Don’t leave out this one thing if you want your relationship to work

If you aren’t doing this yet, the good news is you still can

Don’t leave out this one thing if you want your relationship to work

If you aren’t doing this yet, the good news is you still can

Photo via https://depositphotos.com/, Wavebreakmedia (Sean Prior)


I wonder if you’ve ever done this:


Your date doesn’t respond to your text, and a few hours pass. You think they either don’t care. Or they’re up to something dodgy. That was me. (Sometimes I was right)

Two friends do a movie without you. You think they purposely excluded you. Me again. (You should invite me to EVERYthing if you love me.)

Someone at work misses their deadline, and you assume they’re lazy. Definitely me. (People who work hard never miss deadlines.) Right?


Any of these or something similar happened to you?

I wonder if you’ve ever done this:

Your date doesn’t respond to your text, and a few hours pass. You think they either don’t care. Or they’re up to something dodgy. That was me. (Sometimes I was right)

Two friends do a movie without you. You think they purposely excluded you. Me again. (You should invite me to EVERYthing if you love me.)

Someone at work misses their deadline, and you assume they’re lazy. Definitely me. (People who work hard never miss deadlines.) Right?

Any of these or something similar happened to you?

From marriage to friendship to colleagues, we may assume the worst about people when we feel hurt or frustrated.

Someone I got close to in one of the projects I worked on distrusts everyone in her life. Her early years with her parents were fraught with trauma. She’s easily upset. And quick to anger. So we walk on eggshells around her.

We don’t have to do anything wrong to be at fault in her eyes.

When hurt, she goes to the default strategies of what Linda Hartling and her colleagues at the Stone Center at Wellesley¹ call disconnection or survival strategies:

Hi, I'm Jo, a qualified coach and facilitator. Host of the Dare To Love Club. Creator of The FreshStart Love Journey. I'm lover of love, a relationship explorer. You can find out more about my story and my professional qualifications and experience here.  xo, Jo

Someone I got close to in one of the projects I worked on distrusts everyone in her life. Her early years with her parents were fraught with trauma. She’s easily upset. And quick to anger. So we walk on eggshells around her.

We don’t have to do anything wrong to be at fault in her eyes.

When hurt, she goes to the default strategies of what Linda Hartling and her colleagues at the Stone Center at Wellesley¹ call disconnection or survival strategies:

1. Moving Away: Unavailable behaviours like withdrawal, silence and secrets;

2. Moving Toward: People-pleasing and ‘appeasing’ behaviours to earn love and stay safe;

3. Moving Against: Take the power in the relationship with aggression, humiliation and other acts of retaliation.

Eventually, these relationships end. Life for her is bitterly painful.While she is on an extreme end, many of us can recognise aspects of ourselves in her story. When we think the worst of others, we assume they believe the worst of us. And so we take things personally.

Who do you become when you imagine people’s actions are the result of ill-intention towards you?

Most of us will have used all three of these disconnection or survival strategies at some point. It’s part of our defence mechanism. They can be necessary strategies to protect ourselves from a sociopath. But, hopefully, most of you reading this don’t have many of those in your life. And if you do, the best strategy is to get out.

But for our relationships with non-sociopaths, instead of making the worst assumptions about people, what if we made loving assumptions about them? What could happen?


Once in a fight with my partner, he interrupted my emotional outpouring of accusations.


“Please Jo, no matter what, can we see the best in each other. Because if we can’t do that, then what are we doing here.”

“Please Jo, no matter what, can we see the best in each other. Because if we can’t do that, then what are we doing here.”

I don’t remember my partner’s exact words. But, I do remember the experience. It changed the way I did our relationship. After that, whatever came up between us, I assumed the best of him.

It allowed me to breathe. I stopped needing to control everything. I could see my partner’s flaws in perspective, and I saw more of what he was doing right. I stopped making him a villain and myself a victim.

We appreciate each other more every year. We succeeded in doing what relationship expert, researcher, and author John Gottman, PhD, describes in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work ² as a:


      | “positive sentiment override”,


a phrase he says that was coined by University of Oregon psychologist Robert Weiss.

Gottman explains this is when our positive thoughts about each other supersede our disagreements and frustrations. And based on his research with thousands of couples, this, he says, is a crucial ingredient in a lasting marriage. In other words, hold the people in your life in high regard.


Whether we see the best or the worst in people affects our mental and physical well being.

If we feel threatened by people we love, not only do we feel unsafe, but we also don’t easily experience belonging. Loneliness can cause depression and hopelessness.³ It can also compromise our health.⁴

When we feel we belong, we feel loved. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m also more patient when I feel safe and loved. I’ve more energy for others, and I’m more likely to give freely in a relationship without needing anything in return.

Does belonging allow me to see the best in him? Or is it because I see the best in him that I feel so much belonging?


According to social scientist Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly,⁵


“those who feel a deep sense of love and belonging, and those who struggle for it — there’s only one variable that separates the groups: Those who feel lovable, who love, and who experience belonging simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging.”


This tells me, to feel a sense of belonging and to see the best in people, we need to know we are worthy of love amid differences and disagreements.

I believe everyone is worthy of love, no matter what they do or don’t do.

So I have this prayer for when I am so angry with someone, I think hurtful thoughts about them.


“I want for you what I want for myself.”


And what I want for myself is to awaken to every aspect of great love within me.

xoxo

So much love, Jo



Jo Ntsebeza is a qualified professional coach, facilitator, trainer and lay counsellor.

All works are copyrighted. You may quote me or use no more than a paragraph with a link to the article on my website. 


References


¹ Shame and Humiliation: From Isolation to Relational Transformation, Linda M. Hartling, PhD, Wendy Rosen, PhD, Maureen Walker, PhD, & Judith V. Jordan, PhD. Stone Center at Wellesley 

² The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John M Gottman PhD., Chapter 2. Friendship Vs Fighting. P 474 Kindle Edition.  

³ From the Outside Looking In: Sense of Belonging, Depression, and Suicide Risk Lauren B Fisher, James C Overholser, Josephine Ridley, Abby Braden, Cari Rosoff National Library of Medicine 

⁴ Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions, Center for Disease Control & Prevention 

⁵ Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Page 9, Brené Brown, Kindle Edition 

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Hi, I'm Jo, a qualified coach and facilitator. Host of the Dare To Love Club. Creator of The FreshStart Love Journey. I'm lover of love, a relationship explorer. You can find out more about my story and my professional qualifications and experience here.  xo, Jo


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