On the eve of an Instagram live (gulp) where the topic is relationships (super gulp), I look at the list of possible questions and/or topics that are on the discussion table. I found myself responding in my head as if answering a survey, which did not seem authentic to me. I was trying to be correct with my responses. So, I made myself a lovely lavender-infused vodka martini (yes, on a Tuesday night) and the flowery words began to flow. You, lucky reader, are the recipient of those words.
What is a relationship? The definition explains it as, "the distance between two things". I think this is hilariously ironic because most relationships wind up failing because of the distance (or the lack of distance) between the two persons involved.
I am not an expert per se, however, I have helped many clients find their place being with another person. Whether it's parent-child or adult-adult, foundationally, relationships are the same. For some reason, everyone strives for the perfect relationship. There's YOU and ME in a Venn diagram of infinite connection that is portrayed in this society. (Ah-hem...barf. Perfect is not sustainable.) The thing is when there are only two circles in this model Venn diagram, one runs the risk of being overtaken by the other whose gravity exhibits a greater pull. (Imagine a small planet being absorbed by a larger one.) What I have found, is if you add a third circle in the middle of the YOU and ME, there is a space for the relationship to be held where both of you can dip into the circle as little or as much as required without overtaking or giving up yourself. This is the natural give and take in a relationship without losing your boundaries or yourself in the process.
So, how do you nurture your relationship in this space? Leave your expectations of societal relationships out of the center ring. What works for you may not work for others and that is OK. As an example between a parent-child relationship: Loving mom that you are - you want to take care of all the little things your own mom didn't do for you when you were growing up and (of course!) your child dislikes that type of parenting. By leaving that expectation out of the center ring, you have an opportunity to support your child the way they require. Let's say your child does not want your help making their breakfast, yet you want to give them a healthy start to the day (which they do not eat). You've wasted your time and you've forced your child to accept what you'd like breakfast to be because your mom never made anything more than black coffee for herself. (Think your circle overtaking their circle.) What if together, you met for breakfast in the middle? Figure out what works for both of you and support that by always having whatever 'that' food is available for breakfast. You are honoring your child and they will return the action. Another example that is between two adults in a relationship: As a female, perhaps you are expected to take care of cooking dinner each night, getting the kids ready for bed and prepped for school the next morning, in addition to cleaning the house and handling the administrative pieces of running a household, while your partner/spouse lives his best life working and playing. (Thank you, society.) If you are OK with this relationship model - cool. If you are not - that's cool too. Look at how one of those two circles in this example (yours) has been absorbed, leaving you no room to be YOU, which leads to resentment, distance and issues. With the third circle here, there are opportunities to sort the pieces of who does what (again, leaving society's points of view out of it). Perhaps it's in your budget to have a housekeeper that takes care of most of those things, or a nanny. Maybe take-out is on the menu two nights a week when your days are particularly busy. Maybe there's a list of who does what on a regular basis. By placing those components of a relationship into the third ring, you and your significant other have a place to work through it, honoring each other's personal needs and space without giving yourself up.
This brings us to the flowers...honoring one another is a key to an open authentic relationship. (There are four other elements - you only get one in this blog.) Honoring someone is meeting them where they are at, rather than where you'd like them to be. This includes knowing your man will leave the toilet seat up or your kids will forget their homework, again. It's knowing someone's circle and not stepping into it, rather, meeting them in the third circle. Ok, I digress...flowers...if you have a partner who brings you flowers and you love it, awesome. If you have a partner who totally misses the point of how special bringing you flowers can be and you resent it...well, here is the third ring of the Venn diagram offering you a place to express what you desire and a place for him/her to join you there with what they CAN offer you. I'll use a personal example here since the picture at the top of this post is mine, taken yesterday. My hubs is amazing. He is thoughtful, kind, generous, loving, gentle, funny....he's also a forgetful pain in the butt sometimes and I adore him for all of it. He knows that flowers make me happy, however, he is aware of my past when flowers were only given to me as a way of saying sorry for indiscretions. He also knows that I love to garden and having just moved into a new home in the middle of winter, I am unable to get my new garden going at the moment. Instead of bringing me flowers the other day to show he was thinking of me (after mayyybe forgetting something important), he purchased me a garden starter pack so I can have my favorite herbs growing inside while I wait for the weather to warm up. This is honoring someone and stepping into the third ring of the Venn diagram with whatever is going on in that space offering an opportunity or a possibility for something to grow. (Bad pun, sorry.) As an aside, honoring yourself in this same way, when things are off-balance in your world and nurturing your relationship with YOU is just as important, no plus one is needed for this to work.
How do you honor someone? It doesn't have to cost a penny. I'm betting many of you have heard of "love languages" and each one of us has a preferred way of gifting and receiving. Oftentimes, what you love receiving from others is not what others love receiving. For example, I am not a gift-giver, nor do I love getting gifts - I much prefer spending time with someone and creating a memory with them. Vacations, activities and adventures are my favorite things to do with my peeps. Yet, I am aware that others in my life really enjoy gifts or words of praise/love, so I offer them what they require as a way of honoring them. Sometimes, that honoring is receiving a gift even if gifts are not my thing. I do so in that space of the third circle.
Ok, getting to the point...relationship, center circle, honoring. When things are off balance and you get to the "you don't bring me flowers anymore" part of the relationship, how do you re-center the rings of your special three-circle diagram? Create chaos, mix it up and have fun. Your man isn't bringing you flowers anymore? Send him flowers. See what happens. Your woman isn't feeling sexy enough to be intimate with you? Check the calendar, get her booked for some "me-time" and take the kids without okaying it with her first. See what happens. Your kids are pushing boundaries after school and you are about to lose it? Make breakfast for dinner or have dessert first. GET THEIR ATTENTION by choosing an action that is different, fun and honoring their needs. The circles will be back in balance in no time. Feel free to continue adding to that center circle even when things are going well and see what you can create. Also, feel free to purchase some flowers (or whatever) and honor your relationship with yourself.