Some people say relationships are like a walk in the park and in lockdown for some that feels like Jurassic Park.
I was thinking about this as I watched Donald Trump’s relationship with the world crumble and burn. Donald Trump said it best himself. Four years ago he said: “I bring rage out in people. I always have.”
Today, over 4 years later, America is paying a price. Yet for me at ‘the heart of life’ lies the relationships we have with other people. Relationships with family, co-workers and friends close by and far away.
From my research how we allow these relationships to flow and grow has huge impact on the happiness in our own life’s and in the lives of the people we care and love.
Yet COVID has seen us cooped up and crammed together at home with those we say we care and love 24/7. And many of us have felt the strain on our relationships.
Our lives are spent juggling childcare, home schooling chores and work, worrying about health, finances and the state of the world. The global Covid crisis has left many of us also navigating domestic stress and anxiety on our own – behind closed doors.
Lockdown has changed the nature of many of our relationships. You know, a recent survey shows that over 30% of people felt lockdown had placed additional pressure on their relationship. I have not had a coaching session this last year where the coachee’s relationship with their partner did not come up as a challenge in conversation.
Now these are seriously successful sports people, politicians and senior business people who always start from the perspective “My partner doesn’t understand me” be that partner a husband, wife, live in friend etc.
He calls them The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and they are when criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and silence play out in a relationship be it marriage, or friendship.
Now he states contempt is the most destructive of The Four. That is treating others with disrespect and mocking them with sarcasm, name-calling, mimicking, and/or body language such as eye-rolling and sneering.
This week I was coaching Tom (not his real name) on Business strategy. He is a senior International business Leader. Now, over 5 hours I wrote down a lot of things he said and when I went back over our many pages of conversation I was able to isolated home and partner as topics. The things he said about his partner were:
Doesn’t listen to me
Doesn’t understand me
Gets angry for me
They want me to understand their day but have no interest in mine
They can be so annoying
They don’t offer support when I need it
They wind the kids up
Now in that list you will see he was judging them by what they do not by what he does. It’s kinda like “I love you when you do what I want or what I expect.”
To me we must live our relationships through our heart and minds.
A loving relationship is one in which the loved one has the freedom to be themselves; to laugh with us, but never at us; to cry with us, but never because of us; to love life and love themselves; to love being loved and being in love.
Such a relationship is based upon freedom and respect and can never grow in a raging heart.
Respect is absolutely essential for a good relationship.
You know there is a predictability to the arguments between couples. It is almost a ritual dance. Now, it’s ok if it’s a slow romantic dance or even a wild glorious fun dance, as all couples have conflicts from time to time.
Some couples are able to resolve those conflicts successfully or ‘agree to disagree’, while others find that they are not.
Conflict by itself doesn’t predict relationship problems. Some couples fight a lot but somehow never manage to lose respect for each other. Yet once contempt sets in, and there is a lack of respect, the relationship is on shaky ground.
Frequently, couples assume that misunderstandings are at the root of their conflicts. I hear often in my coaching: “If my partner really understood why I act as I do, they would agree with me and go along with what I want”.
For example, initially each person may have a positive regard for their partner and be willing to write off any ‘bad’ or ‘stupid’ behaviour. However, as ‘bad’ or ‘stupid’ behaviour is observed again and again, partners get frustrated, they begin to lose respect, and o treat them with varying degrees of contempt.
Importantly, the ‘bad’ behaviour that the other person demonstrates doesn’t have to be something they actually do. Instead, it could be something that they don’t do, that the partner expects them to do (such as remembering to put the toilet seat down after use).
THE MENTAL FILTER – So here are some tips on how you can help your relationship through lockdown. I often use the word HEAL:
- H is HEAR: To Hear Your Partner, Stay Present and Listen
- E is EMPATHIZE: Allow Your Partner’s Experience to Deeply Affect You
- A is ACT: Take Action to Address Concerns and Show Willingness to Change
- L is LOVE: Feel and Express Unconditional Love
To me a real relationship, be it family or social, is when the other person in that relationship walks in when the rest of the world walks out.
So don’t judge, as great relationship are composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies and must be lived though the heart and the mind.
I can take you to success. I coach ordinary people every day to do extra-ordinary things. I coach extra-ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. The difference is those who have a dream, and are prepared to follow said dream, are extraordinary, and just need a structure and support system to kick off that journey, which will finish with them sliding in fast sideways to the grave, totally worn out from the relentless living of their dreams, screaming out loudly “Wow holy sh*t, what a ride!”
If that is you – start today! If you are looking for coaching on change for yourself or your organisation, or would like more information on the work we do on Personal, Professional, or Organisational Change, please contact us on email@example.com
About Dr Maurice Duffy
Irish. Author, Professor, Coach and Business strategist. The person Australian Captain Steve Smith credited with helping him back from his cricket ban. Coach to two Ashes wins. Coach to CEOs, Politicians and some of the best know international sports starts including Olympians. BBC ‘Thought for the Week’. Coached business leaders and organizations in 80 countries. Works with charities to do with Mental Health. Lives in North East England with his wife and 11-year-old son.