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Are You Eligible for a Great Relationship?

Some couples have to learn to love and be loved.

Key points

  • When conflicts arise in relationships, people often resort to blaming their partner rather than considering their own actions.
  • Reflecting on gaps in knowledge such as negotiation, conflict resolution, and self-awareness can identify areas where people can improve.
  • When people move their attention away from their partner and onto themselves they can develop the capacity for a loving relationship.
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Linda: There are some couples who are naturals at love. They both start out from the beginning of their partnership with a strong capacity to both love and be loved. Some have families that modeled good communication skills, as well as effective conflict management and negotiation skills. And some people are naturally optimistic and have easygoing personalities, a combination that results in an abundance of goodwill. But many couples have to work long and hard to grow a great partnership.

When a relationship hits trouble, the default mechanism that most people resort to is that their partner is at fault. It’s so easy for the judging mind to collect evidence that the other person is misguided, selfish, self-centered, misinformed, cold, childish, aggressive, unfair, unhealed from their family of origin patterns, stupid, or lazy, just to name a few.

We can amass quite a file to “prove” that we are the more “enlightened” ones, and they are the jerk. We can even get our family and friends to reinforce the notion that we are the innocent victim of our partner’s violations. Some people even convince their psychotherapist that they are innocent victims. For sure, there are situations where the only sensible thing to do is to leave a toxic relationship. But so many more couples just need to shift their orientation to one of a higher level of responsibility and effectiveness.

There are two major pitfalls, that if we are wise, we will watch out for. When we’re not busy building our case about how our partner is deficient, we may blame ourselves and think that there is some serious, deep-seated pathology that is preventing us from having a fulfilling relationship. What’s really true is that no one is to blame. But both partners are responsible for filling in the missing areas where their learning deficits are holding them back from their goal.

Once we begin to ask the right questions like, “What do I need to learn to be eligible for a great relationship,” we are on our way to evolving enough to be eligible for a high functioning relationship where both parties are confident that their needs will be met.

If you want to be specific about discovering what your work is, consider these learning deficits that people can fill in now.

People may not yet have learned:

  • The negotiation and communication skills that are required to lobby for our essential needs to be addressed.
  • Enlightened self-interest where we live from the understanding that when I devote myself to knowing what my partner needs and commit to filling them as much as possible, it helps them get back into the flow of positive energy.
  • High-level conflict management skills where we speak our truth without blame and judgment.
  • How to become self-aware enough to even know when we are lapsing into high-cost manipulation tactics when we feel threatened.
  • How to repair damage once it has occurred.
  • The kind of self-discipline that is necessary to keep our mouth shut to listen.
  • The kind of self-respect to assert ourselves to ask for what we want.

It is only when we take our attention off the other person and place it squarely on ourselves that we can see our own work to become eligible for a delightful relationship. Taking active steps to break out of pessimistic thinking is a challenging task. Finding good mentors through counseling, workshops, and books, and using the sage advice we discover there, can fill in for the lack of good models from our family of origin.

Developing the capacity for commitment, perseverance, courage, patience, tolerance, acceptance, willingness to let go, self-discipline, humility, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness are what add up to a great partnership. The benefits are exquisite and worth the effort. Don’t take my word for it—find out from your own experience.