SOMEONE'S IN TROUBLE
Really, do you have to ask? Traditionally a man's chore--it doesn't have to be. The fact that it wasn't done may not mean much, but it does. Taking out the garbage, squeezing the toothpaste in the middle or the position of the toilet seat all seem trivial until they become life or death. They represent the struggle, the frustration--the near impossibility--of living with another adult. Until the kids get old enough to take on the chore. And then it's about the near impossibility of living with a teenager. But this post is about living with your partner.
ORGANIZING FOR A FIGHT
It's fun to find the humor in this issue, but it's important to understand how little issues become serious ones. It's difficult to be vulnerable. To tell your partner how hurt you feel or let down by their inconsiderate behavior. You need your partner to be considerate because maybe you never felt that growing up. Or you hoped your relationship will help make up for all those things your imperfectly human family--the one in which you grew up--didn't meet.
Everyone has emotional hurts and needs in their life and it's easier to use these token issues--concrete and safe symbols--to represent the tender parts the reside inside. Unconsciously everyone participates in this high wire act to get these deeper emotional needs met. Understanding what is happening behind the scenes with your feelings gives you a head start on solving the problem while knowing where your intense feelings are coming from.
THE MEANING OF MEANING
Yes, forgetting to take out the garbage can simply mean he forgot to take out the garbage. Not always. When you begin to fall in love with someone there is a deeply unconscious place where you know that you're about to soar into a wonderful experience or fall broken on the ground. There is an unconscious struggle to give in to it and a resistance--to fight it and save yourself from the destruction that comes from rejection.
You begin to look for clues to see if they also have those feelings. Italian sociologist Francesco Alberoni calls them Truth Tests from his book, "I Love You". Every act, every word, every glance gets interpreted to somehow discover the beloved's heart. Taking out the garbage becomes a Truth Test. And when you begin to repeatedly fail your partner's Truth Tests; you have bigger problems than taking out the garbage.
Understand your history--what needs were left unfinished in your first family? No parent is perfect and so no child escapes childhood without some emotional scars. That's part of becoming an adult. Your task is to take advantage of your partner's imperfections to address your scars and love yourself and heal.
Know how you feel--Take time to get alone and begin to find out whats beneath that anger. What more vulnerable feelings is the anger protecting? Anger is a normal and acceptable feeling that's empowering. Yet the feelings beneath it are just as valuable and deserve your awareness.
Value your needs--you grow as a person when you recognize your own limitations. There is no such thing as unlimited potential. Everyone has limits. Everyone has needs and you're in a better position to have a healthy relationship when you know the things you just have to have in a relationship if you're going to have the best chance at happiness.
Realize your partners imperfections--The focus has been on you. Now take a moment to realize these tips apply to your partner. Warm up to the idea that you're both imperfect; from imperfect families trying to deal with that history while being present for one another.
Know the impossible task it is to routinely and consistently make someone else happy much less yourself. When you and your partner fail--and you surely will fail--know how amazing a gift you give one another by simply being present; honoring each other's imperfections.
What's your take on how the little becomes the big? How have you stepped back from the brink in your relationships?