Relationships wax and wane, stretch and grow, shift and evolve. We are always changing and any relationships we have, are always changing, too. Sometimes there are bumps in the road on any relationship journey.
After living together for two years John increasingly felt less open with Jen and was starting to wall himself off. Slowly, slowly, he realized he either had to give up and leave or step forward and speak about some specific things that have been bothering him. Luckily, deep down he knew he truly loved Jen and so when push came to shove, he was willing to make a few changes to keep the good thing he was fortunate enough to have alive and thriving.
If you find yourself feeling isolated, separate, or different from someone you care for, instead of wallowing in those feelings, lashing out or pulling away, do the opposite. Do things that create connection. Follow these seven guidelines to keep the trust alive:
1. Refrain from telling other people about themselves – “you-ing” whether in the form of unsolicited advice, labeling, sarcasm, criticism, teasing, blaming, evaluating, etc. Instead, talk about what is true for you, your “I”. Give information about what is going on for you about what you’re feeling, thinking, wanting, needing.
2. Bring up one specific incident at a time and don’t get sucked into dragging in everything, right down to the kitchen sink. Avoid the words “always” and “never.”
3. Listen with genuine attention. Ask questions and strive to understand another person. Don’t defend yourself or strike back with “yous” if attacked. Silence or speak your “I” – what’s true for you.
4. Keep your word. Honor the agreements you make. Violating mutual understandings produces separation. Trust is built on integrity between your words and actions. When you need to alter an agreement, talk about it beforehand.
5. When clarifying misunderstandings, if you violated an agreement you had, listen to the person that feels violated to understand their feelings and point of view until you can truly empathize with what is true for them. Say what you will do in the future to avert it from reoccurring and follow through.
6. If you feel someone violated an agreement with you by not acting in line with the understanding you believe you had, speak up about how you felt about the specific incident at hand and what you want to be different in the future.
7. Lavishly give sincere gestures of appreciation. Do genuine acts of kindness or selfless giving. Initiate physical (not sexual) contact to nonverbally connect thru a hug, squeeze, or loving look. Look for the good and offer praise.
Stick to being aligned with your heart and personal integrity. Communicate what’s true for you with kindness. Like John, with a little awareness, persistence, and practice, you can also navigate whatever twists and turns you encounter, and successfully keep your relationships on the high road.