Part 3: Strategies for Removing Blocks and Building Satisfying Communication
The paradigm, or worldview, that we hold determines how we relate to and treat our partner. Common paradigm* examples are:
1)I treat my partner as my means of survival (and so must use her or him to that end). 2)I treat my partner as an object to be used for my purposes (with little or no regard for my partner’s personhood). 3)I treat my partner according to the rules of traditional sex roles (with men as providers and heads of households, and women as homemakers subservient to men). 4)I treat my partner as a business partner (and we work together to achieve financial goals and material wealth for our family). 5)I treat my partner as an equal (and we treat others as equal as well). 6)I treat my partner as a collaborator towards a better life for us together. 7)I treat my partner as a spiritual ally as we work toward a better life and a better world.
Obviously, the way we view our life and our partner will fairly much dictate the ways we will interact. The first three paradigms will more or less be reflected in communication styles that we are calling “stumbling blocks to satisfying communication.” That’s because a value of partnership, equality, and mutuality doesn’t really exist in these paradigms.
The last four paradigms to a greater or lesser degree value partnership, equality, and reciprocity, and so we start to create “building blocks to satisfying communication.” As we move further up the continuum, it becomes less and less acceptable to us to use the “stumbling block” style of communication, and we seek the skills described as “building blocks.”
As we grow and as our values evolve, building the skills of respectful and mutual communication becomes a conscious goal for us in our relationship with our partner (and then with others as well). We will live from a value of appreciation and love for our self and our partner, and we will want equality, mutuality, and reciprocity in our relationship. When we reach this point, we actively work to enhance the quality of our lives together through healthy communicating—there will be no option!
When we recognize our partner as our equal and as a co-collaborator and co-creator in the life we are living, we will see that we are two very different people, with two widely diverging life experiences, and that though we may be able to forge a common path or a common goal, we do so from our unique perspectives. We each have a perspective, a truth, and that truth is not the same. We recognize and value the wisdom of both of our truths and we consciously incorporate both into our life together.
We also come to see that we each have to be guardians of both separateness and closeness in our relationship, since relationships that work value both for each partner. I will want to be close to my partner, and I will be a strong advocate for my partner’s freedom, autonomy, and independence at the same time. Equivalently, my partner will want to be close to me, but will be a strong advocate for my separateness as well.
My partner will spend good chunks of time in her or his separate garden, and I will spend good chunks of time in mine. We each will appreciate that our joy and sense of well-being comes from having and nurturing a solid sense of who we each are as individuals. I will want to take responsibility for my own well-being, and I will support my partner in doing that as well. My partner will want the same, and do the same.
Out of the wholeness and intactness of each of us, we will also want to spend luxurious time together in our partnership garden, shaping the directions of our lives together. Frankly, the more “whole’ or “intact” we are as individuals, the more we will have to bring to our partnership garden, and the inner sense of security and confidence we each feel deepens the joy of our time together.
We may have to work on establishing a sense of inner peacefulness and “basic trust,” if these are not experiences we have had much in our lives. If we’ve experienced a secure connection with others early in our lives, we may already have a sense of that peacefulness and trust, and the resulting feeling of connection with others. But for many of us, for many reasons, that experience was not something we enjoyed often or at all. Our joy and well-being in relationship will depend on our ability to work hard and consciously, now, at this time in our lives, to generate a calm and trust deep within ourselves, (that cannot be created for us by our partner), to avoid dramatics and traumatic circumstances, to seek joyful and positive and creative experiences, to frame things in positive ways (and turn off those historically-based negative tapes)!
And we will set boundaries and appreciate the boundaries our partner sets, even as we reassure and connect with bridges to each other. Recognizing that it’s a human experience to become triggered from time to time, we support each other in taking Time-Outs with CPR, a boundary (and bridge) that can assure that the connection between us remains safe and respectful despite agitations. We see that sometimes, structured communications+ can reground us when we are feeling triggered or disconnected from each other, and so are willing to use them as we need to.
We are willing to work to create win-win agreements, and then to live by them. We are willing to state our preferences and our dreams, so that, like woodworkers whittling and shaping a tree into the vision they have imagined, we can design a life together that we love being in!
And that notion of designing a life together holds the kernel that is the pearl:
We are conscious and deliberate. We are present and future oriented, motivated by creativity, joy, and collaboration. We are interested in our continued personal and partnership growing and becoming. We are committed to each other and to our own individual growth. We are co-creators and we are insisting on moving toward well-being.
Here’s to well-being!
*For an extensive introduction to these paradigms, look at the Spiral Dynamics post, elsewhere on this website.
+like Maggie Scarf’s “Talk-Listen” exercise, or PAIRS and Harville Hendricks’ “Empty the Jug” or “Dialog Guide” or “Joy” or “Hurt Museums” or “Daily Temperature Reading”.