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Relationships Are Not for Sissies

Mar 31, 2011 5:29:47 PM

Relationships are hard work.  Whether it’s with a significant other, a child, or a workmate you can count on moments of miscommunication, missed expectations, and frustration.  Most would say they prefer a relationship that is harmonious and easy going.  But I question if that is possible, or even desirable.   And let’s face it; the same ol’, same ol’ can become dull and uninteresting.  With my husband, I don’t have to worry about the dull part.  One thing we both agree on is that we are the original yin and yang, a real life example of opposites attracting.

My husband and I have a standard way that we operate with each other.  We established the pattern and the roles we would play a long time ago.  Those roles were based on what we were good at and how we viewed the world, ourselves, and each other.  Some say we each have our own “map of the world” and we use it to guide us and keep us safe.  Sometimes, I take out my map and can see the road I’m traveling and where I’m trying to go.  The trick is to remember that maps get old and must be updated every now and then.

In my world, I like to operate with a certain amount of clarity.  I want to talk about the terrain, and how we will approach it.  My husband prefers complete spontaneity.  I constantly want to show him my map and he isn’t ever quite sure where he left his.  Day-to-day, we fall into the tasks that we believe are our responsibilities.  He wants to play things loose and easy.  I try to keep the wheels on, checking off the list in my head all that is required to keep our household operating smoothly.  He gets upset that I have made a decision about something he wanted to have a voice in, and I get frustrated and impatient that he leaves so many day-to-day decisions up to me.

I don’t want to carry the weight of so much responsibility, and yet that is exactly the way I set the whole thing up from the start.  I loved how laid back he was, and how it created balance for me with my type A personality.  Then somewhere along the way, we stopped talking about the roles we would play in our relationship.  I continued to make assumptions that he would take care of the yard and fix the things that didn’t work, and that I would pay the bills and clean out the refrigerator.

This weekend we were talking about needing to redesign how we make decisions, and I said, “It feels like our relationship is a little like Egypt, we know we need a new form of governance, but we haven’t quite landed on what it will look like.”

It doesn’t take a riot to recover from role-nausea in a personal or work relationship.  What it does take is the willingness to question again and again, “why we do the things we do.”  Avoiding assumptions and staying present to what is needed in this moment…it ain’t easy.  Relationships are not for sissies.  They are for people who are willing to commit to make the relationship work for the sake of their collective goals.

If only our “maps” had an automatic GPS update feature!  Maybe then we wouldn’t lose our way every now and then when the relationship takes a wrong turn.  I guess even with a state-of-the-art GPS we still run the risk of blindly following that mechanical voice that tells us to turn left or right.  In a true partnership we must first agree on where we’re going together, and if we will take the scenic route or the most direct approach.

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Deb Siverson

Deb Siverson is the owner and founder of Xponents. She completed her Masters in Organizational Leadership from University of Colorado-Boulder. Deb is the author of the book, "The Cycle of Transformation: igniting organizational change through the leader coach."

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