I do a lot of relationship coaching–with couples, helping people sort out difficulties with friendships, business relationships, how to get involved in them, how to untangle from them, and I think about my own life as I’m working with my clients and no surprise, learn a great deal from them, even when they don’t realize they are teaching me.
And I have many deep and abiding friendships that have lasted for years, so I have a lot of information about what goes on between people from a personal basis also. And here’s the thing I’m noticing right now: when I listen to stories about other people’s interactions, I tend to think about how I would deal with that particular situation, and so often it has to do with me thinking I would be more appreciative of the opportunity to BE in the relationship than they are……..
Really? Probably not, but the story sounds so compelling to me, in my mind, that it seems true. The reason I think it is probably not true is that when I’m having a difficult time with someone, I do all the things I see my clients and friends do that I might not do if I were acting out my imaginary scenario. This sounds a little convoluted, but what I’m really saying is:
You have to be there! None of the stories I make up about how I would do it differently would matter to me at all if I were in the situation with exactly their history and behavior patterns, and whatever it is that they are there to learn at that moment.
I dated a guy for a while this summer, and he was a perfectly nice person, but as the time went by, he became less and less interesting to me. I can make up a story that he didn’t like me enough, and therefore didn’t do the things that I wanted him to do to keep my interest. But I can’t actually know that.
All I can know is that I lost interest. So I stopped calling him back when he called me, and eventually he just stopped calling. The thing that I enjoyed about that ending was that it gave me a chance to do something different from how I might have done it in the past. My old style would have been to have a break-up conversation, and I probably would have enjoyed the drama around that. But I didn’t go there this time–perhaps because I didn’t feel that strongly about him, or maybe I’m not that interested in drama these days. I prefer to think the latter of course, which would mean that by finally being in my 60s I might have matured a bit.
But the truth is that I might feel that drama again, and act differently in another situation.
So, what I’m also saying is that when I see couples who are at war, and start thinking how if I were in that relationship I would do whatever it took to create harmony and develop it instead of tear it apart, well, I am realizing that may not be true. Odds are really good that I will do what I do based on whatever I need to do at the moment for my own security, sanity, and in defense of whatever state of mind I am committed to at that moment.
And that is the human condition.