Your Outcome: Measurably enhance the quality of your personal relationships, and deepen your emotional connection with the people you care about most by reviewing the six fundamentals of successful relationships.
Success is worthless if we don’t have someone to share it with; indeed, our most desired human emotion is that of connection with other souls. Throughout this book we’ve talked consistently about the impact of relationships on shaping character, values, beliefs, and the quality of our lives.
Specifically, today’s exercise is designed simply to remind you of six key points that are valuable to any relationship. Let’s briefly review them before I give you your assignment for today:
1. If you don’t know the values and rules of the people with whom you share a relationship, you should prepare for pain. People can love each other, but if for whatever reason they consistently break the rules of someone they care about, there are going to be upsets and stress in this relationship. Remember, every upset you’ve ever had with another human being has been a rules upset, and when people become intimately involved, it’s inevitable that some of their rules will clash. By knowing a person’s rules, you can head off these challenges in advance.
2. Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.
3. Like anything else in life, in order for a relationship to be nurtured, there are certain things to look for—and to look out for. There are certain warning signals within your relationship that can flag you that you need to tackle a problem immediately before it gets out of hand. In her book How to Make Love All the Time, my friend Dr. Barbara DeAngelis identifies four pernicious phases that can kill a relationship. By identifying them, we can immediately intervene and eliminate problems before they balloon into destructive patterns that threaten the relationship itself.
Stage One, Resistance: The first phase of challenges in a relationship is when you begin to feel resistance. Virtually anyone who’s ever been in a relationship has had times when they felt resistance toward something their partner said or did. Resistance occurs when you take exception or feel annoyed or a bit separate from this person. Maybe at a party they tell a joke that bothers you and you wish they hadn’t. The challenge, of course, is that most people don’t communicate when they’re feeling a sense of resistance, and as a result, this emotion continues to grow until it becomes . . .
Stage Two, Resentment: If resistance is not handled, it grows into resentment. Now you’re not just annoyed; you’re angry with your partner. You begin to separate yourself from them and erect an emotional barrier. Resentment destroys the emotion of intimacy, and this is a destructive pattern within a relationship that, if unchecked, will only gain speed. If it is not transformed or communicated, it turns into .. .
Stage Three, Rejection: This is the point when you have so much resentment built up that you find yourself looking for ways to make your partner wrong, to verbally or nonverbally attack them. In this phase, you begin to see everything they do as irritating or annoying. It’s here that not only emotional separation occurs, but also physical separation as well. If rejection is allowed to continue, to lessen our pain, we move to …
Stage Four, Repression: When you are tired of coping with the anger that comes with the rejection phase, you try to reduce your pain by creating emotional numbness. You avoid feeling any pain, but you also avoid passion and excitement. This is the most dangerous phase of a relationship because this is the point at which lovers become roommates—no one else knows the couple has any problems because they never fight, but there’s no relationship left. What’s the key to preventing these “Four R’s”? The answer is simple: communicate clearly up front. Make sure your rules are known and can be met. To avoid blowing things out of proportion, use Transformational Vocabulary. Talk in terms of preferences: instead of saying, “I can’t stand it when you do that!,” say, “I’d prefer it if you did this instead.” Develop pattern interrupts to prevent the type of argument where you can’t even remember what it’s about anymore, only that you’ve got to win.
4. Make your relationships one of the highest priorities in your life; otherwise they will take a back seat to any or all of the other things that are more urgent that happen during your day. Gradually, the level of emotional intensity and passion will drift away. We don’t want to lose the power of our relationships simply because we got caught up in the law of familiarity, or we let neglect habituate us to the intense excitement and passion we have for a person.
5. One of the most important patterns that Becky and I discovered early that is critical to making our relationship last is to focus each day on making it better, rather than focusing on what might happen if it ended. We must remember that whatever we focus on we’ll experience. If we constantly focus on our fear of a relationship being over, we’ll begin to do things unconsciously to sabotage it so that we can extract ourselves before we get too entwined and true pain results.
A corollary to this principle is that if you want your relationship to last, never, never, never, ever, ever threaten the relationship itself. In other words, don’t ever say, “If you do that, then I’m leaving.” just making this statement alone creates the possibility. It also induces a destabilizing fear in both partners. Every couple that I’ve ever interviewed with a lasting relationship has made it their rule, no matter how angry or hurt they felt, never to question whether or not the relationship would last and never to threaten to leave it. Just remember the racing school metaphor of the skid car and the wall. You want to focus on where you want to go in a relationship, not on what you fear.
6. Each day, reassociate to what you love about this person you’re in a relationship with. Reinforce your feelings of connection and renew your feelings of intimacy and attraction by consistently asking the question, “How did I get so lucky to have you in my life?” Become fully associated to the privilege of sharing your life with this person; feel the pleasure intensely, and continuously anchor it into your nervous system. Engage in a never-ending quest to find new ways to surprise each other. If you don’t, habituation will set in, and you will take each other for granted. So find and create those special moments that can make your relationship a role model—one that’s legendary!
“In a full heart there is room for everything, and in an empty heart there is room for nothing.” ANTONIO PORCHIA
1. Take the time today to talk with your significant other and find out what’s most important to each of you in your relationship. What are your highest values in a relationship together, and what has happen for you to feel like those values are being fulfilled?
2. Decide that it’s more important for you to be in love than to be right. If you should ever find yourself in the position of insisting that you’re right, break your own pattern. Stop immediately and come back to the discussion later when you’re in a better state to resolve your conflicts.
3. Develop a pattern interrupt that you both agree to use when things become most heated. In this way, no matter how mad you are, for at least a moment you can smile and let go of the upset. To make it easier for both of you, use the most bizarre or humorous pattern interrupt you can devise. Make it a private joke that can serve as your personal anchor.
4. When you feel resistance, communicate it with softeners such as, “I know it’s only my idiosyncrasy, but when you do that, it makes me a tad peckish.”
5. Plan regular date nights together, preferably once a week, or at the minimum, two times a month. Take turns surprising your partner and dreaming up the most romantic and fun things to do.
6. Make sure you get a good,180-second wet kiss every day! These are your only assignments for today! Act upon them and enjoy them. I can promise you, the rewards are immeasurable. To make sure that we commit to constant and never-ending improvement, CANI!, on a daily basis, let’s develop an enjoyable plan by creating your . . .
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