Relationships are hard work, and the idea that you can be in a miraculous relationship needs explaining. What is a miraculous relationship? It’s one where both partners grow spiritually, increasing in love, personal evolution
and shared experience of the soul.
Three major obstacles keep this from happening, and you can watch them operating in your own relationship if you look closely, with open eyes and honest intent:
control (the need for one person to coerce the other into doing things “My way”), competition (the need to turn every situation into win or lose) and lack of communication (the refusal to share how you feel and to hear how your partner feels).
1. Working on Control
Controlling people can be identified by a few primary characteristics:
(1) their way is best; (2) they find ways to excuse themselves while at
the same time finding fault with others; (3) they are perfectionists–other people’s work is never good enough to meet their standards; (4) they think they know what’s best for other people; and (5) they sound reasonable on the surface but are tightly wound underneath, leading to an irrational need to have every detail be perfect–anything less than perfect just isn’t “right,” as defined by them, of course.
If you are in a relationship where these ingredients dominate, either in
your partner or yourself, change will be very difficult. Control freaks
are too afraid to change, and whenever change appears, they become
agitated inside, causing them to double up on their control.
Fortunately, control is rarely so extreme. It exists as an obstacle
mostly when two people start arguing over “my way” versus “your way.”
Telltale signs of controlling behavior can be found in typical
statements that come up time and again, such as: (1) “You know I’m
right.”; (2) “I have this covered, leave everything to me.”; (3) “I only
have your best interests at heart.”; (4) “You didn’t do it right, how
often do I have to remind you?”; (5) “Why do I always have to clean up
your mess?”; (6) “You left a dirty dish in the sink again.”
If you recognize yourself as the taskmaster, perfectionist, neat freak
or the possessive one in your relationship, pause and confront this
obstacle. What you need to work on is to remove the underlying tension
that always exists if another person feels controlled–they are being
slowly suffocated. Your good intentions don’t matter, because no matter
how neat the house is, how perfectly you raise the children, how
skillfully you manage every detail, if your partner is being suffocated,
your controlling behavior is leading to trouble. If you do, your
partner will see changes that will help him or her start to soften their
2. Working on Competition
Everyone likes to win, but when winning becomes your chief tactic for
boosting your ego, it becomes an obstacle. Highly competitive people
constantly need the feedback of winning because there is an underlying
fear of losing. The chief reason this trait surfaces is that winners get
a lot of approval. They achieve success, and on that basis they forget
that winning has a downside, especially in relationships.
When you win, the following may occur far too often: (1) you make your
partner wrong; (2) winning turns into a put down–your partner feels
belittled and demeaned; (3) you play unfair but won’t admit it; (4) you
aren’t supporting your partner, whose interests and viewpoint don’t
matter as much as yours; (5) your partner feels pushed away; (6) you
imply a threat if you lose. The threat can be withdrawal of affection,
attention, approval, sex or emotional closeness.
The key is to offer rational reasons for change, and these reasons must
sidestep the whole issue of winning and losing. Winners are forced to
stand on a pedestal. It’s lonely up there, your partner wants to step
down, but he (or she) can’t do it alone. Your role is to offer a
reasonable way to promote change. The initiative has to be his (or
hers), and in the end, a person must be allowed at least one victory a
day. But it doesn’t have to be at your expense. You aren’t the follower,
the admiring spectator, the loser, the victim or the second banana.
Work on making that clear to yourself first and then to your partner.
Deep down, every winner wants to be paired with someone who doesn’t
demand them to perform all the time. From that little seed a close
bonding can grow.
3. Working on Lack of Communication
Compared to the first two obstacles, lack of communication
has become a well-worn theme. Couples are constantly urged, by
therapists, self-help books and magazine articles. The stereotype is
that men are the problem. They won’t open up. They hate to express their
emotions or show vulnerability. They think it’s girly to show feelings,
so why not leave it to the girls? This stereotype isn’t as rigid as it
seems, for many men do confide in the privacy of their relationship,
and women well know the vulnerability that is being hidden when a man
goes back out into the workaday world with his public mask firmly in
Still, psychologists find a gap between the sexes when it comes to
communicating, and we can’t summarize the subject in the short space we
have here. Lack of communication is a snake biting its tail: the more
you tell someone they need to communicate, the harder they will clamp
down. As with many complex personal issues, it helps to break this one
down to simpler components. Then you can address the parts instead of
the whole, which is almost always the easier way to find a solution.
Also, you will be leaving the level of the problem, which is never where
What is the level of the problem? An emotional impasse. One person wants
more emotion, the other refuses. At bottom, all relationships must have
an emotional core, and by nature, emotions are transient–they come and
go, rise and fall, moving the way they want to move, no matter what the
rational mind may say. People fail to communicate because there is an
emotional mismatch. Instead of trying to pry your partner open like an
oyster, you need to make him or her feel that it’s safe to open up on
their own. This can’t be done by attack, blame, nagging or guilt-tripping.
In order to open new lines communication, you need to develop a
new attitude toward communication. When you really communicate: (1)
your partner’s emotions are as valid as yours; (2) you don’t use your relationship to vent or dump your stuff; (3) you sympathize, you feel where your partner is coming from; (4) you deal with your negative emotions as your
responsibility; (5) you don’t project them through guilt-tripping and
blame; (6) you make intimacy an open space between the two of you, you
are sensitive to any sign that the space is closing; (7) you show
appreciation for what your partner feels; (8) the one who gets to talk
the most is the one with the greatest need or the most to share. But
this doesn’t mean that one person is always the designated listener.
As before, you should sit down with your partner to discuss how these new
attitudes can be fostered between you. Choose a relaxed, calm moment.
Have the list written down and presented beforehand so that your partner
has time to consider each thing without feeling ambushed. One of the
most important things to avoid is depicting one person as being open
while the other is closed. Communication isn’t about me versus you. It’s
about building this separate, valuable thing known as “our relationship.” Communication is the air that relationship breathes. It’s not relevant that one partner might talk a lot while the other doesn’t.
Talking a lot isn’t communication, it’s holding forth. Your goal isn’t to make your partner more like you, or vice versa. What you are aiming for is mutual growth, which means that you share what’s going on inside, and you do it regularly, with enjoyment and in the spirit of mutual support. I realize that in most relationships there is a lot of venting, complaining, negotiating,
disagreement and other forms of emotional mismatch. This will be true in
the best relationships, but there will also be times when you share
life as if soul to soul. It’s those moments that need to grow and become
your focus in being together.
A soul-to-soul relationship is incredibly fulfilling. Going into the
light together can be uplifting in a way that two people could never
anticipate, even though falling in love gives a very vivid glimpse of
it. If you sincerely work on the three obstacles that cast a shadow over
too many relationships, your willingness to find the light will
certainly draw you into it–there is no greater promise.
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