MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO

route-66

 

 

 

“Route 66”

“If you ever plan to motor west,

Travel my way, take the highway that is best.

Get your kicks on Route Sixty-Six.”

The Open Highway

For relationships to be healthy, meaningful and satisfying we should measure them with more than just ‘longevity’ as the sole matrix.  Relationship should last because they’re beneficial and good for the parties involved, and because both parties desire the relationship to do so.  The key then once a relationship has become set in a stable and relatively predictable state is how to manage that status quo over the course of time.  An appropriate analogy would be that of the Great American Road Trip where the destination in which you’re going to, in many cases, is less important than the overall experience of the trip, the unplanned and planned excursions you take along your journey and the quality of time spent with your partner on the open road together, but like most things can be ruined by common minor elements, that build up over time or a single major fouling.  Keep in mind that a negative has been proven to offset a positive at a ratio of 8:1, and therefore the majority of what we will cover are those elements where we typically get in our own way of relationship health, stability and satisfaction.

 Letting go of the wheel

Our gender schemas are deeply embedded within our own cognitive and social frameworks regarding what defines masculine and feminine and the roles for each.  Social agents work to formalize, instruct and to guide us in these roles, which are often at odds with biology and unspoken expectations and negotiated agreements established through behavior within the relationship.  One of the clearest examples of this is ‘who leads and manages the relationship?’ (who’s driving the relationship), which was negotiated through unspoken expectations and behavioral actions in the beginning of the relationship and the problems that become of it when that early agreement is renegotiated at a later stage.  At its core, relationships begin to fail when a man let’s go of the leadership obligations he’s entrusted with and is expected to carry out.  I’ll let Greg Swann, a good friend, philosopher and thorn in many people’s side, pick up the argument in a blog post he did a while back;

“Do you dispute this? He was in charge of the relationship from the beginning. He initiated it. He nurtured it. He pursued it. He escalated it. And he put the ring on it. Is any of that untrue?

He is the leader of that marriage, and he is the only leader of that marriage, because the relationship exists only because he quite literally made it happen.”

Ladies, in the beginning, you were happy to forfeit agency, accountability and social equality in lieu of privileges your gender is offered in traditional social structure, but now once comfortable and secure within the relation, seek additional benefits and privileges by renegotiating those terms under a la carte feminist ideals, prerogatives and sense of entitlement…  which technically is fine, but just don’t be surprised and blame your partner, when your relationship fails or you file for divorce because you were “unhappy” (leading cause stated for divorce, of which women initiate +70% of the time).  If your ‘happiness’ did depend upon your partner to provide it (as claimed) and you’ve taken the responsibility, accountability and agency from them to do so… sorry cupcake, that’s your fault.  I can totally empathize with women and understand the desire to grab a wheel of a moving vehicle when the driver isn’t in command of the vehicle (relationship) or is absent-minded and distracted from his duties.  Your job is NOT to grab the wheel and wrestle for control, but to wake him to his deficit.  Should that fail, you’d both be better off if you where honest and upfront about it and took a different journey with an appropriate man behind the wheel…  Guys, should you have any passenger grab the wheel of your relationship and attempt to steer it, I would immediately pull over and let them off at the side of the road.  This would be true for ANY passenger; her, her friends, parents, sibling, children and to include your family, friends, etc… otherwise, if you’ve decided you’re just going to ride, don’t get behind the wheel in the first place.  On the other hand, if you are truly interested in maintaining the status quo that you had when you first started dating; learn to drive; whether that’s a Ferrari, mini-van or school bus.

Falling asleep behind the wheel

A significant issue to long-term relationships is the compliancy that comes with the security of a stable and predictable relationship.  We simple invest less energy into the relationship, because it doesn’t demand it and we fail to ask for it.  We fall prey to a comfortable trance, that turns into monotony,  that dulls our sense of spirit and adventure.  We can address this by not falling asleep to relationship maintenance elements of sustainment, stability, quality and relational dialectical tensions.  As partners we should carefully drive the course of the relationship between these lane markers associated with balancing these relationship maintenance elements and towards our objective goal.  And much like lane dividers and rumble strips, we should communicate to our partner and they us, when the relationship is veering from these guide lines and for us to then take action and properly steer back onto our course.

Driving within your ability

Far more sinister and damaging is the increased compliancy associated with not having our emotional, physical and sexual needs met within the relationship, nor holding frank, open and honest discussion regarding these with our partner.  This is in large part due to a number of factors that we fear holding these discussions, whether from the built up relationship equity, the fear of conflict and where this known conflict may lead, a lack of our abilities to hold, manage and appropriate conflict accordingly and any personal and social stigmas we may feel are attached to these sentiments, desires and needs, can and often hold us back from essential sharing and critical emotional communication with our partner.  We fear the risk to our comfort, more than we do our own authenticity and the health of the relationship.  By not establishing a case history and success within the relationship of being open and vulnerable to express our feelings, desires or needs, we subjugate these feelings and any solution that may be available, to an unhealthy status quo.  We simply will not risk testing the strength of our relationship in a significant way, where it hasn’t been proven capable of in a lesser way.  This of course poses a paradox between comfort and growth, defined by the saying “there’s no growth in the comfort zone” and the fact that relationship should be grown over time.   The status quo of personal and relationship development is advancement, which fundamentally means change.   As such, it would be wise to take the relationship only as fast and on a course, in which we can safely manage, but to steadily increase our ability to do so.  Are you advancing your knowledge, skill and experience base consistently to advance yourself and the relationship in an effort to stay together?  Do you have a repertoire of skills from which you can draw upon for difficult situations and are you adding to them on a regular basis?  This is your skill set and ability to drive a relationship safely and effectively.   If we cannot hold a conversation about minor relationship concepts of respect of property or space, such as shutting cabinet doors after use, how do we expect to hold an honest and open conversation about our partners in ability to hold our sexual attraction and meet our needs of intimacy?  To span this sort of gulf between us and our partner we need to already have established a setting of trust, respect and safety for already having navigated simpler, less stressful and dangerous situations.  Our abilities and skills need to be proven or the speed of the relationship needs to be slowed to the degree in which we can safely navigate these challenges.  We must also be keenly aware that the environmental conditions in which we find the relationship play significantly into our abilities to manage these tasks… the more adverse the conditions, the more care we should take in response.  This ultimately means we should not be advancing  any relationship beyond the limits of proven ability- a girlfriend with whom we cannot be committed to being fully honest, open with and that has sound conflict management skills (girlfriend track) should never be taken onto the marriage track under any circumstances where the risks, dangers and consequences are far greater.

The Sing-Along

The ‘sing-along’ is a time-tested ritual utilized to pass the time, break the monotony and to bond participants together as a group.  These songs are often central to our sense of identifying with those experiences and the timeframe in which they existed in our lives.  As children they may have been children’s songs or common folk songs.  As we get older they are replaced by anthems of youthful vitality, independence and freedom.  The question becomes then ‘what is the soundtrack of your relationship?’ and ‘what are you doing do foster it?’.  Playful relationship rituals thus become key to entertaining each other through the passing of time, to break the monotony of the rigors and stresses of life, to bond you and your partner together and to keep our interest in each other vibrant and alive.

Running out of gas

It isn’t a road trip if you can complete the journey on a single tank of gas… knowing the general range and context of your relationship travels will help you to manage the essential elements of individual and relationship ego depletion (emotional energy), of which there is only a limited amount, prior to exhaustion.  Just like a car, we can run on empty, as long as we’re constantly re-filling our emotional reserves and we are within range of those services, but should we knowingly face a journey in which that range and services will exceed our current reserve, we’d be wise to prepare for that in advance of that journey or as soon as possible, once we realize it.  To maintain a relationship in a healthy status quo we need to make sure that the degree of individual and relationship self-care exceeds the stresses and demands placed before us and the relationship.  This is where an emotional and empathic partner is invaluable.  Too often we will run ourselves low and to a breaking point, and they can identify it and help us to remediate the effects of stress through active de-stressing techniques, increasing simple acts of intimacy and uplifting our spirits in a wide variety of ways. 

(*** bonus tip for the ladies;  if you list being ‘sarcastic’ as an attribute on your dating profile…good men see this as a warning flag and will naturally avoid you out of self-interest and preservation.  Being ‘sarcastic’ means you’re only destructive- sarcasm never builds, it only destroys.  Who honestly thinks they can build a relationship, let alone a life, with anyone who’s valued attribute and nature is to destroy?)    

 

The Pit Stop

On any great journey there is going to be a need to take care of a wide variety of personal and relationship type needs.  Much like a pit stop on a road trip, these are the times in which basic service and maintenance checks and services should be completed.  We should be asking our partners about their relationship satisfaction, even if you’re aware of their general feelings of happiness and satisfaction, there’s always room for removing stray bugs that smear and litter our relationship windshields.  These are the points in which we should be checking the levels of relationship communication and making sure that the mechanisms of sharing and expression are well lubricated.  How’s the alignment of the relationship tires?  Are they properly inflated and is tread wear within service life conditions?  Verifying, tending and reinforcing relationship boundaries needs and expectations are all critical to safe (drama free) and efficient running relationship.  Soliciting feedback will be more accurate than solely utilizing observation techniques to gauging this.  We should also plan on these occasions relationship planning; checking the course, direction, distance and destinations in which you both intend to take the relationship to make sure that the relationship and life journey is mutually satisfying for both of you.

Settling for Winona

Some trips are one-way affairs, with no intent upon returning back from whence you came.  The intent is to take the relationship to a particular destination and for it to permanently reside there.  I began this post with the analogy of the Great American Road Trip and I specifically kept the ideal Route 66 in mind.  Now I’d like to add to it just a little bit…  That highway was originally the route settlers took starting from Chicago to go to California and was utilized to avoid crossing the Rocky Mountain and the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, which was consider very risky and dangerous for the time.  The song by the same name, Route 66, delineates stopping points, towns and cities of that journey within its lyrics;

 It winds from Chicago to LA,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.

Now you go through Saint Looey
Joplin, Missouri,
And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo,
Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona.
Don’t forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernandino.

On a two thousand mile journey, a lot can and more often than not, does happen, especially if you’re a settler in ox pulled carts, let alone in an air-conditioned convertible (Yes, people actually do drive with the top down and AC on full- its awesome).  There is a notion in the West that where some people’s wagon wheels broke, they settled, for failure of financial capital, resources, knowledge or sheer gumption prevented them from settling where they initially intended or set out for.  In the frontiers of relationship development, if your choice destination is that of California, make sure that you plan and prepare for these types of predictable occurrences, so that you do indeed settle in California instead of Winona and that relationship management, maintenance and repair are a part of your relationship status quo.

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MAINTAINING DIALECTICAL TENSIONS

Yin-Yang

“Build bridges and walls to include as well as exclude”

Dialectic what?

A dialectic tension is the perceived contradiction in personal relationships between two desirable goals or values that appear to be opposing tendencies, desires and needs…but are in fact both desirable to various degrees.  In light of this, dialectic tensions shouldn’t be viewed as ‘either/or’ but ‘both/and’ when it comes to maintaining these coupled tensions and their integration within a relationship.  The importance of balancing of emotional values in a relationship is to recognize that these values are always in motion and as importantly, that the seed of the opposing value lies within the first and vise versa.  These tensions have been symbolically recognized for centuries by the ancient symbol of ‘Yin and Yang’; where fluid and dynamic elements circle each other and each carrying an element of the other within them.  The most common tensions found within relationships are questions of;

Companionship vs Independence

These are the push-pull desires of wanting to connect with your partner and wanting to preserve your personal independence, or how dependent the romantic partners are with each other.  The degree of comfort within the relationship is the degree to which both parties understand the boundaries of the other, the emotional and physical space each is either giving or taking and to the degree of happiness to this agreement is.  In most relationships, these boundaries are negotiated reactively rather than actively and are initial points of friction within an emerging relationship.   

Candor vs Privacy

These are the tensions at arise between desiring to engage in self-disclosure, as opposed to maintaining a degree of privacy.  In most relationships this involves to what degree that you share your thoughts, feelings, beliefs and past with your partner.  Two central themes that are great sources for tension within a relationship are the degree of self-revelations regarding past relationships and the fears and anxieties currently driving your state of mind being expressed by insecurities, negativity and pessimism.  While revelations in either are fine in moderation, it is when we hit our partners boundaries that we wear out our welcome of candor. 

Predictability vs Novelty

These tensions represent the seeking of behavior patterns between stability and the desire for spontaneity.  Frequently we lapse into a sense security and a behavior routine that is comfortable and easy for us which becomes boring.  The challenge here is to provide the consistency we trust upon, but not so much that it becomes mundane by balancing between the expected and the unexpected.  More critically though, is recognizing a contextual shift with our partners, especially those times in which they are worn, tired and ego-depleted.  It is at these times we are better served by reaching for the familiar and trusted to help in assuaging a sense of exhaustion within our partner’s lives.

Maintenance Strategies

By far the most common strategies for maintaining relational tensions within a stabilized relationship is a selection and emphasis of a dominant poles, such as placing a high value on levels of connection, openness and predictability, followed with a temporary cycling of independence, privacy and novelty.  When incorporated intentionally, the emotional desyncing and resyncing are renown for fostering deep feelings of arousal, attraction and connection within a partner, as witness by the literary work of the world’s various Casanovas’s  and  the center pieces of dime-store romance novels.  This intentional emotional cycling is often considered the bulwark against a woman’s initial hypergamous reflex of feeling ‘unhappy’ within the confines of an all too stable relationship.  Other strategies include segmenting or compartmentalizing access to and from various value elements.  A common example would be having  the ritual of ‘a night out with the boys’.  A particular one to be on the lookout for is reframing, where a partner states that they are ‘just going through a phase’.   This is typical of individuals who do not fully understand the flux of relational tensions coupled with inadequate communication skills and relational trust and respect to investigate these emotional needs appropriately and therefore are unlikely to cope or manage these tensions effectively or appropriately.  The most sinister of these ‘phases’ is an unchecked woman’s hypergamous nature.  A woman ignorant or unwilling to face her terribly destructive nature is not maintaining tensions by harmonically alternating the back and forth between them, but dumping her partner and her children on the teeter-totter of life in the name of naked sexual self-interest.

Turning Points

When there is a shift in value of a given dialectic from one polarized end towards another without an oscillation back, this is known as a turning point.  In early relationships we see this primarily when a dating couple decides to become exclusive and committed to each other.  The dialectic of independence moves and resides more fully with companionship.  Later it may again intensify, when both partners in conjunction decide to advance their relationship civilly and socially in the form of marriage and family development.  The major concern of turning points is not when we emphasize a  pole mutually, but when it is sudden and the sentiment is anything but mutual.  These turning points can be so acute that we change our interpretation of the relationship, what it means to us and what place it has in our lives. Navigating these turning points without astute relational maintenance and management skills and open and honest communication all too frequently turn into open conflicts.  If left unattended to, the conflicts and tensions will not only do irrefutable harm to the relationship, but also to the individual parties, ultimately leading to the relationships destruction.  At this stage relationship repair is needed, not simple maintenance.  If relationship repair and re-negotiation cannot be achieved, then a dissolution of the relationship is in order at that point, before any unnecessary further harm is done.

External Tensions

Interestingly enough the same tensions that exist between two relationship partners also exist between the ‘couple’ and their relationships with their greater social networks, most notably between friends and family members.  While the dialectic tensions between conventionality and uniqueness of a relationship occurs with some couples, more often than not the degree of inclusion and privacy is one that has to be negotiated, or more aptly put, renegotiated.  Where one pair of the partnership had poor or weak personal boundaries with friends and family, those poor boundaries will surely be passed into the new relationship if left unchecked.  In instances such as this, it is far better to identify it and regulate it early before the behavior in question becomes codified and fully established within the relationship (deal with her Mother, before she’s your Mother-in-Law).

Relationship Maintenance Management

Like a boss

“Big problems start from little ones”

Maintenance Objective

The purpose of relationship maintenance management is to generate an atmosphere conducive to regenerating and increasing emotional energy committed to the preservation of invested relationship capital between two parties; that is between you and her. Just as with any other goal or objective, if you know where you want to end up, you are vastly more likely to get there. With relationship maintenance management we want to sustain and reinvest those initial feelings, energies and beliefs we have of our partner back into the relationship, in order for it to increase our overall feelings and satisfaction associated with emotional connectedness, intimacy and love, to minimize wear and tear on the relationship and ultimately to preserve it.

A man’s responsibility

Despite incredible transformations regarding gender equity within our cultural make-up, women on a whole still expect and desire men to take the leadership role and be accountable for the health, direction and vitality of the relationship they are in. It is simply your gender assigned role, biologically and culturally expressed and as men we are defined by it- boys just don’t take on these roles. While many women would openly deny this, or profess a measure of egalitarianism towards responsibilities and accountability(what they say), what women actually do is quite revealing…(don’t trust what people say, trust what they do), as indicated by the most cited reason for instigating a dissolvement of a marriage (women instigating divorce 70% of the time), was the wife’s unhappiness within the marriage; that she just wasn’t happy, validated or fulfilled, i.e., not for actual cause or violation of marriage covenants, but an inferred responsibility of the man’s inability to manage and maintain her satisfaction within it. That responsibility falls to you; she says so, society say so and the family court system too.

***I make no bones about it, choosing to be in a relationship vastly increases a man’s obligations three-fold; first mastering himself, second fostering relationship competency within his partner and third in stewarding accountability of the overall relationship. It is little wonder why in this culture with removed incentives towards relationships, that many men are opting out of relationships altogether for a whole host of legitimate reasons, the least of which are the honest complexities and accountability involved in establishing, managing and maintaining a healthy, vibrant relationship.

Dominance associated maintenance

Repeated studies have demonstrated and reaffirmed the common observation of the consistent erotic appeal of male dominance, as sexual cues of attraction and desirability for women in pre-relationship partner selection. Similarly, dominance associated attraction plays out within relationships when men maintain and enforce relationship structures (male leadership-accountability coupled with responsibility in meeting men’s gender expectations culturally and biologically), regulate patterns of behavior acceptability (boundary setting) and are disciplined in the care and adherence of behavioral actions protecting the health and vitality of the relationship (relationship maintenance). These acts of dominance have proven to have considerable impact to not only a man’s desirability sexually within relationships, but as importantly to a woman’s measured satisfaction within that relationship, which is the proven hallmark of relationship longevity, as a slew of studies and surveys consistently prove. Thus the unapologetic masculine trait of male dominance plays a significant role in providing a maintenance response to a woman’s natural hypergamic inclination (see hypergamy) of social and status dimorphism expressed by her partner within a relationship.  If that wasn’t enough, the simple function of dominance in nature is to reduce unnecessary energy expenditure; emotional, psychological and physical stress (ego depletion severely limits an individual’s and a groups efficiency) and the risk of injury between all parties.  When leadership is clearly established, behavioral codes enforced and the health and vitality of the group protected stress between individuals is greatly reduced, individual anxiety diminishes and the overall measure of satisfaction increases.  Women may cringe at the thought of the value of masculine dominance in leadership roles, but the alternative being proffered by feminism leads directly to loss of sexual attraction, relational and marital strife, divorce, single-motherhood, broken families and children raised with first hand understanding that marriage doesn’t work (there’s a -14% risk reduction in marriage if both partners parents are still married.)  Ladies, if you children truly mean the world to you, you’d be wise not just to let your man, be the man, but make sure that he is.  Make sure that he knows his role, obligations and duties and take ownership and accountability for those roles.  I have no doubt you’ll like the results far better than the current alternative.    

Technical competence

The most effective leaders, lead by example. They exemplify themselves as models for other to follow, which means a never-ending process of self-study, reflection, education, training and experience gathering through responsibility and accountability seeking. To be a competent leader, your technical skill sets have to be sufficient enough to supervise and as already explained, you are expected to lead and thus supervise your partner. In relationships, that means your relationship skills, management and maintenance abilities need to be mastered or you will be found to be a deficient leader and thus partner. You simply must understand and be proficient in the dynamics involved in relationship maintenance (see future blog post on relationship maintenance), if not you need to take corrective action to rectify that.

Education pay gap

I believe that this biological and cultural tendency of women to shirk leadership, accountability and responsibility roles even within relationships, plays directly out in the mythical ‘pay gap’ between men and women, when viewed that males tend to take on jobs and careers that require higher and more specialized education, training, experience, responsibility and accountability associated with those jobs, not to mention the health and occupation risks and overall nastiness of the nature of the jobs or careers that they take. As such, it would benefit men highly to recognize this fact, in developing similar highly specialized education, training and experience when it comes to relationships, i.e., that what we do for our careers and jobs, we should equally do for our relationships and as a consequence our lives would likely be enriched and rewarded just as effectively.

(RE: the ‘Pay Gap’- On the whole men tend to do dirtier, nastier and more dangerous work which pays better than cleaner, nicer and safer work conditions that women naturally seem to choose. Within similar career fields, women tend to choose work environments that have more social elements to them and less of a specialized and arduous educational regimen; women tend to be nurses, while their male counterparts become doctors. Those women who do become doctors tend to be general practitioners, which requires vastly less specialized training, education and acquired skills than surgeons, which is a vastly male dominated field.)

An alternative perspective to this position is if your partner is the typical average western woman, seeped in narcissistic ala cart feminist, entitlement, prized-princess, victim cultured mentality, well versed in the ‘single and loving it’ frame of mind, holds divorce fantasy infused marriage beliefs and your relationship maintenance skills are below or at hers, well you and your relationship are doomed.

Maintenance culture

As the relationship CEO, you are responsible for developing and sustaining the maintenance climate of the relationship, for ensuring the relationship is appropriately cared for, that the standard maintenance protocols are established and followed, while providing or directing resources, responsibilities, training, counseling and mentoring within the relationship. These are your maintenance management responsibilities. As too is ensuring that appropriate time is allocated within your relationship strictly for the care and preservation of it and that these efforts are clearly communicated, received and accepted by your partner. This is simply the business end of relationship sustainability. It often tends to be dirty work no one wants or cares to do. Too often we hear the ‘communication is key in a relationship’, nowhere will that be tested more than when communication is difficult, strained and to a very real degree unwanted (nobody like negative feedback), but honesty and open communication during these times is critical. As such, this will require both yours and your partners attention, directed energy and focus upon these efforts. Lip service to these efforts should not be tolerated. Your job is to lead the maintenance efforts; it is both your responsibilities to strengthen the relationship, as a result of it. It is far better and wiser to start that culture of open, honest maintenance centered communication when it’s easy, emotional goodwill is running high and the risk low, than when it’s needed in dire straits.

Managing Conflict

AngryCouple

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional”

The Nature of Relationship Conflict

Real conflicts in relationships are more than just elements associated with let downs, frustrations, incivility or broached boundaries. They’re deeper and more powerful than arguments and disagreements would at first appear. Relationship conflicts are situations where you or your partner perceive an emotional menace, whether that menace is real or imagined. What’s worse is that they tend to repeat and don’t go away from one relationship to another—that is, these menaces will travel with you into your next relationship and with a new partner. These are highly visceral reactions to situations that rationality will not clear away unless the phantoms that are driving this behavior are identified and addressed. It is important to realize that conflicts more central to issues of attachment and commitment will evoke not only a greater threat response from you or your partner, but are more likely to be the structural fault within your relationship and will be a leading candidate for that relationship failure. That is, unresolved emotional issues have a markedly disproportional negative effect on the health and viability of your relationships and as leaders and managers of our relationships we have a responsibility to lead and manage these.

The Nature of Conflict Avoidance

Much like the real issues driving emotional conflicts, conflict avoidance hides several significant motivators to avoid conflict interactions and serves as a good analogy to the hidden emotional issues behind conflicts. Most people can relate to a very basic element of conflict avoidance just because of the very nature of conflict itself; that it is absorbing, energy-consuming and honestly we want to believe that we have better things to do… but is that truly why we avoid conflict, or are there other issues that are really motivating us from venturing there? Would it be more true to recognize that we may be lacking conflict skills and have had a history of poor utilization of those skills and almost no recognizable ability to manage conflict in a healthy and productive way? Are we too afraid, feel too vulnerable or unsure how to bring to the light of day deeply guarded emotional issues with our partner? Are we honestly too insecure about the nature and true character of our relationship to test it in the crucible of conflict and are afraid to find out the reality of where it stands? Understanding these and any other motivator you may have to avoid conflict will be the first step you take to managing conflict within any relationship.

A Lack of Social Fluency

As children we go through the process of learning and developing a large number of social skills facilitating our interactions with others. One of the most important, but seldom taught or developed is conflict skills. And like all skills, unless as adults we continue to develop, nurture and hone our abilities, we’re slaves to the maturity skill level of our abilities of when we initially learned them, regardless of our actual age. It’s why you’ll see fully grown adults resorting to acting like children, because they honestly have no real ability to do otherwise. Their skill set is limited to that of a child’s. On a fundamental level the ability to hold constructive and healthy conflict sessions is a mark of maturity and one relegated to a fully developed adult. Children need to be taught the critical skills of collaborating with others, restraining anger escalation, rejecting shutting down and emotional withdrawal as a viable conflict management strategy and avoiding or changing destructive behavioral patterns of aggression, to resolve or manage conflict. If as an adult you have not developed those, have positive experience utilizing them and have confidence in your ability to enact these abilities, it’s time you sat down with your inner-child and have a heart-to-heart about developing them.

Emotional Gateway

In an emotional conflict people rarely convey the needs at the heart of the problem; the words being said isn’t what your partner is trying to communicate, the issue being addressed, isn’t really the true issue, as there is often a bigger issue behind a closed emotional door, that contains a very large emotional elephant. If we really listen to our partners, not only in what they are saying to us, but in the patterns of behaviors that bring us back to this same very place, time after time, we may come to realize that they are in fact bringing us to an emotional gateway. We ourselves may not even be aware of how deeply a particular issue from our past affected us, until a situation involving conflict has occurred to uncover it. Partners that don’t trust themselves, have the ability or established an operating pattern and history to discuss pertinent, at-risk issues appropriately will often utilize inappropriate methods to advance an issue into the forefront. They will start a minor conflict to segway the discussion into a larger and more important issue, that they feel inadequate discussing, often called a lead-in. A partner who fears holding a particular discussion due to fears of evoking abandonment issues, relationship flight (you leaving her) or heightened emotional insecurities, may in fact deny the presence of hidden issues, even when directly asked (she may not actually be even aware of it herself). We should be cognizant of this possibility and book mark emotional conflicts, so that if we keep returning to them, we can realize that there truly is something else there, even if our partner is unwilling to openly address it, or the fact we can’t see it. In such a case, finding and knocking on these emotional doors may not be enough. Our partners may continue to deny their existence. In such cases, it is not our responsibility to open those doors, it is our partner’s. If they choose to keep them shut and us out, we can only identify that we were aware, willing and offering a safe environment for them to share with us, but they are ultimately accountable for not doing so. Regrettably these issues tend to be the leading cause for relationship failures, known or otherwise and that is of their making, not ours.

The Crucible- a Test of Character

Emotional conflicts within relationships test the character of the relationship itself and can tell us as much about the relationship, as it does the individuals within the conflict. Just as we can deduce an individual’s social fluency by observing their social skill mastery, we can evaluate a relationship’s strength, health and vibrancy by observing how conflict is handled, regarded and managed within the relationship. Is the conflict not only addressed in a manner which seeks resolution by both partners, but do the partners separate the individual from the issue with tact and respect and do the partners utilize the source of conflict for greater understanding and comprehension of their partner? When done so, conflict can be a tremendous opportunity to lead to deeper respect, trust and intimacy. Conflict tests relationships and individuals more rigorously than other forms of interactions and can be very frightening because of it, but by developing our and our partner’s ability to handle, manage and constructively resolve conflict can we gain honest confidence in our relationship’s true strength and character, by having navigated through it.

Conflict Cost

We must learn to manage conflict because the risks involved in not doing so are very real and very, very costly. Appropriate conflict management prevents physical and psychological aggression within intimate relationships. We are vastly less likely to lash out with physical violence, in releasing engulfed rage and anger that has built up rapidly within a spiraling and unrestrained conflict setting. We are less likely to be physically domineering and physically aggressive, in an attempt to control or manage a situation where our skill sets have failed us. We are less likely to commit emotional and psychological harm in delivering vicious and insidious personal verbal attacks in moments of lost self-regulation. We are less likely to lose relationships that we have invested heavily in emotionally, physically, sexually, socially and financially. Beyond the total sum cost of any failed relationship, the cost of not developing conflict management skills is that this lack of ability will likely be handed down from Father to child. Parents that manage conflict appropriately are less likely to neglect or abuse their children and are more than likely to pass those positive behavior skill sets down to their children. The same hand that guides the Mother will be the same hand that guides his children.

Managing Unspoken Expectations

Titanic Model

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(A man surveying the results of an iceberg named ‘hypergamy’)

“Expectations that go unspoken do not infer consent.”

 Icebergs of Navigational Routes

Unspoken expectations, conditions, rules and obligations are like icebergs to the navigational routes of our relationships with others. They lurk in the byways rarely seen or noticed, and if so typically at a distance to become a natural part of one’s emotional landscape and an element forming your context for being. We sail past, around and quite often through these emotional berg flows with little consequences to us or our relationships until that frightful day when we strike one. And like icebergs themselves, what is visible to the eye is only a portent to the massive formulations that lies below the surface.

Obligated Servitude

We all have and created expectations for ourselves, our relationships and have projected those onto our partners. We have the natural tendency to expect the significant people in our lives to behave in a manner envisioned and internalized, to include operating in synchronicity with us, with little thought, planning or management, yet we cannot in all honesty and with integrity expect our partners to read our minds, pick up on every nuance of reflective or reactive body language, to read between the lines of what we say or do, or to fully understand and comprehend us, if we do not trust and respect them enough, to share and discuss what ails us or what we expect of them. Failing to do so is unfair, unhealthy and unwarranted and is a lazy, self-absorbed form of passive-aggressiveness behavior, that delegates the responsibility and accountability that is our own to others, without the courtesy or respect of open acknowledgement of those facts. It is a clandestine form of negotiation that sets our partners up for failure, obligation and servitude. These clandestine obligations create an incredible burden of pressure to recognize, understand and anticipate, that leaves even the most astute and capable partner drained, frustrated and ultimately overwhelmed. Ultimately it is a sign that we don’t respect ourselves enough to be willing to openly present, discuss and negotiate with our partners, what we feel, what we believe and what we expect. Sadly any relationship not built on respect, care and understanding is one poorly built and crafted, especially the one we create with ourselves, as that relationship is the one that gets projected to the world and our partners.

Crossed Boundaries

When someone does something that is in deep contrast to the standards, boundaries and beliefs, regarding behavior and consideration, we often feel deeply hurt, betrayed, angry and confused at this display of lack of consideration and care. It is natural and common to withdraw emotionally from the relationship and perceptions of a relationship change when there is a contrast between the ideal and reality. Furthermore resentment builds, as a result of any unspoken breaches of values that goes unaddressed. We naturally resent the transgression and now ourselves for not demonstrating the fortitude to embrace our own truth, with our partner, in an honest and open way and is then compounded with each additional occurrence or remembrance. This is a progression of emotional responses that sets off a chain of reaction, much like a domino cascade that spreads and leads towards the end of the relationship, such as a brush fire leads to devastating forest fires. Instead we should stop keeping the emotional peace of silence and honor ourselves by speaking up and speaking out.

Unrealistic Expectations

When we hold unrealistic expectations of and for our partners, we are in essence not seeing them for who they truly are or the reality of what we are asking of them and needing. It is a form of invalidation when we reject our partners, their efforts and investment in us and our relationships when we hold expectations that they cannot achieve. The greater the degree of disparity between what is expected and what is achieved is just the initial basis of frustration, which is sure to snowball to a larger magnitude of consequence. When unrealistic expectations are systemic and form an institutional element within a relationship, it is a sure sign that the partners are an inappropriate fit for each other, but instead of honestly looking at the true cause of the issue and resolve the relationship appropriately , we cling to our failed choice of a partner and relationship, and seek to control and brutally dominate it into submission, rather than face reality and release our partners appropriately with care, consideration and respect. When we hold unrealistic expectations of our partners, fail to recognize and utilize appropriate methods to resolve the relationship, should we ever be surprised when our partners after so much invalidation, disrespect and inconsideration on our part, choose to resolve the relationship inappropriately instead?

Conflict as a Vehicle of Awareness

Not all unspoken assumptions, expectations, rules governing behavior that sabotage relationships are known. In fact, there tends to be three categories that they fall into; the first is the spoken and conscious, which tend to be boundaries which are culturally held, known and actively expressed to our partners. The second is what is unspoken but known consciously, some of these I’ve just written about. The third is something that is unspoken and consciously unknown to us. It resides within us, without our conscious awareness of it. We simply don’t see it until it is upon us. Even then, like icebergs in the dark, we may not even recognize the entire mass and reality of what is before us, as we respond to the violation or transgression, with unexpected hyper-sensitivity on our part. It is at these moments that we should recognize our own emotional reaction as a signal to stop, look and listen to the source of where these emotions are coming from. Looking into the source of these emotions via psychological self-analysis and relationship autopsy, is an incredible starting point for determining what the underlying issue and concern is. Frequently they don’t reside or originate with our partners or the perceived transgression, but from our own past and development. It is only after consciously acknowledgement, acceptance and be willingness to account for these emotions, that we then progress to sharing them with our partner, utilizing relationship skills of conflict management, in communicating emotional needs, having a critical conversation, and setting boundaries with them. In doing so, we take on the accountability and responsibility of securing our own happiness and creating the life we really want. It is a process that is worth the investment not only for our relationships and partners, but individually for ourselves.

Communication Management

Relationship conversation

“The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

When lines of communications are not open or are not clear it is common for misunderstanding to become exaggerated and overly hostile, developing distrust, fear and anxiety within the relationship. There’s a certain amount of inertia that then must be overcome to start communication which was already difficult to begin with and issues are then addressed at the damage stage, rather than an informative or awareness stage. We simply don’t start to communicate until damage is actually done and resentment has built to the point where avoidance is no longer an option.

So too when we start to evade issues and topics from our partner, when we speak in half-truths or hold back in being honest, open and sincere, we start to drift into a soft form of dishonesty and are shutting down a channel of communication that is critical for the health and welfare of any relationship.

We need to have more than just an ‘open door’ policy with our partners. We need to have already shown and exhibited a forum and willingness to talk about issues of the day, as well as the operations of our relationships, prior to when we actually have a real issue, problem or challenge to overcome.

Nature of Management

Management is about doing systemized methods of time-tested and proven behaviors repetitively over time to get desired results and maintain relationships. Often they tend to be boring and mundane, until the time that they’re not, which is when they are most needed and become so valuable. Communication management is about insuring that interpersonal coordination and interaction with your partner is taking place to resolve issues, stresses, tensions or challenges that the relationship is currently facing, to make sure that the relationship is working effectively and efficiently.

You need to Lead

As a man, it will be up to you to initiate, lead and to manage this line of communication (amongst several others). While we can recognize and appreciate the fact of gender equity between the sexes and should thus come to expect women to be equal partners in managing the lines of communication, a simple fact of biology remains in opposition to this; Hypergamy… and when social conventions and biology clash, biology surely is to win out (nature always wins). Specifically a woman’s sexual attraction trigger of social dimorphism the behavioral traits associated with masculine behaviors of leadership, assertiveness and assuredness, will prevail over her social conventions and desire to be co-equal partners in managing the relationship. She will expect you to lead and will be naturally attracted to men who do. Do not lose out on establishing and maintaining this critical point of attraction within a relationship.

SHE IS YOUR TEAM!

It is critical of any manager to know and understand their team and staff. Make no bones about it, your partner is your team! Let me say it again; SHE IS YOUR TEAM. If she isn’t, if she isn’t someone you would go into business with, someone you trust to represent you, to speak for the relationship and to conduct the business of your relationship in public, you’ve chosen poorly, very poorly and need to reinvestigate your actions leading up to that decision. If she is, you need to acknowledge and validate that by treating her as though she is an essential asset and part of your life, by making time to hear and understand what is going on with her and her world as it relates to her and that she means more to us than being a life accessory in our lives.

Weekly Staff Meetings

One of the most important things a manager will do during the course of the week is to meet directly with their staff and team conducting the planning, organizing, managing, monitoring and decision-making that is required to run the operations of a business, as well as the personal interactions that makes your team feel connected and informed. As a business manager it is incredibly important to go beyond this and make a direct connection and develop a personal rapport with your team members individually. We have to go beyond the basic awareness of someone’s life, to really having a personal understanding and investment with our staff, before we can expect them to truly have one with us. As such there is an amazing difference between asking a co-worker about their weekend and asking them how specifically how ‘Johnny or Jane’ did in their specific after school activities, or whatever it is that is really important to them. We have to know and relate to what is important to them before they will relate with us. We lead by example.

Weekly One-on-Ones

Relationships are no different, except we get the methodologies backwards… we typically know to spend quality time with our partners, talking, sharing, listening and validating them, but rarely do we take a businesslike approach to the business management portion of our lives and the relationship by planning, organizing, managing, monitoring and making decision that needs to take place within the relationship to run smoothly. It is important that we do so and conduct both, separately. Do not mix one with the other, as it is too easy to mistake one emphasis for the other. Quality time is quality time. Business time is for business. Part of management is knowing when to share, bring up or discuss what, at what times and places. It is for these reasons that I believe it is important to set aside regular time each week to solely have a business relationship one-on-one with your relationship partner.

Reservoir of Goodwill

By holding and conducting regular one-on-ones with your partner you’ll develop a reservoir of goodwill, understanding and sound connection prior to needing it. When it’s needed is no time to start figuring out the dynamics of interpersonal communication nor to foster the good will required to sustain it. If you don’t, you are establishing a relationship culture to managing through crisis and conflict management… that’s poor management on your part and likely to be highly unsuccessful methodology, as most failed relationships will attest.

Present, Tested, Vested

Lines of communication must already be present, tested and vested… Those early established communication efforts are a proven commodity, building trust, respect and confidence in future communication needs and requirements, such as time when we need to give feedback or as importantly when our partners need to express a measure of it. Who would you rather talk to a serious issue about with; a partner you’ve never had a serious discussion with, or one who has been open and receptive to a variety of relationship type discussions over time with you?

Pattern of Behavior

Doing so establishes patterns of behavior… regular one-on-ones develop that pattern, provide that opportunity for communication, and can be relied upon to exist in the near future (because our partners can’t always rely on our powers of perception). Small issues can be discussed early, before they swell up into larger issues, due to neglect, ignorance and the age-old issue that problems tend to multiply if left unaddressed. By holding regular one-on-one our partners know there is an open forum for them to bring a topic up in the very near future, relieving the potential for built up tension, frustrations and anger that will ultimately result in a critical confrontation, one which will likely go very poorly if she doesn’t have the skills to hold a minor confrontation, let alone a critical one.

First Step

Opening lines of communications is also an amazing important first step in de-escalating conflict. Just by establishing communications many misunderstandings can be cleared up, understood, corrected and avoided. Trust and respect can be preserved, which should be the cornerstones of any healthy relationship.

Silent Treatment-Word of Warning

Along those lines couples should never give the other the ‘silent treatment’. This will only hinder and deteriorate the relationship by blatantly showing disrespect and invalidating your partner. In a healthy relationship, partners should be able to come together in good times, and bad… We may be angry, upset, & hurt, but our partner should be our emotional safe place to go to. If not, the relationship is in serious trouble and ill-health.

It Works…

While it may seem obtuse, overly simplistic and incredibly boring to make regular time to sit down to lead and discuss the business management of our romantic lives, it does provide the incredibly important frame-work and forum needed to accomplish our relationship goals, to help it move more smoothly and effectively through the rigors of life. Is she not, is the relationship not, are we not worth having a five-minute discussion to clear the air and to manage the life we want?

Providing Feedback

“Without feedback you’re operating in a vacuum”

We live in a world and age of constant feedback, most of it subtle, others not so much. We recognize intuitively, if not rationally, that there is a direct correlation between performance and structured feedback, yet in an area as critical in our lives, such as an intimate relationship, we tend to provide little leadership and guidance to our partners, until a boundary has been breached. A strong, healthy relationship will be one in which both parties are able to grow and develop within a safe, secure and trusting environment. That growth and development will be fostered in part under an observance and guidance of well-meaning and appropriate feedback, geared towards removing conflict and improving the relationship bond.

Checking your relationship altitude

To perverse goodwill and not risk alienating our partner, structured feedback should only occur if there is truly a constructive purpose for it and you have a surplus reserve of emotional goodwill in supply. (There is a major difference between providing your partner feedback and becoming her parent.) You should be well versed in the 4:1 praise-criticism ratio where this is the baseline between respondents stating that they feel “OK” in their relationships and not being “OK”. Going below this ratio level and we are at risk of alienating our partner and ultimately bankrupting the relationship. This simple form of social diplomacy should be a basic guide and indicator of how much emotional reserve is available and potentially how well received your feedback will be, prior to deciding to initiate any structured feedback with your partner. If need be, build your relationship and partner up prior to putting any additional pressures on them or the relationship. Note: this does not mean metering our praise like a ‘yes, ladder’ just prior to going for your ‘sale’ of providing feedback.

A.S.A.R.

Providing feedback in real-time may not be to everyone’s, nor the relationship’s best interests or option. Even though any incident or concern may be fresh in everyone’s mind, discretion is the better part of valor. Rather than focus on a general policy of ASAP in addressing an issue, a better and more appropriate approach of ‘As Soon As Reasonably Ready’ (ASAR) should be considered. This gives you enough time to collect your thoughts, prepare them and to initiate the discussion in a calm and reasonable manner, aka ‘like a man’.

Value Follows Energy

How you approach a critical conversation, how you initiate it, the tone and attitude of your words and the nature of your body language matters more than what you say to your partner. The first few seconds of the interaction sets the tone for everything that follows, whether your partner feels under attack or is being guided and received by a loving and caring hand. It is important to remember that value follows energy. Where is your emotional state when addressing your partner? Is it loving? Is it controlling? Is it angry? Is it upset? Is it condescending? Learning to control the emotional state of the conversation will do more for helping to direct the consequences of your conversation, than your words ever will.

A Spoon Full of Sugar

Un-prepare content is rarely palatable. In conveying your thoughts make sure to infuse and express appreciation for your partner. Doing so not only takes off the rough edges of the topic but adds fuel and incentive for initiating change. It is also important to express concern regarding the nature of relationship, as this discussion is about avoiding breaching potential boundaries or failed expectations, which will have a much greater damaging effect to the relationship if left un-addressed. You must be sincere in this regard. It communicates that you care and have respect for your partner. Without it you’re unlikely to foster and empower change.

The Power of “I”

Before launching into the specifics of your concerns it is vital that you place it in context. This is about how you feel. This is about what you have observed. This is what you are noticing. These concerns are about your perceptions. Make sure your partner understands that, by addressing your concerns with “I” statements. Once you have done so, then you are free to address your specific concern, while focusing on the behavior or actions in question. It is important to never make this about your partner, but upon specific behavior or issues. No where during this is it appropriate to bring in snarky comments, sarcasm or character attacks. Lead the relationship by example.

Channel Dr. Phil

Having just communicated the issue of concern, but before actually making your request for change, elicit your partner’s input into the situation. What’s driving the behavior? Why do they feel it’s appropriate? Are they aware of how this makes you feel? In conducting any emotional needs communication it is important to be honest about your own needs, while at the same time validating your partner’s, by providing respect in understanding them by applying the techniques of active listening, prior to soliciting change or proffering specific suggestions of alternative behaviors and collaboration in doing so.

The Cornerstone

Only after your partner has been heard, understood and re-affirmed are you truly free to make room for change. Having done so, frequently people will fail to verify acceptance or understanding back from their partner in exchange. Confirming that your partner hears, understand and recognizes the importance of what you have expressed, after-all, is the cornerstone of the entire conversation. Check their understanding not only of the issue at hand, but their commitment and agreement to amending the issue.

Bring it together

In going through the conflict management points of determining the context, setting the tone, taking perspective and discussing emotions it is vital to resolve any emotional needs communication with re-affirming your belief in your partner as a person and the value you hold for the relationship in general. We started this process with an understanding of the hazardous half-minute, end with the same sensitivity, caring, affection and appreciation.