Interdependent, not independent

If you’ve not heard the word interdependent before, rest assured that you’ve been doing it since you were born.  Interdependent simply means that we depend on each other.  Now I’ll be the first gal to say that we should be self-sufficient.  We should be able to change our own tires (or at least call the automobile club), take care of yourself while ill, and organize like a ninja with OCD.  We should not, however, have to do all of it without any support.

There are two steps to becoming interdependent:

  1. Get over yourself;
  2. Surround yourself with the right people.

The key to getting over yourself is perspective.  While life can be serious business, nothing should be that dire.  When faced with a stressful situation, ask yourself how things will look in a few minutes, in a few weeks, and in a few years.  Base your decisions on that information, not how you’re feeling at this exact second.

Then take a look at the people in your life.  Kick out the frenemies (trust me, they’ll never get better).  To the people you can’t kick out (e.g. family), have a talk with them about being supportive or realize that you can’t rely on them for the type of support that you need.  When picking new people, pick quality people.  Do not just let anyone be in your life.  If they’re not on your team, kick ’em out!  You can do better.

Now that you have your support system in place, use it properly.  Rely on it when you need help and make sure that you’re reciprocating in kind.

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em

In the midst of a disagreement, it can be difficult to back down.  However backing down can be the smarter option but how do you know when and how to back down?

First, understand that your ego doesn’t want you to back down.  Humans naturally want to win (probably from when losing a fight meant losing your life).  So put your ego away and look at things rationally.  Would backing down be the right decision?  Would continuing the argument cause irreparable damage to the relationship?  Would it allow you to end an argument without hurt feelings and come back later with a different approach?

Second, breathe.  In the middle of an argument there is a lot flying around in your brain – you’re trying to both process information and express yourself at the same time (and we’ve already established that you can do one or the other but not both at once).  Your anger is welling up and you’re fighting not only with your partner but with yourself to maintain your composure.  Try to calm the chaos in your brain.  If necessary, ask for a moment and step away.

Lastly, resume the discussion with calmer words.  Quiet your voice.  Measure your tone.  Meter your speech.  Agree to disagree.  Don’t be surprised if there is some initial resistance/confusion on the part of your partner – they’re still in fight-or-flight .  Do not get sucked back into the maelstrom.  Maintain your course and even change the topic of conversation to something light, if necessary.  A strategic retreat can allow you time to re-assess your approach and to build your defense (after all, you already know their argument).

Leave these at the door

Negotiations need to approached calmly and rationally.  You need to keep your wits about you to ensure that you’re not giving up too much or too little.  The following are some things that will sink any negotiation and should never be brought into the negotiating room.

  • Anger – you can’t negotiate reasonably if you are too angry to see the other person’s point of view.  Wait until you are calm.
  • Ego – leave your need to be right out of any negotiation.  You will be too busy attempting to win to mitigate the potential damage to your relationship.
  • Guilt – you needn’t feel guilty about asking for what you want.  You’re not attempting to take advantage of the other person.
  • Past history – approach each negotiation fresh.  Bringing up past arguments will cloud the issue at hand.
  • Distractions – keep your head in the game so you don’t feel the desire to renegotiate a bad negotiation.

Didn’t you do enough projects in school?

Often we’ll find ourselves three months into a new relationship when it slowly occurs to us – this isn’t a relationship, this is a project.  Once you’re done with a project, you’re not going to want to settle down with the results – you’re going to be looking for a new project.

Make no mistake ladies, a project is all about your ego.  If you can tame him/cure him/solve him then you’re “the one” that changed his life.  This might make you feel special but is your goal to be the Mother Teresa of the dating scene?

So how do you spot a project?

  1. Ask yourself if you’re falling for his potential.  His potential is merely your idealized version of him and that makes you his Pygmalion.
  2. Are you looking to change him more than a few degrees?  Convincing him to try a new hairstyle is one thing, convincing him to try a new career is quite another.
  3. Are you devoting more time to developing him than developing yourself?  If you’ve stopped your life trying to create his then you’re definitely headed in the wrong direction.

Projects take a lot of time and attention.  Plus when you’re done with them you’ll never have an equal relationship.  This will eventually lead to resentment on both sides.  If you find yourself in a project, back out slowly with as few repercussions as possible.