Even if the title can be misleading, this is not an article about navigating waters, but I like metaphors!
As adults we dream of that person that will come and make us happy, fulfilled, solve our issues, even rescue us. We create that image of the “perfect” partner that should be this, have that, behave like this or that. In many cases, at the inception of the relationship we interact more with the projected image of the other rather than the real person itself.
We often forget that 2 people come in a relationship with different baggage constituted of values, upbringing, education, traditions, culture, temperament, personalities, preferences, habits. Or even more profound, different ways of doing the dishes, the laundry, folding (if!), placing items in the fridge (covered or uncovered), (not) picking socks off the floor aaaand, of course, the classical “toilet seat”.
Love is enough, I heard (and even thought it at some point). Is it?!
We assume that if our partners love us, they will behave and react in a specific, expected way, most probable, the way we behave and react. And when they present us with a different image from our projection, we become disappointed or even hurt, forgetting about our differences and starting to distance.
John Gottman defines the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse in a relationship:
Reflection, introspection, honesty and the will to continue to hold hands with the partner are key factors to start identifying when/how/why these horsemen appear and what are the (real) reasons of conflicts.
Typically, is not actually the dirty glass left on the kitchen counter instead of the dishwasher that irritates, but the meaning we give it (“How many times did I say…”, “Am I not important, valued, respected?”, etc)
So how do we make it better?!
Expressing the needs, desires, feelings in an assertive manner can augment the understanding in a relationship (if you want to improve, book a session with me!). The communication must be clear, without ambiguities, direct, solution oriented, not aiming faults, accuses or blaming (remember, we want to continue holding hands!).
Another valuable insight is to differentiate the person from the behavior.
Let’s repeat: differentiate the person from the behavior. Say: “I don’t appreciate when you put the pile of clothes on the couch” vs “You’re so careless!”.
For my readers, allow me to propose a little exercise to strengthen connection, trust and openness in the relationship: talk to your partner, preferably when both of you are calm and open to listen and understand, rather than ready for defense and attack.
Share with your partner that you like him/her when he/she does ……,
That you don’t like him/her when he/she does ……,
And that your expectation when …... is …... .
Ask your partner to mirror the above, related to you.
Every day starts with You!