It’s no secret that relationships require maintenance. Heck, even the best romance hits a rough patch now and then. When a dull or even sharp crisis arises, our primitive brain kicks in and we (predictably) revert back to cave girl fight or flee behavior. Our primitive brain equates conflict with a sabertooth tiger and then we say and do things that we later come to regret. Does it have to be this hard?
In a word, no. In his relationship bible called Getting the Love You Want, Harville Hendrix has an exercise he uses with troubled couples and it works so well he uses it in his own marriage as a daily practice. I read about this little drill last night before I went to sleep, and I dreamed about it all night. It is, quite simply, brilliant. Hendrix calls the exercise ‘three things.’
When a pair of anguished lovers come to Hendrix to help resolve their disputes, they agree on the “boundaries” of the therapy, and then they begin with the ‘three things.’ Each partner in the relationship writes down a list of ten things that they would like the other to do for them. These are pleasant things that make them feel safe, loved, secure in the lovingkindess of the other. These could be things like ‘bring me flowers,’ or ‘rub my neck for five minutes,’ or ‘make me toast in the morning.’ Small things, elegant gestures of affection.
Once the lists are made, each partner agrees to do three things each day from the other’s list, as a gift with no strings attached. They perform the tasks as an act of love, not of negotiation or a barter for something else. Often, these are behaviors that each may have performed when they were still in the rosy courtship phase of their relationship, thoughtful things they did when their only intention was to please the other. Sometimes these are gestures that as a child made the person feel totally safe and loved in the world. Hendrix found that as the partners performed these behaviors, their attitudes and feelings began to soften, that love is able to overpower the jealousy or insecurity or anxiety that the ego had become fixated upon, and love became to most dominant feeling once again.
Sounds so simple, right? Instead of digging in, it only takes one to enter choose grace for the other to put his or her guard down long enough to feel those yummy feelings we only want to feel anyway, right? I think that in a healthy, robust relationship we tend to do things to please our partner naturally. But it’s easy to forget. It’s easy to get caught up in kids and cars and careers and yaddah. The best relationships I know are ones where two people consciously make an effort to make the other a priority. But just in case, it’s good to make three simple things a habit. Love, C
My two cents: good habits trump bad habits every time!
I love this post C, and I so get it. Abraham says, if there are nine things you like about your partner and one thing you don’t, if you focus on the one thing, the relationship won’t work, but the opposite is also true, if there are nine thing you dislike about your partner and one thing you adore and you focus on that one thing your relationship will flourish.
Sometimes when I have a new client and after I am clear about what we are doing with their hair, I try to get to know them, their life, what is important to them. Hey, I spend a lot of time with my clients and I really develop a relationship with them. Some people are a little harder to get to know than others. A great way to really get someone to talk and open up is to ask them about how they met their spouse or about their wedding. You can’t even imagine the glow of someone who is almost time traveling back to a time when they were young and in love, and probably haven’t felt that kind of love for their significant other in I don’t even know how long.
Forget about how much their husband of 25 years just made them crazy out of their minds just this morning at breakfast, ask them about the way that man asked for their hand and he turns into price charming in the here and now. I have done this on more than one occasion and I have to say it is quite lovely to see the change in the face of someone who just minutes before was tired, feeling old, possibly unappreciated, and not very hopeful, turn into a beautiful girl, so hopeful and full of promise before your very eyes.
I’m not talking about making someone out to be something they are not, what I am suggesting is that you look for the best in your partner, or business associate, or friend. Focus on the best parts of them. The reasons why they are in your life in the first place. And by the way you are not doing this for them, you are doing this for you. When you focus on all the wonderful things about someone you love, someone you chose to spend your whole life with or someone who you pick to be your best friend or maybe your child, it just plain feels good. Revisit why you decided to love that person in the first place. xo-K
My two cents: Focus on what is great about the people you love, not for their benefit but just because it feels so good.