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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Staying Positive

Troubles seldom disappoint

As a gender men are expected to take the lead socially in almost every aspect of the courtship ritual and early developments of initiating the baseline of that relationship is established by concealed negotiations of what we except by accepting initial patterns of early behavior from our potential partner. Being cognizant and astutely observant of initial patterns of behavior or personal narrative, while dating, coming from a potential partner can help us increase the probability of establishing a healthy and productive relationship by filtering and screening those potential mates. These values should be treated and regarded as boundaries as establishing limits to what you will accept into your life and with those that you invite in. One of the most important is the ability of a couple to accentuate the positive in life more than those that choose to revel in the negative of life.

Too much EQ

Women often fall victim of cluster of personality traits and attributes that promotes excessive effusiveness, which in times of stress heightens their vulnerability, insecurity and emotional state that leaves them not only needing but desiring a strong, secure and emotionally stable figure in their lives. That figure has historically has been filled by stoic male partners, to re-establish an emotional baseline of emotional self-worth, security, and stability. The new girl order simply is creating an environment and culture in which historic masculine roles are not valued, developed and respected in men. As such, we are raising new generations of men lacking or devoid of these traits, characteristics and attributes. This is nowhere more apparent than when we look at the divorce initiation rates, between gay couples, as lesbians tend to divorce at a vastly higher rate than homosexual couples, where these skills, attributes and personality traits are typically not as developed or missing altogether individually and within the coupling. Even with the staggering high divorce rates within heterosexual couples, it pays to have a masculine male in the relationship that is able to objectively sort out emotional trivialities, as to define and interpret what is important, by taking issues into perspective, by accepting accountability for one’s emotional state, and being emotionally secure in the face of adversity, which are not historically feminine traits.

Strongest frame wins

Emotional contagion is the unconscious tendency to mimic the emotions of others, (the stronger frame wins), which takes place continuously within a relationship. Without being aware or insulated from it when the behavior or emotions are negative can become a disastrous effect individually and ultimately within a relationship. Emotional detachment is the concept of insulating oneself from the emotional contagion. It is completely possible to be emotionally supportive, without being emotional immersed. Establishing that emotional boundary is critical to maintaining emotional context, stability and security, as poor attitudes, bad emotions, and negative outlooks are all contagious and detrimental to emotional health and a relationship. If you don’t set a baseline standard for what you’ll accept in life, you’ll find it easy to slip into behaviors and attitudes or a quality of life that is far below what you deserve.

Bad apples

First order of business of any leader is to eliminate the negative rather than accentuate the positive, as the negative has repeatedly shown in study after study has a disproportionate impact, as compared to the power of the positive. All militaries know this and have framed their entire institutions around this concept. Businesses marketers realize this concept as well, as a bad stereotypes and reputations are easier to acquire, and harder to shed, than good ones. As the male, it will fall to you to hold a critical confrontation when the patterns of acceptable behavior, attitudes and emotions exceed healthy boundaries. This should be done in conjunction with emotional needs communication and active listening skills for best results.

Resisting reality

More often than not, one’s emotional state is a function of how one interprets events, rather than what actually happened. Our emotional state (good or bad) is generated by interpretations of events. Taking personal responsibility for your happiness involves, ultimately adopting a ‘trust mindset’ which refers to the willingness to fully and unquestioningly accept the outcomes you are dealt with in life and ‘trust’ within yourself you are capable and able to handle what comes. To do so otherwise is the hallmark for embracing misery and suffering.

Think like an optimist

People who don’t give up tend to interpret setbacks as temporary, local and changeable. The best way to immunize a partner against depression, anxiety, and giving up in the face of failure or perception of it is to teach them to think like optimists in adjusting their self talk, setting goals in small attainable steps, to mentally rehearse succeeding in their efforts and activities and to learn active stress reduction techniques to soothe their mind and bodies. These are the same psychological techniques taught and demanded of special warfare candidates going through Special Forces selection process. These techniques work and are valued and utilized by those who require success in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Behavior economics

Researchers have shown for a relationship to succeed, the positive and good interactions between a couple must outnumber the negative by a factor of 5:1. If the ratio falls below that, the relationship is likely to fail. In studies the best indicator of happiness was the frequency of eating with friends and family… If you were to choose one activity to produce an emotional upswing, start with breaking bread with those that make you smile, laugh and forget your troubles. Having a special meal together can be an immediate remedy, but often you just don’t have time to prep a meal on the fly, which is why I recommend having a nice bottle of wine always at hand. By taking time to stop the normal pattern of daily occurrences and slowing things down and making them more pleasurable, while you actively listen and provide emotional support can help offset a negative emotional occurrence. A pre-emptive solution is to enlist allies on a regular basis, by having regular shared meals with friends and family to establish a higher emotional happiness baseline long prior to any troubles.

Express gratitude…

Expressing gratitude and sharing appreciation for a partner is the primary means for creating a positive relationship internally. As a man, it will be your role to lead by example to establish the relationship culture of appreciation, acceptance and love. By looking for and accentuating the positive qualities in your partner and humbly acknowledging the difference that she has made in your life, you not only validate her contributions but attract them as well. Showing genuine appreciation for your partner is one of the most powerful ways we can empower each other in a healthy relationship. Likewise, learning to expressing gratitude during times of extreme sorrow, pain or hardship can be done to help lift the spirit, by giving thanks. Your heart doesn’t need to be smiling when doing so.

Happiness advantage

For years psychologist have known that thriving couples accentuate the positive in life more so than those that languish do. They not only cope well during hardship but also celebrate the happy moments and work to build more of those into their lives. A simple behavioral tactic to boost the happiness ratio and to help strengthen emotional bonds with your partner is to actually celebrate success as they occur. The most simple is to just be consciously aware and present when your partner is discussing and sharing an achievement. Sprinkling in regular ‘high-fives’ and ‘you-go-girl’ comments often spike the happiness and focus upon a shared achievement. For bigger occasions, setting time aside from your routine to properly celebrate is in order. These needn’t be big, over the top costly extravagances, but having a bottle of champagne on hand chilled in the fridge affords one the immediate flexibility to toast, accentuate and recognize achievement or success at a moment’s notice. If those moments haven’t occurred in a while, or a natural stasis of life occurs, break the pattern and just celebrate being together. It’s a fairly simple process to plan and develop your life to regularly celebrate the living of it.