The Secret To Life In A Committed Relationship? It’s Usually “One Thing.”

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.




10 thoughts on “The Secret To Life In A Committed Relationship? It’s Usually “One Thing.””

  1. Wow, yes, our daily blog mental energy was collective yesterday! And no, I don’t see it as weird… the past I would have, but I no longer consider these connections in my life to be coincidence. I’m convinced there is a larger plan in the universe, and the connections just seem to be accelerating as I get older!
    You suggest the most sensible explanation for not starting a project on Friday. I wonder if it just took on the power of superstition through my family dyanmics?
    Love your article! Agree! The five step process is awesome! My husband and I share a mutual respect for each other’s vulnerabilties and for the most part, our relationship revolves around “helping our world together be better”. Thanks for sharing!
    Congrats on the Fiesta Bowl!

    1. DeSha – thanks for the Fiesta Bowl congratulations…that game was so incredible! Cool that your family applies meaning in the way it does – very cool. Adios!

  2. I figured this stuff out a while back. My husband and I were butting heads because he was always calling me and wanting to know where I was and when I would be home…. He would get mad because I would go shopping for hours and hours and not call… not really to shop but to get away. I grew up in a home where I was really controlled and couldn’t have my own opinions and just wanted to be free. My husband doesn’t like to really talk about things either but one day when we had gone to bed I started talking to him after the lights were turned off. I guess it was easier talking in the dark. Turns out he needed someone to NEED him…. to need his protection. Shortly after we met I was having trouble at home and he “saved” me from it. Really I ran away from home but he took me in and when my family came around trying to get me to come back he provided a protective wall between them and me. So when I didn’t call he was worried and wanted to make sure I was okay. That’s why he kept calling me when I was shopping to say “oh, can you get some chips too”… .and then 15 minutes later……… pretzels… can you get me some pretzels? LOL That’s not the whole of the situation but that’s enough. We are doing great and as of last Sept 1st we have been married for 20 years and together for 21. Now that I have my health problems I really do need him and he seems to feed off of that. When other people in the same situation have their spouses leave when things get tough, it is really nice to feel like our relationship is stronger than ever. Whenever I am feeling down on myself because of how limited I am he is always supportive and tells me something that I should do (which is something I can do). He’s a great guy and I’m lucky to have found him….. although he says he found me. Great article! Thanks :O)

    1. I think it’s cool that every single person has their own stories wrapped around each other’s core vulnerabilities. I’m glad you’ve identified yours and found ways to help them work in a positive way. – – cool!

  3. Those are really thought-provoking questions and a pretty simple way to work it all out–of course, the real work is applying the things you learn. This reminds me of something that popped into my head earlier today: Love is not just a noun, it’s a verb–it shouldn’t only be something we feel, it should be something we DO. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. I agree. The essence, or the outside observation essence, of love IS a verb. We might love in our heart, but people can’t read minds. Take care, RDK

    1. Go you! Good luck on your continued growth and understanding of how to work with, around, and through that one thing. ~ RDK

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