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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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.

Developing Respect

japanese-garden

“Respect is a carefully tended garden”

Emotional Contagions and the Power of the Negative

Emotional contagion is the human tendency to synchronize and converge to emotional states and behavioral attitudes that are associated with those of others. Two simple observations of this are the susceptibility to catching and patterning other people’s yawns or a change of mood associated with a given venue or crowd. This observation and study goes back to 400 B.C., when Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine, observed that “hysteria” was transferred from some women to others. Modern research and study into the subject confirms that negative emotions have a disproportionate impact to people’s emotional and behavioral states as compared to the power of the positive. In fact, negative emotions typically are four times contagious than positive emotions, which gives rise to the principal to offset a negative emotion, positive experiences have to be increased four times, just to break even to a neutral state. Research also confers indications that to change a negative to a clear positive requires eight or more incidents of positive experiences. This is one of the reasons why good managers initially remove negatives out of situations they are managing rather than trying to add a positive element and if we are attempting to foster respect with our partners we need to be clearly in a position not to damage, demean, or dismiss the respect we’ve already gain from our partners. We have the power to build respect in the manner in which we conduct our life or ruin it faster than it take to build it. Just as Hippocrates established the medical oath to first do no harm, so too shall we, in our attempts to foster respect, do no harm to the respect we’ve already been given and earned by carrying ourselves and behaving in a manner that displays our sense of self-respect, worth and dignity to others, by telling the truth, honoring our commitments and exemplifying in our actions the values we profess to hold.

Projecting Emotional Contagions

Research into the study of emotional contagions indicate that the process is a deeply rooted, primitive, automatic and unconscious behavior with the emotional trait of empathy being central to the receiver’s ability to emotional converge with the sender’s expressions. Women who tend to be more empathic are thus more likely to be susceptible to emotional contagions whether they are unconsciously delivered or consciously intended. As such there is no better case group for deliberately transferring emotional contagions to and gives rise in general to this notion of Western Karma; ‘that which you put out, will be returned’. Simply put, if we are attempting to foster respect, giving respect to others will be the initial step we take after internalizing it ourselves. Furthermore, an individual who encompasses expressive and dramatic personal qualities tend to send strong signals and if that personality is grounded in high self-esteem, self-worth and self-respect, an empathetic observer is vastly more likely to pick up and emulate those emotional displays and overt acts of respect given to them. By deliberately linking congruent subconscious actions with overt conscious actions we are creating an emotional resonance that is greater than the individual action summation with the recipient.

Recognize their Worth

In my previous post I noted that each of us have accomplished something monumental in the sheer act of coming into existence and that we should honor ourselves in acknowledgement and acceptance of that fact. I will double down with that notion and further expand it to recognizing at a grand level we are in fact the results of 4 billion years of evolutionary success and as such we should approach others in recognition and acknowledgement of that fact. On the surface we take for granted in an extreme way our acknowledgement of others. Modifying that approach in each interaction with others is an incredible step in fostering respect through validating their existence by seeing and recognizing their existence as having value to us.

Recognize their Abilities

As we explore who they are through our engagement with them, we need to become focused upon their accomplishments, contributions and achievements that have occurred and mattered in their lives and how that relates to their sense of pride of achievement and being. We need to be cognizant of not only the benchmarks or milestones of achievements, but also of their life skills and abilities, as they choose to display them. Recognizing their ability to be self-reliant, cope, exercise initiative and think their way through life’s circumstances are the low-hanging fruit of expressing respect to others in transcending their self-doubt, insecurities and defensiveness when it comes to interacting with us and fostering an emotional connection. It is through a combination of validating, empathic listening and providing praise in seeing them for who they are, what they’ve done and what they’ve learned that we show them individual respect.

Recognizing their Authentic Self

Too often our public persona is a result of external pressures and influences to conform to something and someone we’re not through a series of beliefs, obligations, servitude and social tact. It can be on a grand or minor scale, but our internalized private self tends to differ from who we are in public or who we want the public to believe us to be. In our attempts to develop and foster respect, discovering, understanding and accepting people for who they truly are, their authentic self is an immense transformational element for doing so. It is then that true and deep mutual respect can begin to arise. In relationships we will be exposed to and become aware of our partner’s authentic self. It is only within healthy relationships is this authentic self freely given and embraced. It’s called emotional intimacy. In unhealthy and emotionally toxic relationships do the public facades stay up shielding us from our partners.

Manage your Boundaries

People with a strong sense of self, their values and beliefs tend to have as a consequence strong boundaries and personal power. As a result they tend not to be victims of circumstances over which they have little or no control. They do not invite others through their own lack of behavior to take control of their choices and thus their life. They are explicit and assertive in their informing others as to how to be treated, respected and loved. It is through this display of boundary management and self leadership that others can develop a deeper sense of respect for us than just who we are and what we have to offer in return.

Showcasing Excellence as a Habit

Aristotle stated that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore is not an act, but a habit”. While we can achieve acts of excellence and garner respect in the process, we want to be an embodiment of it, therefore, our acts of excellence must be a habitual process of behavior. One of the most important ways in which we are valued and respected as men by culture, society and women are our abilities to master, command and showcase hypergamous dimorphisms. It is the basic reason why women want, need and desire to be in relationships with us. If we are to be respected, we need to do more than just the minimum in displaying and embodying these traits.

Sexual dimorphism of our physical being with the markers being fitness, physical prowess, athletic ability and our raw naked physic. We also need to take pride in the manner in which we care for, sustain and maintain our bodies. We need to learn and develop skill sets that display these characteristics and make them accessible to our partners on a regular basis.

Social dimorphism of behavioral traits associated with masculine behaviors such as assertiveness, dominance, risk-taking, self-reliance, self-confidence, to include manner of stance, body language, speech and dress. In today’s age we need to take these traits further and into the interpersonal social roles of relationship skills, management and maintenance. Blogs that focus on such areas, such as Manning Up Smart are great sources for insight and investigation of these.

Status dimorphism of cultural and societal achievement associated with social standing, wealth generation, power accumulation and fame acquisition. We need to fire up our ambition, plan and chart our way to our life’s objectives and have a legitimate manner and means of achieving them. Only then can we truly ask a woman is this a journey she’d like to take with us.