We’ve all had relationships with characteristics we weren’t happy with.
Maybe we built a relationship on obligation and reciprocation.
Maybe our relationship had controlling behaviors which damaged self esteem, such as ignoring or passive-aggression.
Maybe we didn’t communicate well.
Maybe we closed ourselves off from our partners.
Maybe we lied or sought happiness elsewhere.
After the unhappiness ends and the search begins again, we have choices. Our new relationships do not have to look like an older one did. It is up to each of us individually to break our habits, to choose differently when the moments come which test us.
My father always used to tell me that everything in life is a choice. While obviously this is simplistic, as we cannot choose the behavior of others, we can choose how we respond.
My partner, my Daddy, and I were having a conversation recently. I had struggled a little with some physical activities as a result of some health-related nausea, so we talked it through. Rather than give up doing things we both enjoy, we discussed what I had discovered tended to trigger a problem and resolved to explore some alternative techniques to avoid my issues.
After the conversation, he thanked me. I was surprised and requested clarification. He responded that such a conversation would not have been possible for him in prior relationships. That got me thinking.
I’ve talked about how listening and being receptive is just as important as doing the sharing when it comes to communication. The thing is, the response is just as important. If a partner says they are having struggles because I text them too much during work hours, there are several things that need to happen.
First, I need to hear that as a responsibility issue rather than a complaint about me, unless it is directly indicated that way. My partner likely enjoys conversation with me, so me withdrawing and taking that as rejection would be an extreme response.
Once I have accepted the information at face value (which we all know can be its own challenge), I have to decide how to respond. Obviously, one option is to withdraw emotionally, as I stated before. That response gives my partner a message that he has to be more careful with how he communicates. While I may have said I wanted open and honest communication, my response indicated an overreaction rather than openness to hear I might need to correct a behavior, or even just modify it slightly to accommodate his different needs. It will likely affect how well we communicate in the future.
My other option is to request more information. How often is too often? Is some subject matter more challenging than others? For example, attempting a more emotionally in-depth conversation during his work hours may be more frustrating for him than a quick note to remind him that I am thinking about him, or even a quick photo of boobs. By being open to making some adjustments in how well I respect his work time, I show him that he can continue to share his feelings with me. This promotes further honest communication. Walking the walk, rather than simply talking the talk.
We have each decided to make different choices in regards to how we handle our current relationship than we have in past ones. We have learned from those mistakes. Sometimes it is easier than others. Some behaviors require a conscious decision to stop each time we catch ourselves engaging in them.
We are the only ones who can continue to make these self-improvements for ourselves, though. It isn’t something anyone else can do for us. While others can help nudge us when requested, it is up to each of us individually to be our very best selves, and to build our very best relationships.
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