Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Should-less Relationship Principle #5: Friendship

It never fails to astound me how frequently people choose to be in relationships with people they don’t like. Why would someone voluntarily spend time with someone they can’t stand? To get to the bottom of this I think it important to once again explore what you have learned about what relationships “should” look like.

If you learned from parents or primary caretakers that two people in a relationship are meant to argue and “should” each other over and over, then you are likely to carry that idea into your own relationships as an adult. I have heard many people approach dating like an Olympic sport—there is competition over who is “better”, who is smarter, who makes more money, who is more successful. There are rules, there is game playing, and there are definitely winners and a losers.

Then, once in a relationship, the competition gets kicked up notch. Conflicts become the norm, arguing is the primary means of communication, and manipulation is the strategy for getting your “needs” met. These kinds of unions frequently employ high stakes drama, ie, screaming, yelling, door slamming, dish breaking, phone hanging-up, as a habitual form of expression.

A big problem with that is that high stakes drama is hard to sustain, and often has to be escalated in order for each member to achieve the “high” they felt last time. This is frequently the point when I see violence enter into a relationship. Hitting rarely comes out of the blue, it is usually a natural outgrowth of the kind of aggressive and competitive patterns described above. This is not to say that it is ever excusable or acceptable to batter a partner. But it is important that we understand the “shoulds” and aggressive communication styles that lead up to violence being introduced into a relationship, in order to prevent them from continuing.

The good news is there is a much easier and more enjoyable way to relate to others. What if you had a relationship with someone that was based in friendship, agreement, and honor? What if you and your significant other were able to drop the “shoulds” about one another and instead focused on respecting differences, creating a supportive union, and supporting each other’s hopes and dreams? What if your partner was best friend?

These are the goals of being in a should-less relationship. In many ways, having your primary partner as your best friend may seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t your best friend usually the one to whom you would confess your secrets, your fears, your guilty pleasures? Yes, they would, and in a relationship void of “shoulds” there is possibility for this to happen as well.

Some key questions to clarify this are:

- Do I like my partner?
- Do I choose to spend spare time with my partner?
- If I’m upset or sad do I want to turn to my partner for comfort?
- If something great happens, do I want to tell my partner?
- When I’m sick, do I want my partner to take care of me?
- Do I feel just as loving and concerned about my partner as I do my friends or my pets?
- Do I trust my partner?
- Am I able to accept my partner’s point of view even when it is different from my own?
- Do I feel equal to my partner?
- Am I feeling happy when I’m with my partner?

If you answered “no” to one or more of the questions above, then you may seriously want to examine if this is the right person for you. Again, the goal of this blog isn’t to tell you who you “should” be with, but it is to give you some guidelines and tools for deciphering with whom you can happily and peacefully share your life. If you don’t like the person you are with, it can make it very difficult to experience the fun and enjoyment that you deserve.

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