Archive for the ‘Relationships / Marriage’ Category
This part of “Know Your Partner” shares more important questions for your relationship – on education, leisure, travel and vacations, holidays and birthdays. In the last few parts of this series I explained the importance of getting to know your partner before deciding to move in together, get married or have kids. I shared questions about relationships, every day life, family background, friends, appearance, work, money and health.
Remember not to judge your partner’s answers. Use this exercise to examine your own judgment and maybe change it if it is not working for you. The point is not to find every tiny thing that does not fit perfectly into your plan for the future. This exercise is only meant to help you learn about yourself and your partner, and find out the most important things that you and/or your partner do not think you can compromise on.
Welcome to the third installment of “Know Your Partner”. In this series war are talking about questions you and your partner should discuss before you move in together, get married or have kids. These questions will help you find your partner’s “musts”. To read more about “musts”, check out Know Your Partner: Musts. In the last post in the series, we listed questions about relationships, every day life, family background and friends. This post covers questions about appearance, work, money and health.
Last week, we talked about how every person has “musts”, things they absolutely cannot live without. It is important for each person in a couple to know their partner’s “musts” before they decide to move in together, to get married or to have kids. This week, I thought I would give you a list of questions to help you along your journey. This list includes questions about relationships, everyday life, family background and friends.
This list is very important to use in different relationship situations:
Before moving in with someone.
Before deciding to have kids.
On anniversaries – in order to update each other about the ways we have changed.
When experiencing relationship conflict.
Before making the decision to break up a partnership.
There are a few rules to remember when asking these questions. This will make the question and answer process more effective and successful:
Any relationship is a form of agreement between two or more people. The deeper the relationship, the more things you will need to agree on for your relationship to stay positive. Some relationships, like marriage and having children together, are more important than others. They have a huge impact on our lives and our futures. I call them love agreements.
Love agreements will change over time. Just how they change will depend on the circumstances. Each person changes within themselves and their agreements with each other change accordingly. For couples, it is very important for each side to make sure they are “sailing in the same direction”. While each of them may change in different ways, together, they want to be going the same way. If one wants to sail north and the other’s greatest desire is to sail south, then their relationship will suffer. One or both of them will have to compromise.
When we talk about relationships, the word compromise pops up as a desired outcome. I think compromise is important, but I also believe that some compromises cannot last for very long. They are often the source of conflict and can cause much heartache.
In the last chapter on tests in relationships, we talked about the risks of hidden apathy. Today, I will cover the risks of sympathy.
If you remember my example story, I was very, very sad when a contract I had been working on for about 3 years was suddenly stopped 2 month after it started. I was so excited and happy when it started that I was extremely sad when I was told the organization will not continue the project. To manage my feelings, I shared the story with people I have a relationship with. Lucky for me, most of my relationships were very supportive and I made sure not to share with those who were not.
Here are more examples of getting things wrong and failing the relationship test.
Here is an example of a relationship test at a level one – when one person is experiencing pain from an external source, which has nothing to do with the supporter/listener. Notice how easily things can go wrong and the relationship test can fail.
Last year, I was offered a position working within a team of people doing something that I absolutely loved. I had been working with them for over two years before that in an external capacity. We had been going back and forth for about a year, in discussions about me joining their team to write and implement a very special project. This whole time I was very happy and excited, waiting for the technical things to be sorted out so I could start the project. After two years of talking, it took a year to sign the contract and then I finally started writing the project. I was very hyped. But two month into the project, things changed in the organization. The person managing the project left and the wisest decision for me was to stop the project. I was soooooooooooooooooooooo disappointed. I was very sad and even cried. To manage the overwhelming challenge I was facing, I shared the story with other people, which put our relationships to the test. Lucky for me, most of my relationships were successful. While sharing my challenge with others, we both passed the test of support. But this is not always the case for every challenge. Here are some examples of relationships and how things can go wrong.
Most people have conflicts in their relationships and fail to resolve them because they confuse between empathy, sympathy and compassion. This confusion can be caused by either person in the relationship. It can be a result of ineffective expectations or insufficient support. Regardless the reason, life, the ultimate examiner, would give a “Fail! Big time!” on this test.
Understanding the difference between the three is essential to passing the relationship test. Here is my version of the difference.
Empathy is when you notice and understand the other persons’ situation, experience, perspective or feelings. It does not mean you share their feelings, agree with them or have been asked to share your judgment, thoughts or ideas. It definitely does not mean you need to solve their problem.
The best way to proceed is to say, “I can see that you are very disappointed and upset”, or just be a sounding board and repeat back to them what they said, “So you are sad because he was rude to you. I can understand why”. Often times, people only want empathy. Someone to talk to that will understand their perspective and feelings. Empathy is a way to give support with your presence.
Our lives are full of relationships. Each of them is a test we need to pass in order to have a happy, healthy, successful and fulfilling life. Relationships are such an important element in our lives that we start the process even before we are born. We have 9 months of close, physical contact with our mom and through her, with our dad or her partner. The success of these early relationships will have a huge impact on our long term relationship with our parents – the most important test of our lives.
Life is full of tests because at every stage of our lives, we will have relationships with other people. It can be our families, our friends, colleagues, clients, people that provide us with a service or even people we meet for a short time whose name we may never know.
This post was inspired by Ronit’s diversity education, by our family’s life in several countries around the world, by Eden’s recent foray into academic research, by our many dealings with people of different communication styles, bust mostly by my occasional frustration of being a minority…
Having grown up in one place for 28 years and then moved to another country, Ronit and I had to change many basic assumptions about what everyone knows, how everyone thinks and what everyone expects. It is called Culture Shock. We already knew quite a bit about the United States (I had even been an exchange student there), so the change did not shock us, but boy was it different.
Now imagine going from that to Thailand! Hardly any English, driving on the left, completely different social norms and ethics, hot, humid, rainy, full of mosquitoes… What everyone did in Thailand was very different to what everyone did in Texas.
The thing is, in each one of these places, people who had grown up there and had never been anywhere else could not perceive anything other than what they had been accustomed to. To them, “everyone” was everyone they knew and that was good enough.
As parents, some of the things our kids want to tell us are, well, childish. Although we love them, we are sometimes busy or preoccupied and paying close attention to what happened at the playground is not top of our list. As partners, friends, siblings and descendants, people talk to us about a wide variety of things that matter to them and paying attention can be difficult.
But it is worth the trouble.
When I worked at the National Semiconductors headquarters in Santa Clara, CA, the company provided easy access to great training and one of the courses I took was Active Listening. The instructor was a soft-spoken lady who impressed me as a good listener and someone who knew a great deal about people, and during the course I realized just how poorly I had been listening…
At the end of the class, I left with a list of actions and behaviors that constituted active listening and with the advice that it was important to practice them, but I felt something was missing from those instructions.
Over time, particularly after I trained to be a life coach, I read more about relationships and emotional intelligence and I think I have found an underlying description that unites the techniques and makes the whole thing seem like common sense.