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What Everybody Ought to Know for Relationship Survival Episode #40

We arrive in this world with very few skills to help us navigate relationships. It takes a few decades just to understand ourselves much less anybody else. I think long term loving requires that we give each other the benefit of the doubt. We all begin a bit too stingy & full of self interest.

Marriage Goals & Relationship Goals for 2018 are all about this 40th episode. I’ve been podcasting a little over 2 1/2 years and I want to thank you my listeners for over 60,000 downloads!I hope you will keep letting others know!

We arrive in this world with very few skills to help us navigate relationships. It takes a few decades just to understand ourselves much less anybody else. I wish they taught Reading, Writing & Relationships in high school. As human beings we are fragile craft, full of desire, hunger & loneliness. So how on earth are to we build a relationship with someone else, that will last?

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I think long term loving requires that we give each other the benefit of the doubt. We all begin a bit too stingy & full of self interest. Then all too quickly we decide that somehow our partner is against us. Some slight they be completely oblivious to, some misperceived insult that we collect in our suspicious belief system. We say to ourselves that we know what’s really going on…

We are like angry squirrels building a stash for the winter of woundedness. We all have a narrative we keep inside our hearts & heads. We tell ourselves about ourselves & we tell ourselves about each other. Our own narratives can be deeply dangerous to ourselves & each other. We can add to our own story the way we believe we are unworthy. We can also add to our story & then hold ourselves, against the other person. “I’m just sick of his crap” can easily become the storyline you easily add to & build upon.

Giving your partner the benefit of the doubt is not so easy. This is far more complicated for marriage goals. Harry Bosch in the Michael Connely books & the show on Amazon is a silent, not overly sharing kind of guy. He has yet to find a woman who truly accepts that about the nature of who he is. If you love Harry back, you get this is part of the deal.

Romantic visions create idealized scenarios in your belief system that doesn’t account for all the complicatedness of who we are. How many times have you secretly thought “If they loved me they would…….” To borrow a line from the lyrics of Porgy & Bess “It ain’t necessarily so……”

In the comfortable beginnings of love in relationships, it goes so much more smoothly because our starry eyed illusions are fuel to glide over the bumps. It’s later on that we are annoyed by the differences that once were enchanting. This is when the real work begins.

I’m going to share a quote from Joseph Campbell that I have on the Relationship Page of my website: therapy

“One of the things I have realized – and people who have been married a long time realize – is that marriage is not a love affair. A love affair has to do with immediate personal satisfaction. But marriage is an ordeal; it means yielding, time and again. That’s why it’s a sacrament: you give up your personal simplicity to participate in a relationship. And when you’re giving, you’re not giving to the other person: you’re giving to the relationship. And if you realize that you are in the relationship just as the other person is, then it becomes life building, a life fostering & enriching experience, NOT an impoverishment because you’re giving to someone else.”

“You give up your personal simplicity” is one of my favorite parts of that quote. Think about what that means. It means you decide that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Instead of Me & You… recognize the US is what matters.So create the marriage goal to create give up your personal simplicity.

I believe that marriage is an ordeal that does require yielding time & again. When you can give your partner the benefit of the doubt it greases the ability to yield which makes this a great marriage goal.

The Benefit of the Doubt is also a gift of aging together over time. Aging allows greater depth to our perceptions, it’s definitely not all about me anymore. You more clearly see the whole picture, instead of the angry, selfish narrative. So let me give you an example.

While it might seem difficult to complain about someone who is overly virtuous, their downside would be that they are chock full of should & judgements that would make sharing in a relationship more difficult. So their partner is already upset, shares & the partner adds salt to the wound.

Let’s examine the 2 possible narratives:

A No Benefit of the Doubt, Angry Squirrel collecting nuts of unhappiness, point of view would be “Why isn’t he there for me? He doesn’t love me, he always makes it worse. I can’t tell him anything. I’m so alone with him, we can’t go on like this.”
A Benefit of the Doubt Marriage Goal would be
“I get who he is. If I tell him now, he’ll make it worse for me, not meaning to. So I’ll tell him later when I can handle him making it worse.”
This second narrative allows the benefit of the doubt, is more accepting….I get him & understand & will accommodate him on how to make this work for both of US. This second formulation is built on greater tenderness, which the benefit of the doubt multiplies over the decades of a relationship. Stop & consider how much tenderness do you bring when you paint the portrait of your partner……….

Listen to the episode to hear how I completely changed the narrative I had told myself & I fully embraced this new way to look at that moment which was so healing.

Everybody has the choice to create the marriage goal to accommodate each other’s differences or fall down the Alice in Wonderland hole of making things up & exaggerating the wounds to benefit you.

Obviously I’m not talking about giving the benefit of the doubt to abusive situations. I’m talking about each of us stepping on each others toes because we all have a dark side, even the most virtuous person.

My challenge for you today is to ask yourself what is the narrative stuck in your head about your partner? Are you the Squirrels collecting the ‘Woe is Me nuts’ or are you more generous & accommodating in recognizing how you are both wired differently. Consider whether or not tenderness towards each other is still a part of your relationship, what can you do to act more tenderly?

Have you hugged a non-listener today? No really. They need it. Imagine going all day, every day without podcasts in your life. Ok, now stop imagining that before you start weeping & let them know about What Healthy Couples Know That You Don’t. Please subscribe & follow me on my website: therapy

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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