Some people use beginnings to start New Beginnings.
For example, I know quite a few people who say things like, “I’ll start that new project on Monday. I just want to finish out my Friday with other work then enjoy my weekend.” Perhaps the project they mentioned has a high priority, and work they chose to finish on Friday had a lower priority. It doesn’t matter. The mental energy of “beginning” a new project sometime mid-Friday didn’t fit with that person. It was a better choice for them to start new, start fresh, and start on Monday.
Other people use moments to start New Beginnings.
For example, a person who has smoked for twenty years sees a mother carrying a new baby down a crowded street. The mother walks through a cloud of smoke left by another smoker who just exhaled. Mother coughs and the baby starts crying. The quiet witnessing of that sequence was the “moment” to which the twenty-year smoker attached meaning. He or she wanted that baby to be safe the arms of its mother, to be able to rest peacefully and to breathe clean air around them as they grew up.
What I hope to capitalize upon with this particular post, however, is to provide you a possible moment while at a natural beginning. It’s the first week of January, 2012, and I’d like to share with you the secret of life. You remember Curly from City Slickers, right? Curly boiled the message down the way only a true cowboy could. Let’s review the scene…
So, what’s the one thing about committed relationships? Well, that’s what you’ve got to figure out. But I’m going to give you a hint. Within committed couple relationships, there is usually “one thing” around which all other actions and reactions are attached.
Nurture and support that one thing within your partner? You’ve discovered the secret to helping your relationship grow and strengthen until the day you die.
Attack or expose that one thing within your partner? You’ve discovered the secret to helping your relationship weaken with stress until the day you or your partner finally give up and call it quits.
I’m talking about core vulnerabilities, the essence of your partner’s complete being that needs to be protected or encouraged. The nature of your partner that, if identified and understood, provides the key to understanding the multi-faceted reasons why…they react the way they do, shine when they have their moments, or crumble when certain factors are in place.
To truly know the “secret of Relationship Life,” you must identify your own core vulnerability. And, you must understand that of your partner as well. And then, you must realize that you are holding your partner’s heart in your hands and have the power to help them be amazing. And, help the two of you be amazing together. You must also realize, however, that you ARE holding your partner’s heart in your hands and that the responsibility associated with that honor is mighty indeed.
So how do you go about doing this “vulnerability identification?” And once you’ve discovered it, where do you go from there?
Well, if your relationship is already on rocky ground, you might need a third party to help you work and explore with each other to identify your vulnerabilities. If, however, your relationship is in decent shape. You could simply begin by setting aside some time to really talk. Deeply. Here is a guide of questions to help you through the discussion.
Goal Number One: Meet with your partner to specifically identify your core vulnerabilities.
1. What were some of the greatest stresses or traumas you experienced while growing up?
2. How did those stresses or traumas affect you or those around you?
3. When in the last few years have you felt the most scared, threatened or out of control?
4. What do you most fear losing when you are personally threatened?
5. When you become reactive, angry, feel hurt or withdraw in some way, how do those behaviors connect with the information you provided in numbers 1-4?
Okay, you might be there by now. If you’re not, it might help to journal your answers, let them sit for a while, then go back and read them. It might also help to let your partner read your answers or let them think about them for a while before meeting back together again.
And, it might help if I provide you a couple of examples to help you understand what you’re looking for…a way to know if you might be on the right track.
- I know a person who grew up in an extremely volatile household, fraught with alcoholism and domestic violence. She feels very reactive and threatened if people raise their voices or even talk about violent things. Her core vulnerability is safety. This gets expressed in negative ways by nagging people who haven’t locked the doors, reacting to people who raise their voices, or raising her own voice toward her children who might have gotten into a fight.
- I know a person who grew up in a military household. His father held a position with the military that required them to move at least every other year, and sometimes every single year. Every time he felt even somewhat connected to a community and to his new school, his family had to move again. His core vulnerability is stability. He avoids applying for promotions with his job because he’s afraid he’ll have to move. He sabotages discussions about vacations to international lands because he’s afraid his wife might like it there and want to leave their hometown. He goes overboard to “sell” the local college to his growing children because he’s afraid they’ll leave, like it out of state, and want to settle permanently away, thereby disrupting his need for stability.
Now, I could list twenty examples, but perhaps these two are enough to give you the ideas you might need to connect the information you found in your discussion with your partner. So, what’s next? What do you DO with the information now that you’ve identified your core vulnerabilities?
Goal Number Two: Identify ways to best help your partner feel the least vulnerable and most supported. Then, do that.
Achieving goal number two might take a while. It could, potentially, take your lifetime as you continue to help nurture and grow your relationship by nurturing and growing ways to meet your partner’s needs. AND understanding your own vulnerabilities and how they fit in your relationship. These discussions and plans will be unique to you and your relationship. However, in the spirit of continuing with our examples, I’ll provide you a few more “action” examples to help carry forward these ideas.
- Consider the female whose core vulnerability is safety. Things she can do for herself are find ways to realize that her marriage is not her parent’s marriage. She might need to work with a professional on this goal. She can also, however, spend time journaling or discussing with a friend or her partner HOW her current relationship is DIFFERENT than her parent’s marriage. She can also spend some time “updating.” What this means is, take a new look at her parents. They may not be the same people they were when she was young. If she’s able to see how they have grown, it might be easier for her to feel secure in a newer relationship with them. And certainly, her partner can talk about specific ways he can protect (“hold her heart in his hand”) her need for safety. He can tell her when he’s planned an outing how that outing will be safe. He can attend violent movies or play action video games with his friends, away from her. He can let her know that if he’s watching a football game that he’s “really excited about it, and might end up yelling a lot.” And, “this doesn’t mean I’m mad…it just means I’m really excited and that’s how I show it.”
Now, can you think of ways that the gentleman who grew up in the military household could feel more secure? What can HE do to help grow in that area? What can his wife or partner do?
Finally, a word of warning. I know you might react to this information in several ways. It might be “old hat” to you, and you really didn’t learn a thing. However, it might seem confusing to you. You’re wondering, how in the world can the secret to life in a committed relationship be only One Thing? We fight about many DIFFERENT topics? This really just doesn’t even make sense.
Well, that’s fair. Individuals and couples can find a multitude of ways to express stress, fear, frustration or exasperation. Fights or spats or silent treatments may look VERY different from one day to the next. However, more often than not those conflicts are just really creative ways to disguise the one TRUE thing that’s bugging you. Or your partner. Or your relationship.
And if you spend the time to find Curly’s answer, it might do your relationship a world of good. After all, when you start really knowing yourself and really knowing your partner…then there’s nothing that can stop you from helping your world together be better. It might be almost as good as “bringing in the herd.” And after all, Curly said, “There ain’t nothing like bringing in a herd.”
But I’ve got a secret too. And I think it trumps Curly’s “bringing in the herd” comment. What I know is…
“There ain’t nothin’ like being in a happy relationship.” So, find your One Thing, find ways to honor your partner’s heart in your hands, and see for yourself how the secret to life in a committed relationship can be.