Using the Rough Times as Opportunities for Deepening Love
Excerpted from the book, “How to Be Cherished”
By Marilyn Graman and Maureen Walsh
A relationship that is working well contains a certain amount of disagreement. It is healthy to express yourselves and deal with differences. In fact, if there are never any trouble spots, it may mean the two of you aren’t really connecting. It is good for your relationship to be able to trust each other to deal with disagreements. When you have issues to talk over, you can come up with a solution together — and become more intimate in the process.
As you continue to nurture your relationship, expect differences to arise. A problem-free life exists only in fantasy. Yet problems don’t have to tear you apart if you are prepared to handle them together, as a team. When your heart is open and you are seeing your relationship as a place where both of you can be taken care of, you and your partner can find solutions to issues without having them cause major rifts between you.
In fact, working on a problem together and coming up with a solution can be a process of teamwork that ultimately strengthens your relationship. Since it is healthy to deal with the issues, you will want to do it in a way that both strengthens and deepens your relationship.
Swami Satchidananda, an Indian teacher once said, “People in relationship are like two rough stones. When you rub them together long enough and hard enough, they become two smooth stones.” These wise words give couples a new, positive way to think about relationships and their challenges.
We each bring our own rough edges into a relationship — old hurts that have not been healed, lack of self-love, and beliefs and patterns of behavior that need attention. And when our rough edges jostle, it can be painful — especially because we think there shouldn’t be any problems. We’ve been led to believe that when we meet the person of our dreams, they will do everything right all the time because they love us, and the problems we have had in other relationships simply won’t exist. It is no wonder we think there is something wrong when the rough edges start colliding!
It is impossible to have a committed relationship without bumping into each other occasionally, or maybe even daily or hourly. When we can recognize the rough spots as places that need attention rather than as insurmountable problems, we can work together to smooth our stones. We can acknowledge our rough spots and accept theirs. And knowing that it smoothes the edges each time we bump against each other helps keep us optimistic.
Seeing yourself and your partner as two rough stones helps you see your relationship as a place for learning. You can view it as a laboratory where you experiment with acceptance, compassion, negotiation, responsibility, patience, and love. As your stones rub together, you share the intimate process of smoothing out the bumps. Instead of tearing you apart, the collisions can bring you closer together and help you achieve your potential as individuals and as a couple.
as Team Us
It is natural for relationships to have an ebb and flow, to grow more or less intimate as circumstances shift. Relationships need care and nurturing, and often it is hard to know what to do. A problem-free relationship exists only in fantasy. When a discussion with your partner turns into an argument, it is because you are no longer on the same team wanting each other to be happy. You become opponents trying to defeat one another. The original issue you were discussing is now beside the point, and the problem becomes each other.
What can you do instead? Imagine the problem as a ball sitting between you and
your partner. Remove the ball from between you and set it a few feet away. Then
get on the same side of it, as partners. Literally, get up and sit together,
holding hands and facing the problem. When you are side by side, you are on the
same team. The problem is no longer each other. It is an entity in itself, and
it has a name.
Giving them the problem back that they gave you
When a problem arises where the other person can’t seem to understand your needs or you have opposing needs, what can you do? Give them the problem they are giving you. Giving back the problem means enlisting help in finding a solution.
Vanessa can’t stand that Ray-mond is always late. It has been bothering her for a while, and they have had several arguments. Raymond argues that he always tries his best to be on time, but he is often running late because of his hectic schedule. Vanessa contends that Raymond should be able to budget his time better so he doesn’t keep her waiting.
One night when she has been waiting at a restaurant for half an hour, Vanessa decides she doesn’t want to wait again and doesn’t want to argue about it anymore. When Raymond shows up, she greets him with a kiss and gives him time to settle into his seat.
After they order drinks, Van-essa says, “Honey, I need your help. It is really hard on me when you’re late, especially when we make plans for a special date like tonight. I look forward to seeing you at the end of the day, and it is disappointing when you don’t show up for so long. Also I get anxious while I’m waiting, and I worry that something is happened to you. It is not a pleasant situation for me. What can we do?”
Vanessa has just given Raymond back the problem he gave her and asked his help
in dealing with it. He can now help her come up with a solution instead of
having to defend him against an attack.
Giving your partner the problem allows them to be involved. When you include them rather than attack them, they have a chance to come up with an answer. Even if they don’t have an immediate answer, they will appreciate your asking. Next time the problem comes up, they will be more understanding and the two of you can approach it as a team rather than as opponents.
Committing to working it out as a Team
It takes the two of you with your feet planted firmly inside the relationship in order to work things out. In fact, the only way to see if your relationship is fixable is for you both to have your feet in the door for a period of time with no thought of leaving.
Be willing for things to work. Arrange with your partner to commit to three months where neither of you will consider leaving. For those three months, act as if your only option is to work it out within the relationship. If you need to, extend the period to six months or more. You both deserve a safe place to work it out where there is no threat of either of you leaving. While you are in your three- or six-month span, have your attitude be, “How are we going to fix it?” Are you willing to do what it takes to have your relationship work out? (And if you aren’t willing, why should they be?)
Marilyn Graman and Maureen Walsh are the co-founders of Life Works, Inc., an
organization that helps people create authentic lives through on-going groups,
workshops, retreats, and individual and couple counseling. They are the authors
of three books; “How to Be Cherished: A Guide to Having the Love You Desire,”
“There Is NO PRINCE and Other Truths Your Mother Never Told You” and “The Female
Power Within.” See
|Checklist for Working on Issues
In order to have a productive discussion of an issue
1. Be willing to step into your partner’s shoes.
2. Remember their point of view makes sense to them.
3. Don’t assume you are right and they are wrong.
4. Listen and be fascinated to learn something new about your partner.
5. Be as open to hearing about them as you were early in the relationship.
6. Be committed to working it out with no threat of anyone leaving for a period of time.
7. Work as if you are a team (which you are).
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