Build Stronger Relationships
For most of my adult life I tended to shut down emotionally when a woman would display any type of negative attitude towards me. The type of relationship we shared didn’t matter. Whether it was a family member, a friend, or a romantic relationship, that was my immediate response. My behavior stemmed from coping mechanisms I developed as a child and carried over into adulthood. During tense interactions with women I was dating, my first inclination was to put an end to whatever we had going on to regain my peace. My peace was more important than her unhappiness. Conflict resolution wasn’t my strong suit. I had this idealistic view of how a relationship should look and how my lady should communicate with me. My thinking was, “If I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do, then she has no legitimate reason to have an attitude.” I didn’t give any thought to external motivating factors because I really didn’t care. I had no desire to let a woman take her bad day out on me. I was willing to discuss the events of the day, but being her emotional punching bag was not an option.
There was a time not long ago where I struggled with perfectionism, and this played a role in my thought process concerning relationships. Perfectionism and idealism combined with being blind to my own shortcomings left me at a deficit. But relationships have this uncanny ability to hold a spiritual mirror in front of you to expose your inner workings. You never realize how strong (or weak) you are until you’re forced to share your space with someone. Two imperfect beings attempting to build a life together. Habits normal to you when you were single soon become points of contention. Debates arise over things as simple as the direction of the toilet paper on the spool, squeezing the tube of toothpaste from the middle instead of the bottom, and where you clip your toenails. The struggle goes beyond making physical space for each other, you must also give each other the spiritual grace to breathe and be yourselves. Building a strong relationship requires work*, and you can’t go into the relationship expecting the other person to be just like you. You’re not going to always see eye to eye, and you must be okay with that. You must change your description of what the perfect relationship looks like. This is where healthy conflict resolution comes into play. And this is the area I’m currently developing.
I recently experienced a situation during a conversation with a close friend who responded to something I said in a way that triggered my coping mechanism. Instead of blocking her out or cutting her off like I would in the past, I reminded myself that she’s my friend, I love her, and I’m going to resolve this in a healthy mature way. After talking through the situation and coming to an understanding, I had a revelation. I realized growth and improvement comes from being placed in those uncomfortable situations, not avoiding them, to develop my love muscles. The switch is never going to flip on its own. Once my emotional trigger is acknowledged, I must face the situation, process the emotions, and come to a healthy resolution. In order to build stronger relationships, it is imperative we ask questions and actively listen, because formulating an opinion based on past experiences alone can lead you both down the wrong path.
We will forever be a work in progress, but we cannot use this as an excuse for our behavior. The key word is progress. To progress we must continually make strides, baby steps at the minimum, to grow stronger mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We must turn off the autopilot and be fully present in our relationships. Without true connection there is no foundation. Without a solid foundation there is no stability. Without stability there is no peace. Without peace there is no love. Choose love. Always.
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