then following up with positive occurrences, giving praise where praise is due. Begin the next item with something positive again before addressing something negative, followed by another positive. In other words, two positives for every negative.

This brings me to the issue of honesty. I have been told on more than one occasion that I am “too honest” at times. I believe in sharing everything with my partner, even when I know it will be difficult or even cause tension. But I forge ahead regardless to show her that I have the utmost faith in our ability to work through anything and come out the other side stronger than ever. I am curious to hear your thoughts about the level of honesty you feel should be present in your relationship and why. Please leave a comment on here or you can contact me at Always Opening Doors.

Finger Pointing Words

I’ve been to counseling as an individual and counseling as a couple. One of the things that has been repeated over and again, almost like a mantra, is using “I” statements to express how I feel. Maybe I’m just slow. Alright, I know that I’m slow at times. I don’t think that I’m the only one, though, when it comes to understanding what exactly that entails. I have worked with a number of clients that have repeated the same thing; “I know how to communicate. I used “I” statements.”

Good for you. I’ve said the same thing. It wasn’t until I went to a workshop at Sandler Training in Wexford, PA, that I finally grasped the absolute right way to use “I” statements. They put us through an exercise that really opened my eyes to the application of this useful tool. I modified the exercise to be applicable to a situation in which I found myself. I used the same tactic with one of my client couples. At the end of the exercise, both of them just sat there looking at one another. Their communication had reached a new level; the likes of which neither of them had, until that moment, yet experienced.

So what was this mind blowing revelation?

The exercise at Sandler put us in a mock networking event. The rules were simple. Go around the room, talking to people as you would in a real networking event. The only stipulation was that we couldn’t use I, we, us, our or any derivative of those words. We had to talk about ourselves and what we did in an extremely abbreviated fashion. The person who slipped up first had to sit down and was out of the game.

For those of you who know me on a personal level know that I love the sound of my own voice. In other words, I love to talk. As a coach, I am constantly having to remind myself that I have two ears and only one mouth; I should use both proportionately. It should come as no big surprise that I was one of two people left standing when the exercise came to an end. My approach was very simple.

Jeremy Cid. Professional relationship coach and founder of Always Opening Doors.”

Then I would fire off one question after another as they answered the preceding one, always including the word “you”.

What do you do?” “Where did you go to school?” “How long have you been with company Y?”

Having those restrictions placed on my vocabulary that is against everything I have ever learned about communication was, again, one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. Not only on a professional level, but on a personal level as well. Stay with me, I promise I’m getting to the point.

What I learned is that when it comes to communicating with another person about how we feel, it simply is not enough to use “I” statements. The secret, that is so hard to accomplish, is to eliminate common words from our vocabulary. Words like she, you, he, him, her, our and any derivative of the like. This allows for all of the focus to be put on us (the speaker) and our feelings, without placing any focus on the other person, what so ever. We have to refer to the situation itself, excluding any reference to the person who “wronged” us.

When I’m yelled at, it makes me feel like I’m a child being scolded. I don’t feel like I am an equal part of this relationship.”

Apply any situation and any feelings to this and the result is the same; a way of expressing ourselves that allows our partner to see what we’re feeling without having to try and look over that defensive wall that is built as soon as the word you escapes our lips. Even if neither person is in the wrong for anything, eliminating “finger pointing words” opens the door to begin to see how the other person really feels.

As a coach, it is not my responsibility to give my clients the answers. It is my responsibility to ask the questions that will lead the people I am trying to help to find the answers for themselves. I ask the questions that will lead them to setting attainable goals so that they can move forward and achieve the type of relationship they desire. I have challenged myself to stripping the word you, and any of it’s derivatives that places the focus on the other person, from my vocabulary.

While working with a client couple after the workshop, I did the same thing. They were addressing a situation that had occurred a couple of days prior in which neither of them were happy with how they had handled things. When I asked them to recount what happened, both individuals used finger pointing words when talking to me and you when addressing each other. Both of them started getting worked up again and I could see those defensive walls getting higher with every use of she, he or you. Once both of them had finished their sides of the story, I asked them to tell me what happened again, this time, avoiding the use of those finger pointing words. Instead, referring specifically to the situation.

When I’m called a b@#$%, I get angry”

And so the questioning began. I guided them to expressing what they felt and what the results would be if that continued to happen through a series of open ended questions. If either person slipped, I stopped them and asked them to try again. Upon reaching the point of expression where person A had expressed, “When this happens, I feel ___. When I feel ____, I want to ____. If I keep feeling ____, then ___ will happen.”, I would ask the other person how they felt about what they heard.

The result was that one person was able to express that they were scared of being left, so they reacted on that fear. The other person felt as if they weren’t really a part of the relationship, like they were one of the children. I wish that I could express the change in the air around us as the couple heard how the other person really felt. Like I said, they had never experienced that before and both of them sat in stunned silence. A silence that was broken by one of them asking me, “Where were you when I was in therapy?” We all laughed and hugged at their break through. We then had the discussion about what goals they could set for themselves for the week to help keep them moving forward.

I want to close this out by stating that I am not bashing therapy or counseling in any way. I think that it can be extremely beneficial for those who have that specific goal in mind. The goal of dealing with the past. The goal of coaching is not to delve into the past. The goal is to determine how a person can get to where they want to be. It’s about looking forward.

If you would like to learn more about eliminating finger pointing words from your vocabulary, please feel free to contact me at Always Opening Doors. All consultations are free to help you determine if I can be of any assistance to you and/or your partner.

Your Worst Enemy

There are many ways in which a person may define a relationship. There are many types of relationships. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a relationship as:

A kinship

or

A state of affairs existing between those having interactions or dealings

One thing that people often forget to consider is that within any relationship involving two people, there are actually three relationships at work. There is the interaction between the two parties, but there is also the interactions between each party within themselves. To add some illustration, I have come up with the following formula:

He with her + Her with herself + He with himself = Relationship

The previous analogy that I used to describe relationships was that we are all kids playing in a big sandbox with Lego’s. Our lives are the blocks (Lego’s) with which our relationships are built. We have the ability to create any life we want, and have it be complete and satisfying all by itself. In order to obtain something greater than that which we can create ourselves, we build relationships with those around us by sharing our Lego’s. The sum of those Lego’s together is what generates a functional relationship.

So what happens when we don’t have the blocks necessary to build something on our own? If you apply the lack of blocks in a mathematical formula to match the one above, you will be left with an incomplete equation. One that must be solved for X before the relationship (read: equation) works.

He with her + Her with herself + X = Relationship

But even the equation above doesn’t really depict the entirety of the equation. It is much more complex than what is indicated above. Obviously, the sum is affected by the incomplete “he with himself” part of the equation. Because that part of the equation isn’t available, the “he with her” part of the equation is also affected.

Now this is where I am going to piss some people off. I’m sure of it. With the demonstration above as proof, I say that we are our own worst enemy within any relationship. Even relationships in which we are a legitimate victim.

I understand that people who stay in abusive relationships do so because it is a situation in which they feel the most comfortable. That’s not to say that they enjoy the situation or that they deserve any kind of abuse. I am simply saying that, for whatever reason, it is too terrifying to step outside of their comfort zone to remove themselves from a situation that they certainly don’t deserve. They would rather continue to suffer the abuse than to risk something which might be worse.

Now forget the rest of the equation for a moment and focus on the “he with himself” and “her with herself” part of things. To put it even more broadly, “we with ourselves”. That is the focus of this post. Each individual and the relationship that we each have with ourselves. It is the only relationship in our lives that allows us to have 100% control of the outcome of any situation. You can apply any circumstance or situation for the sum of the equation.

Me + myself = Career, or Me + myself = personal life (just to name a couple)

The more focus we put on nurturing the relationship with ourselves, the greater the sum of our lives will be. The more Lego blocks we will have, all to ourselves, with which to build whatever we desire. The more we neglect the relationship with ourselves, we will find that things just don’t add up as we wish.

Below is my Top 15 list of questions that can be modified to fit any situation. Answer these questions, and you will find the tools required to perform the maintenance on the relationship with yourself to keep things running in prime condition. The more work you do on this relationship, the bigger your sum will be.

  • What is it that you love to do?
  • What do you feel that you were born to do?
  • What do you do best?
  • What can you do well, with little effort?
  • In what areas are you naturally strong?
  • What would motivate you to tap into those strengths more often?
  • What skills can help you get to where you want to be in the future?
  • What is something at which you always wanted to be extraordinary?
  • When you die, what is something about which you will feel better knowing you have accomplished?
  • What would you like to do more of in your life?
  • What is about what you already have that is not satisfying?
  • What motivators are missing?
  • What makes you smile?
  • In the areas of your life with which you are satisfied, what has helped you accomplish that satisfaction?
  • Who would you be if you had nothing to prove?

The love that we show ourselves by constantly working on that relationship to obtain our desired results is the single most important aspect of any relationship with another person. The most functional relationships consist of two individuals who are complete and satisfied by themselves who have chosen to share their lives (Lego blocks) with one another to build something bigger. Any dissatisfaction in the relationship with ourselves will affect our relationships with others.

Strangers

For the past three weeks I have gone a bit off course as to what this blog was supposed to be about – unique date and gift ideas. I have managed to keep on theme when it comes to ideas that can help strengthen your relationship. So I am going to get back on course this week and share an idea that can be used as a date or even something that you can do on your own. I hope you will all find this to be a welcome relief from the serious nature of the previous posts.

Because of the response that I have gotten for my previous posts, I’ve decided to start posting twice a week, beginning next week. One post will be along the topics of the previous three (relationship advice), and the other will be date and gift ideas.

The title for this post is all about how you can take time to make a complete stranger’s day, create a tradition that is unique to you and your partner and bring the two of you closer in a way that you may have yet to experience.

In my book, I write about what to do after a first date and the best way to go about it. To summarize briefly, sending a woman a gift after a first date is a great way to stand out in her mind. I talk about the impact that it could have to brighten her day. I explain that by doing that, you never know when that particular day was a difficult one. When she comes home to find a bouquet of flowers on her front porch, instead of calling her best friend to complain about the day’s events, she will tell her best friend, briefly about the crappy day she’s had, but focus more on the gesture you bestowed upon her.

With that one random act of kindness, you are setting yourself up to be someone in whom she can trust. She will subconsciously associate the stress of the day with the relief she felt at your gesture. She will see you as a person that can help her feel better when things are bad.

A “just because” gift, at any stage of the relationship, is something that couples should do for each other to show how much they love and appreciate them. You can take this same principle and apply it to a date and share this random act of kindness to complete strangers.

As you are heading home from work, stop at a floral shop and pick up two dozen flowers. It doesn’t matter if they are roses, carnations, lilies or any other flower. This idea does work best with flowers that are single stemmed, but you want to have several of them. The next step can be planned in advance or be completely spontaneous. Your choice.

You’re going to take those single stemmed flowers and show them to your partner. Before she starts gushing over them, make sure to tell her that they are not for her. At least, not for her to place into a vase and admire. Explain to her that the two of you are going out on a date, taking the flowers with you. You can go to a park, downtown, a train station…anywhere where there will be people passing by. You can set up a post and stay put, or you can randomly walk around. As you pass these strangers surrounding you, keep an eye open for people who might look stressed. Look for people who are off in la-la land. Anyone will do. Then just give them the flower. You and your partner take turns handing flowers to strangers. Explain to these strangers that you are not wanting any compensation for the gift; that you are spending time with your partner and just wanted the opportunity to brighten a complete stranger’s day.

People will shy away from you. People will ignore you completely and act like they can’t hear you. Someone might even break down into tears and throw their arms around you in hysterics. Take this all in stride, as it matters not. The goal is spend time together, with your mate, and do something for someone else.

If you want to add a touch of romance specifically aimed at your partner, plan ahead and have a flower or bouquet waiting for her at the restaurant you will visit after you hand out flowers. It requires a bit of planning and there are several ways in which it can be pulled off. Be creative and have fun.

See you next week…..