Enhancing our Relationships

How can we improve communication and understanding in our romantic
relationships? John Gray says in his book "Men are from Mars, Women
are from Venus" that men and women have very different forms of 
problem solving, thinking and listening. Are we from different 
planets. If so, can this gap be bridged so we can hear and be heard?

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Let's look at how these masculine and feminine differences come out in
daily life. First of all, I want to say that a man does not have to be
masculine, or a woman feminine. One common example in everyday life
that these two forms of perceiving exhibit themselves is in planning an
event. For masculine consciousness, deliberation, planning, forethought
and purpose are very important values. In contrast, for feminine
consciousness being present to the moment and acting spontaneously is
the way to proceed. Tensions can come up if one person is more of a go
with the flow" type while the other person sides with will, pupose and
planning. Since opposites both attract and repel we often can admire the
other person as well as at other times find them annoying. Control
can seem at one time courageous and strong. At another time, it can seem
rigid and inflexibile. Likewise, a spontaneous person can seem creative
and alive in one light. However, at other times he/she can seem chaotic,
undisciplined and an "air head". 

PARENTING

I worked with Joe and Marcia last month in marital therapy around an
interesting issue:
There were a number of disagreements about disciplining their son 
Jason. Jason had lied and was grounded for a week as his punishment
which both parents initially agreed upon. After two days, Marcia felt
a lot of pain watching Jason sit in his room while his friends
were playing basketball a few doors down. She let him slip out for an
hour before his father returned home. For feminine consciousness,
there is a strong sense of empathy and an ability to identify with
another person's suffering. Joe found out about Jason going outside
and felt angry and betrayed. He felt that Jason would never learn 
the consequences of his action and become responsible if he was
"babied". Joe also felt upset because hewas the "heavy" and "bad guy"
now.

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This type of scenario is common and maybe why traditionally mothers
were associated with "unconditional love" and fathers with 
"conditional love". Unconditional love means that I love you 
WHATEVER you do because of who you are. Conditional love means I
love you for your goals, accomplishments, victories, principles,
character and effort. 

Sometimes teenagers will say that they respect their father's love
for being judgmental. Yet, they may prefer receiving the nurturance 
and unconditional care from their mother.
In this couple, they were able to see each had to change a bit.
Marcia had to work on keeping her resolve and thinking about how her
sympathy for Jason could let her be taken advantage of by him. Joe
realized that he needed to have more sympathy and that Jason noticed 
that now. By working together and communicating with each other they
were able to consider each others point of view and not push each other
into extreme positions. (An example of an extreme position is when the
father punishes the son, but the mother slips him a $10 bill to buy
something for himself). Something that really helps in these situations
is to stay open, not dig in your heels, consider that your spouse feels
this is the best solution and above all keep a sense of humor about
things.

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Breaking old patterns


Whether it's overeating or drinking , another area where tensions
occur in relationships is where one person wants the other person to
discipline themselves:" Why do you have to drink on weekends?" " Why
do you have to have a second desert?" One person (it could be a man or
a woman) becomes the judge or conscience and the other is seen as
weak, indulgent or lazy. Sometimes people get extreme in these 
interactions. A lot of cartoons and comics picture couples this way. 
The stereotypical picture is one of the man reading the newspaper at
breakfast while his wife tries to speak with him. She talks more to
get his attention and sometimes will become more emotional to try to 
reach him. Because she is more emotional, he'll bury his head further
in the paper, leading to a negative interaction. It's good to catch
these reactions so that they can be talked about and resolved. This
works well at resolving frustration, anger, hurt and other dark
feelings. If both people want to change and are sick of the pattern
then trust and new habits can be created.

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Healthy Communication

In summary, always try to catch and discuss the patterns that emerge
rather than let anger or bitterness build up. Don't accuse your
partner of something. Give your own impression, but listen and hear
him/her out. It's easy to get into accusations and fault finding, but
this is ultimately unproductive. By practicing a new way of
conversing healthier routines can grow. This leads to more openness,
humor and genuine care. The result is that each person feels understood
and appreciated. Sometimes, it's good to know when to "blow the
whistle" if a discussion gets too heated. It's good to take a walk and 
talk later if it just seems to be spinning in circles. Making an effort
is always an inspiration to the other person. It's easy to get stubborn
and wait for the other person to put forth an effort, but making the
first move will enrich you relationship and pay you back enormously.
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