Thursday, September 06, 2012
We’ve all been there, I’m sure: the Relationship Rut. You’ve gotten into a pattern. You’re finding it hard to break out. Perhaps it’s with your spouse, parents, kids or best friend. Maybe you’ve gotten yourself deep in the rut; you’ve pretended to be someone you’re not, and now it’s too late. I once pretended to be open-minded to video games (I hate them), just to hang out with a guy who practically had a non-paying career in Call of Duty. I’m glad I didn’t let that masquerade continue. But I know that some people do.
I was recently watching the show “Deal With It”, a game show that involves unsuspecting diners who have the opportunity to win money when one diner is given the task of dealing with certain challenges, unbeknownst to the other. A young man was given the task of convincing his buddy that he was writing a children’s book. The awkwardness palpably grew as the tasks escalated, each one more hilarious than the last. When the two men played patty-cake at the table for a full 30 seconds, I nearly died laughing.
Finally, the ruse is revealed and the awkward tension melts as the friendship returns to its state of equilibrium. But for a brief period of time, there is a serious question as to the relationship dynamics. It must be a challenge for the unwitting diner to process the questionable behaviour. People come to expect some resemblance of what they believe is ‘regular behaviour’ from you. If you don’t deliver, their perceptions can be shattered and their trust broken.
This is probably why it’s so hard to change relationship dynamics once they’ve been set. But this is also the biggest barrier to strengthening and growing a healthy relationship.
Right now, for instance, I’m getting to know ‘a boy’ (like, he comes and takes me out on dates!) It can be tempting to find some familiar pattern that works, and try to stick with that. Like the other day, we strolled around the river valley, pausing to take in the viewpoints. We did the same thing the next night.
The boy said he so enjoyed the stroll the first time, I figured I couldn’t go wrong inviting him for a second round. But I begin to wonder if he thinks I’m boring. I’ve realized my mistake: this predictable pattern only lets us discover the same facets of one another. And while I enjoy walking around, I don’t plan on making it my exclusive pastime.
Then there’s Millie. She’s quite the tease and can sometimes even be a bit caustic. She’s used to building relationships based on sarcasm spiced with a healthy dose of mockery. But she’s being challenged now to break that pattern (I’m telling you: money is a great motivator!)
Instead of making fun of her friends, Regina has to find a different way to relate to them. She says it’s quite hard, though to be fair, it’s been all of about an hour.
I think it’s good for her. I think too many people are afraid to change, and I understand why. It’s going to require risk to let someone see you in a different light. What if they don’t like this other aspect of you?
Once people have a concept of you, or they think they understand you, they can be downright offended if you perform out of turn! But that’s where communication comes in. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: better communication is the single most important thing you can do to improve any relationship.
People aren’t ever going to fully understand all of the things you do. You’re a beautiful, complex being. I doubt that you even fully understand all of the things you do. But communication can at least mitigate some of the misunderstandings.
I love that me and ‘the boy’ have already talked about change. In fact, he said to me that it’s one thing he firmly believes in: being willing to learn and grow. Right there, now, I have permission to show him all of the facets of me, even if they change in the future. Setting this expectation from the get-go has been a smart move.
If you’ve been in a relationship a long time, don’t despair. I have advice for you too. When I simply couldn’t connect with my brother, I found we needed a new venue in which to meet. He had started taking fitness more seriously in his life, and I’ve always been interested in the matter (though the interest may have at times been one-sided.) When I started to ask him about his workouts, this opened a whole new world for us. We grew much closer, learned to spur each other on, and have even done backcountry hiking trips together.
All this is to say that if your relationships are in a rut, don’t be afraid to redefine them.
other articlesDid I Read That Right?
The Virtues of Clowning Around
A Hammer For Every Occasion
Is Sherlock Holmes The Most Interesting Man
All The Small Things
On the Other Side of Pain
Let’s Be Lonely Together
Conflict Is A Good Thing
The Big Impact
Better Sleep in 2014
My Funny Mommy
My Zero Tolerance Policy
This is my Game Face
When Things Don’t Work Out
The Ultimate Conspiracy Theory
Pink Shirts in the Laundry
How to accept gifts
Rise to the occasion