Extracted from I WANT THIS TO WORK: An inclusive guide to navigating the most difficult relationship issues we face in the modern age by Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT, CGT. Sounds true, November 2021. Reprinted with permission.
Love honors me and love you.
From “I want this to work”
Now, to explore the basics of love, let’s look at the definition of honor. Webster’s dictionary gives three relevant definitions:
- “Consider or treat (someone) with admiration and respect, consider or treat with honor”
- “Give special recognition, honor him”
- “Meet or abide by the terms of”
Ideally, we want relationships that fit into these three definitions. Our partner deserves respect and respect. They deserve special recognition for our responsiveness. And they deserve that we live up to the terms of our agreements by showing reliability.
(Wow, I did it again, there are the three R’s!)
In this chapter, I will ask you to take a good look at what you think about your relationship, that is, your mindset. I’ll show you how to move from beliefs that keep you hooked to beliefs that help you grow with your partner and honor each other. When you accept healthy beliefs about relationships and between them, beliefs that honor your partner and are rooted in the three R’s, it’s easier to communicate, to deal with difficult things.
Change of mentality
The way we think about our relationship and our partner is important. As a relationship develops, people develop beliefs about themselves, their partner, and the relationship. These beliefs influence the way we act within the relationship, the motivation we feel, the vulnerability and openness we can be, and the flexibility we are willing to be.
In his book Mindset: The new psychology of success, Carol Dweck shares two mindsets that affect our relationships. The first is the fixed mindset, or believing that things are in stone and cannot be changed. This may mean that we believe that the qualities of our partner cannot be changed or that the qualities of the relationship cannot be developed. “In the fixed mindset,” he writes, “the ideal is instant, perfect, and perpetual compatibility.” The second is the growth mindset. This is the belief that with work, focus and practice, our skills can develop and change over time.
Someone with a fixed mindset might say, “They should know what makes me feel loved!”, While a person with a growing mindset might say, they work hard. ” Or a fixed-minded individual says:
“I shouldn’t have to work on my relationship. If it’s not good now, it will never be good.” A growth-minded person says, “Relationships go through periods of ups and downs. I think we can overcome that if we both make a constant effort.”
The thoughts we have are incredibly powerful and inform (and are informed by) our basic beliefs about relationships, which act as a model of how we treat ourselves; this plan in turn affects our behavior within our relationships. Depending on these basic beliefs, we can manage our feelings in a way that brings us closer to the other person or in a way that moves us further away. When we can combine a growth mindset with strong internal and external boundaries, we can foster possibilities in our relationships while staying grounded in the reality of what we need and deserve.
Posey and Francis were together for several years. Posey had been frustrated and disappointed with Francis since they moved into their home together. He did not continue with his joint projects. Posey began to think that Francis was lazy and didn’t care
about her. He began to develop a basic belief that he would never change. Because of this basic belief, he began to treat Francis differently, dismissing him, criticizing him, and speaking negatively of him to other people.
In therapy with Posey, much of the work we did was to help her change to basic beliefs or more useful mindsets about how relationships work, so that she could connect with Francis, share her frustrations with him, and potentially meet your needs. These are the important basic beliefs about how we should treat each other in relationships in order to work to build a growth mindset:
- “We have the capacity for growth and change.”
- “I don’t have to deal with my partner’s emotions.”
- “We celebrate each other.”
- “We both deserve to be fair.”
- “We deserve empathy and compassion.”
- “We have our backs.”
- “We invest in each other.”
In the following pages, we will explore each fundamental value in more detail.
“We have the capacity for growth and change”
When we feel frustrated with our partner, we begin to develop rigid and critical beliefs about her and the relationship. A key sign that this is happening is when we start talking about our partner at all: “Never show me you care,” or “You’re always so irrational,” or “You’re so lazy.” Or we use the absolute to talk about the relationship: “It’s always hard work” or “We’ll never be as close as I want to be.” We even evoke absolute beliefs about ourselves: “I’m always so beautiful” or “I’ll never express myself.”
If you are describing your relationship, your partner, or yourself in negative and unequivocal terms, it is important to bring some flexibility to your thinking in order to make room for growth. You can do this in the smallest way by simply paying attention to the language you use and softening your fixed statements.
“I don’t have to deal with my partner’s emotions”
To have an interdependent relationship, you can’t manage your partner. You just have to be more discriminating with the help you render toward other people. Many couples block clear communication by trying to manage the other person. Instead of being honest, they are rethinking information to keep your partner from getting upset.
Here is an example. Whenever Rory had to raise a difficult issue, she prefaced it by saying, “Don’t be crazy, but…” Rory would then share some annoying information, sometimes Rory’s partner would go crazy, but they had no way of expressing it, as Rory was trying to manage her partner’s emotions. whenever Aniyah’s husband, Jeremy, was crying over his father’s death, Aniyah would shut him up, “Oh girl, don’t be sad!”
And when Jeremiah and Harper talked about difficult topics, as soon as Harper showed any emotion, Jeremiah said, “All right, forget it! I won’t talk about it if you get upset.”
You can never really control a couple’s emotional experience – if you say something and you feel crazy, that’s how you feel. In other words, if you tell someone not to hear, it doesn’t mean they stop hearing. It means they might stop sharing it with you or they might
you need to start sharing it with yourself in ways you can’t ignore, perhaps through aggression or representation.
When you discover your partner trying to manage your emotions, it’s okay (and even important!) To set a limit. You can say something like “I’m upset and I still want to be able to have my own feelings here. Please just share your truth. I can stand it.”
If you tend to manage the emotions of others, try to capture the moment: “Wow! I’m sorry, love. Of course, you can feel whatever you feel.” Then continue with the conversation.
“We celebrate each other”
We can better communicate with our partner when we have developed a cache of positive feelings for each other. We do this by believing that our partner is worthy of celebration, that he deserves our affection, appreciation, interest, and enthusiasm. When couples are struggling, one of the first things I see going on is the ability to celebrate each other. We are afraid that if we are kind, it will make us susceptible to injury. Sometimes retention is a way to punish or exercise control. But the more we look for the good, the more we see it. And the more we look for the bad, the more we see it too. It’s not worth being in a relationship without celebrating each other.
Research shows that when couples control the pleasant interactions between them, they report a higher level of happiness in the relationship. This means that the more you pay attention to positive interactions, the more notes you will have and the happier you will feel.
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