We all would like to have the perfect partner. The one that meets our every need. We don't need to explain to them what we want, somehow they just know, and they give it to us. What a wonderful illusion! It is just not very reflective of reality for most of us. What if we had the power to help our partner to be a better partner, even a better person? I am not talking about another illusion. The illusion we sometimes have about changing the other. Could it be possible for us to have some positive impact or influence in their life. Is it possible to help them become kinder and more loving, maybe even more physically beautiful, or handsome, more, healthy and energetic. We know that we have the capacity for making them more stressed, depressed, anxious, miserable, and yes, even more ugly. I am not talking about classic beauty such as beautiful features, but the beauty that comes with life, energy and aliveness. What if we looked at things differently and began to see that our relationship in part is creating both our partner and ourselves. As we change ourselves, we change the relationship. As our relationship changes, we change, and so does our partner. I will say this again, as we change our behavior, the dynamic between us changes. It it usually easier for us to listen to our partners when they are talking about almost anything, except us! When it comes to their frustration or complaints about us, somehow, are ability to listen becomes so much more difficult. Thich Nhat Hanh says, "As we listen deeply to someone they will "bloom like a flower". It is difficult to listen to complaints about ourselves, and it is even worse if the other has an attacking style, is overly critical, nit picks, or becomes demeaning. In either case we still can't change them, but can learn about what is underneath the nit picking. If we want them to change we need to stop trying to change them, and focus on changing ourselves. I am sorry for saying this, we have heard it so many times that it almost becomes meaningless, it certainly is irritating. Of course we need to set limits at times, but we also need to be careful not to escalate conflict too much. We can try to convince the other that we are not the jerk that they believe we are, but that won't work. Lets try again and orient them to reality, you know, the truth about us, which they are not seeing. No that is not going to work either. Trust me, I have tried that one too many times, with no positive outcome. Not only is the best way to help someone, to listen deeply to them, but it also helps them to see us differently. Again this is much more powerful than trying to convince them that we are kinder, more loving, caring, and thoughtful then they think we we might be. It takes a lot of self control and patients which I personally don't always have, however, listening has the potential to build trust between us. Listening helps them tap into their capacity to see us as having the good intentions that we know exist in us, that sometimes the other does not see for what ever reason. Two of the biggest mistakes for me have been in getting defensive, and trying to point out that what the other is thinking about my motivation is not correct. As I argue back I am proving and confirming their negative opinion of me. As trust builds between us there is an opportunity for both individuals to become more relaxed and healthy. If stress moves us in the direction of being less healthy, than relaxation has the potential to help us open up and restore health. Maybe we both can bloom like flowers. It takes more than listening alone to build a beautiful relationship, but it certainly provides for a very strong foundation.
When we become reactive we prove to the other that we may be the jerk that they think we are. As we believe the other sees us as a jerk, we may come to believe that we are the jerk that they think we are, which we are not.