GAME OF FOOLS – ARMCHAIR QUARTERBACK SAYS:
What do you bring to the table? Do you come to the table for sustenance or to battle?
You can either bring what you have to give freely or else you’re just playing checkers (or chess, I don’t actually know how to play checkers, but I do play chess badly, and I know it is a very adversarial game – wherein you are out for yourself, playing against your opponent, strategizing to defend your armory and take out the other side’s, to accomplish a very personal and singular victory).
Conversely in a true partnership, you bring what you have, not only to sustain yourself, but moreover what you have in abundance for the benefit of another. All the while maintaining the balance of preserving and nurturing your own needs, for the more you make of yourself the more you’ll bring and have to give to the partnership.
You’ll have to ask yourself what you truly need, whether those needs are absolute and finite requirements (also flippantly known as “deal breakers”). For example in most cases, fidelity is an absolute requirement and less often adhered to as a “deal breaker”. That is just one obvious example of something one might absolutely “require” out of a partnership.
Of course there is an endless minutia of varying needs between partners, and at various points throughout our partnerships, our needs change and our partners needs change. I’ve learned quite concretely that if both partners don’t acknowledge that and tend to it, a partnership quickly devolves into the aforementioned adversarial battle, instead of a firm base from which two people can grow and thrive.
Ask yourself, “Does my partner adhere to my must-haves (fidelity)? Do I?” Are you appreciative of that to one another? Do you demonstrate that appreciation? How? Then look at your “nice to haves”. What is it that would be, or is a bonus to your concrete needs? Those are usually the mutual and private courtesies you lend each other, quirks that are met, understood and maybe even nurtured. Your contributions to that may be in the recognition and care of those traits in your partner, but it can also be the recognition and care of those traits for yourself.
Personally, I know that there are always up times and down times, usually based around purely emotional needs, for whatever external or internal reasons that need to be addressed. I may be at an insecure place where I need pretty constant affirmation or reassurance (now that takes on many varying and very personal terms, for everyone – see The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman).
In those varying and often trying times of greater need, in whatever particular issue you or your partner may be dealing with, you don’t have the right to demand that the need be met, nor do you have the obligation to meet it for the other person. HOWEVER – you do have the supreme, absolute (and rarely utilized) power to ask yourself what you can do about it, whether for yourself –or- for the good of the partnership (which are essentially one in the same).
If your particular trial is currently affecting your ability to function, you may need pretty immediate assistance. You can usually recognize this because of either underlying or completely overwhelming frustration. Identify for yourself what is causing YOUR frustration. Identify for yourself what you might need to help you cope with it. Ask yourself what you can do to address your own issues. Do you need your partner’s help? What do you need your partner to do for you? Take some of your workload, leave you alone, talk it through, hold your hand, or provide distraction for you? Only you know the answer as to what you really need.
If you both come to table with an abundance of what makes you great on your own, plus a bounty to lend, you’ll have a true partnership. On the other hand if you want to play games, wage internal and external wars – prepare for a long and fruitless battle.
When you are seated at “the table” together you should both see it as a living and constantly changing landscape. Are you tending to that landscape together, both on your own accord and at the behest of your partner? Are you both being reasonable in your evaluation of what you each have to offer and what you both need?
At the end of every day (sometimes every moment) you’ve got to be accountable for meeting your own needs as best you can before you can blame your partner for not meeting your unreasonable, often unidentified and certainly not well communicated needs. In case of emergency, you’ve first got to place the oxygen mask over your own face to survive and most definitely before you can be of any assistance to anyone else.
Once your oxygen levels are met, and if there are no hard stops or “deal breakers” in this moment of your relationship, the next step, the next moment is again up to you. If you need it ask for it. If you can get it or give it to yourself, do that and save adding an additional task to your already hard working partner – who should be doing the same for themselves so that you can independently breathe easy for as long as possible, so that in those moments of true crisis or need between you, you’re both rested and ready to work to support each other through whatever may come, as those heightened needs arise.
In summation, I’d advise anyone, at even a momentary crossroads in their relationship (usually self induced and not nearly as critical as you are likely making it out to be #guilty), to remember one thing and then to do another; number one is unfortunately a Dr. Philism, and that is, the only person you can control is you. #truth
Second is the coolest exercise I ever read in any book or magazine (this one happened to come from O Magazine) and it goes like this:
Fill in the blank – To feel ____________________________, I need my partner to ____________________________.
Turn the page – Now cross out “I need my partner to”, and just feel that.