Most of us have trouble dealing effectively with our feelings because of a specific kind of emotional wounding called trauma.

As hard as this may be for many of us to swallow, seemingly idyllic childhoods can be imperceptibly traumatic.

“THE NEW COUPLE: Why the Old Rules Don’t Work, and What Does.”

Maurice Taylor and Seana McGee


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Healthy Couples
Bill White, MA
Love Relationship Coach
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520-319-9132

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Article 3

The Remaining 6 (of 14) Essential Elements of Healthy Relationships

Other Article Links:

Article One
Pre-dating Strategies For A Lifelong Partner

(also very useful for those already in a relationship)

Article Two
Part 1: Essential Qualities Of Healthy Love Relationships

Article Four
Love Relationships For A Better World
Treating our children with kindness and respect

The following is a continuation of the essential elements for a healthy relationship. Again, I consider all the elements to be essential. When even one of them is not in place, the health of the relationship is in question.

Note: Some of these 6 elements may be more complex to grasp than the first 8 elements, especially if these are new concepts for you.

9. Do you recognize that you play a key role in every difficult interaction? Although in the moment of a difficult interaction, it completely appears that the other person is playing the only key role, I have discovered differently. Anytime there is a break in the affinity with the person I’m with, the most useful place to focus is within myself. Fortunately, it is when I’m looking within that I find understanding, compassion, and freedom from the distress.

10. Do you recognize that many of your emotional upsets are related to difficult experiences from childhood, and that these upsets will tend to go unresolved until you make the connection? When someone “overreacts” to a situation, this person has usually been triggered into emotions from the past. In these circumstances, separating out what happened in the past from what is actually happening in the present is crucial to resolving the difficulty.
 
“If you are constantly fighting about unwashed dishes, it's not about the dishes. There's a connection that is triggering a deeper feeling. Intense and reoccurring arguments are a good indicator that one or both partners have unresolved childhood pain."

Harville Hendrix, author of "Getting the Love You Want"

11. In a difficult interaction are you--as much as possible--committing to dealing with only one person and one issue at a time?  First, when someone is upset, what this person needs most is for someone to be a good listener. If you have both people trying to be heard, no one is being listened to. Besides being confusing, it triples the feelings of upset when no one is being listened to. Second, difficult interactions are hard enough. When you attempt to resolve more than one situation or issue at a time, you only multiply the confusion and add to the difficult. Focus on one situation.

12. And when you address the one issue, are you sticking with that one issue until it’s resolved? We are tempted to bounce from one concern to another—resolving none of them. One reason we do this is that we often feel more uncomfortable as we get closer to the key point of resolution. It’s easier to bail out and go to another issue that isn’t as uncomfortable. Resolve the one issue with one person before moving to another issue or the other person.

Note: If you haven’t noticed by now, this dealing with and clearing emotional upsets can be very complex. When you and your partner are emotionally upset at the same time—which is usually the case—to get something truly resolved, it takes either a couple who is very skilled at conflict resolution, or an expert third party.

13. Do you recognize that human nature is comprised of both a spiritual and an animal nature? Your spiritual nature is the good, kind person deep down that you know yourself to be. Those parts of yourself that you can’t figure out how they got there—and you wish they’d go away--represent your animal nature. Your animal nature is not a conscious, thinking entity. It is a set of reactions based on survival and survival only.  When you’re self-centered, unforgiving, controlling, and nasty to others, your animal nature is in charge and has trumped your spiritual nature..

“When you’re severely anxious, as though your life is at stake, you behave like a reptile. Reptiles and badly frightened people have two
characteristics: they have no sense of humor and they eat their young….

Lessons in “fighting fair” are usually forgotten because reptiles don’t fight fair.”

From the book “Passionate Marriage”
by Dr. David Schnarch

The reason this distinction about animal and spiritual natures is an essential element is many-fold. In a nutshell, it’s invaluable just to know that there are two basic and different aspects of ourselves, and to know the qualities of each one. If we can’t tell the difference between our spiritual and animal selves, it can be very difficult to diffuse a difficult interaction. We will tend to deny our animal selves and focus on our good qualities and intentions. Ironically, telling the truth about our animal inclinations is a key step in resolving upsets.

The duality of our human nature will be news to some of you. Maybe that’s the bad news. The good news is that when you gain an understanding of this, you will have tools to work with that you never had access to.

14. Are you assuming that you and your partner are always communicating everything? I know this is going to be a stretch for many of you, so bear with me. One aspect of being spiritual is that we can intuitively sense what is going on with the other. In a similar way, our instinctual animal self has evolved to be VERY keen at picking up emotional and attitudinal states of others. This all happens in an instant. It can happen without words, and without body language. On the spiritual level, this happens even without the person being physically present.

In a very real--but often unrecognized way--nothing is hidden from the other. If you know that your every thought, every wish, every attitude and emotion is instantly transferred to the other person, you will see the value in communicating openly about anything and everything. I’m not suggesting that you verbally communicate everything all the time. What I am saying is that, when appropriate, communicate whatever you think might help to clear the air.

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As a footnote, I’m aware that there are other elements for a healthy relationship that one might consider to be essential. Some of those include: expressing appreciation and gratitude on a regular basis, taking time every day to chat or debrief about your day, being in support of one another’s goals and passions in life, and being aligned spiritually or religiously. And there are most assuredly other essential elements I’ve not yet identified. What I have done here is put together what I consider to be the most essential elements—those that either are not obvious, or they’re obvious and yet are often overlooked.


Bill White, M.A., is a love relationship coach for singles and couples in Tucson. He has a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. Bill offers coaching by phone, e-mail, or in person. He can be reached at 520-319-9132 and at contact@thehealthycouple.com.

You are offered a free, no obligation consultation to find out what Bill does, for Bill to find out what you want, and for you to discover if there’s a match. Brochure-type information and articles are available via e-mail and at his web site www.thehealthycouple.com.

Copyright ® Bill White 2002, 2006
 

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