I have unusually harmonious relationships in my life. I’ll give you two examples – example 1: I have a really great relationship with my step-children and their mother (my husband’s ex-wife). A couple months ago my 16-year old step-daughter, her mother, and I went out for ladies night. We went to see someone speak and then we went to an art gallery opening. It was really fun. Every time I contemplate these relationships I’m amazed and so grateful for the harmony we have. These are two types of relationships that are normally fraught with strife. Think of how many Disney movies have pitted the daughter against the evil step-mother. And I don’t know how many countless comedies feature the vengeful ex-wife versus “new wife.” Not here. In our case, we have fun together. We celebrate holidays and vacation together. It’s the epitome of harmony.
Example 2: In 6+ years of knowing on another, my husband and I have never had a fight. We’ve had disagreements, but we can disagree without fighting. To top it off, we both work from home and hang out together all the time. We have a super harmonious marriage.
I confess my relationships were not always so harmonious. I’ve always been more of a lover than a fighter, but I remember a time when I could not be in the same room with my sister before we began to fight like cats and dogs, and I had incredible tension with my mother. I’ve since learned five strategies that have helped me to have more harmonious relationships. I’m going to share them with you.
1. Always assume the best. Since we are not in the other person’s head, we always have to assume motivations behind a person’s statements and actions. When deciding which motive to attribute to someone (say your partner forgot your anniversary because they don’t care about you and are cheating on you, versus they forgot your anniversary because they are sometimes forgetful but still love you very much) pick the best one. Always assume that the person you are interacting with is a good, fair, loving person. 99.9% of the time, they are.
2. Let go of the need to be right. So much of strife in relationships happen because we feel the need to be right. Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy? I choose happy. Fighting to convince someone of your point of view rarely works anyway. It tends to make each side more intransigent. Instead of needing to be right, seek to understand the other person’s point of view. And in the end if you still disagree, agree to disagree.
3. Stop complaining. When you are in complaining mode, it makes you focus on what’s “not working” and what’s “wrong” at the person. What you focus on you get more of. Instead of complaining, start appreciating. Healthy relationships have a minimum of 8 positive interactions for every 1 negative. If you have to go negative, make sure you find 8 positive things to say first. Also, if you must share something negative let go of the hyperbole. For example, instead of saying “you ALWAYS leave a mess” or “you NEVER take out the trash” just stick to the facts (e.g., it’s the 3rd time this week that you… When you do that I feel…, could you please…?”)
4. Realize that your reactions are in your control. My sister used to be able to push all my buttons. Our arguments were always variations on the same themes. She’d say something that would set me off and then we’d be off to the races. At one point in college I studied some NLP and realized that I had control over my emotions. She could push a button, but I didn’t have to react like a crazy person. I decided that I would choose a new reaction. So, I went home to visit and she started pushing the usual buttons. Instead of getting angry, I just shrugged it off. She seemed surprised and tried a new tactic. This time I almost laughed because I realized how silly our arguments had been in the first place. It was stupid to fly off the handle for this. Almost immediately our relationship transformed. I chose harmony over anger and she stopped pushing my buttons (I had deactivated them). Now she’s one of my best friends. For more harmonious relationships, you too should deactivate those buttons and choose reactions that fuel harmony.
5. Be thoughtful and kind. Sometimes we are least thoughtful and kind to the people we love the most. It is easy to take someone for granted. For harmonious relationships, focus on being as thoughtful, loving, and kind as you can to the people you interact with. If you can choose loving kindness that will lead you to focus on the positive and not complain or overreact. Being thoughtful and kind will also mean that you are not judging the other person and you are more focused on how you can be kinder, not on having them change to suit you.
In the comments, let me know your thoughts about any of the above and if you have other suggestions for harmonious relationships.
Ultimate Blogging Challenge Day 6