The Relationship Gardener


Relationship Gardner    Donna McIldoon  M.Div., RMFT

Tilling the Soil of Relationships

 (digging up the weeds and promoting healthy growth!)

          Lately I have been involved in some professional development with Terrence Real, the developer of “Relational Life Therapy” and author of several great books; “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” (an insightful look at male depression), “How Can I Get Through to You?” (some new insights on couple communication), and my personal favoruite, “The New Rules of Marriage” which looks at how a couple may develop authentic and healthy relating.  I am so taken with the simple truths in this most recent book, that over the next few months, I will be sharing bite-sized pieces in this format.  

          Up first:  The Losing Strategies.  Perhaps you will be able to identify your “go to” losing strategy – the method you may subconsciously employ when crunch timecomes and you are trying to bridge the gap between what you want (in relationship) and what you are not getting.  (I have identified mine!  And I am trying to weed it out!)  And isn’t it true that if we can see ourselves at this point, we may become aware of why we need to be open to the next chapter of growth in our lives … or “the rest of the story”. 

Losing Strategy # 1  Needing to be Right.  There tends to be a lot of rehashing of details of arguments with this strategy (as if the way to resolution is to determine whose version of the truth is most accurate!)  At its most extreme, self-righteous indignation takes over, and judgement and contempt ensue – not a pretty picture.  “Letting go of the need to be right is a core principle of relationship empowerment.”

Losing Strategy # 2  Controlling Your Partner The misguided belief here is that “I will be happy if you only give me what I need”.  It often sounds like “If you really loved me you’d …” or “I could be happy if only you would …”.  The attempts at control may be direct or indirect (manipulation).  “ No one thrives when deprived of liberty.  Oppressing someone may lead to compliance, but it will never engender health or love.”

Losing Strategy # 3  Unbridled Self-Expression  This is where you give yourself permission to spontaneously express the worst, no matter what the context or consequences. It is far from therapeutic to share every thought that comes into your head. “You can vent, or you can move toward solution”.  “When you are hurt or angry, spewing is not being authentic; it’s being a brat.”

 Losing Strategy # 4  Retaliation  Revenge can be overt – where you say or do something nasty, or covert – where you withhold, or don’t say or do something loving.  The person prone to retaliation may feel justified, as if they act like this only due to the hurt they have received (offending from the victim position).  “Commit to take retaliation – physical and verbal, direct and indirect – off the table.  If you’re mad, say so, but don’t act it out.”

 Losing Strategy # 5  Withdrawal  This can be as shocking as leaving  the marriage, or a gradual ceasing to share in intimacy – intellectual, emotional, physical, sexual or spiritual.  Whereas all relationships require personal space, withdrawal is irresponsible distance taking, where neither explanation is offered, nor a promise of return is given. A rupture in connection results and does not lead to fulfillment.

Stay tuned; I will be sharing The Winning Strategies  in next month’s blog …