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.

Moving as a team

If you’ve ever strapped your leg to someone else’s to participate in a three-legged race then you know how difficult it can be to move as a team.  It’s awkward – they zig, you zag, and you’ve fallen down once or twice on your way to the finish line.

Relationships are very much the same way.  It’s imperative to be able to move as a team to achieve your goals whether it be how to raise the kids or whose parents to see on holidays.  Moving as a team requires coordination, timing, and practice.

  • Coordination – make decisions well before you move.  Knowing ahead of time which foot you’ll be putting forward first can mean the difference between standing up and falling down.
  • Timing – the more in tune you are with someone, the easier it is to anticipate their movements and be able to move with them.  After a while, men will assume you can read their minds – let them think that, it’s better that way.
  • Practice – the best teams have so much practice moving together that it appears effortless.  Don’t be fooled by this – they’ve fallen down plenty of times, the simply pick themselves up and refuse to give up. Start small and keep practicing.  Eventually you’ll be in the winners’ circle.

Thinking as a team

Thinking as a team is essential for any successful relationship however it demands that we overcome a basic human trait – selfishness.  In order to think as a team, we must first put ourselves aside and consider what’s the best thing for the team.  This is easier said than done.

Realize that you are not losing your individuality, rather you are making a conscious choice to align your goals with that of another person for mutual betterment.  In that, you may lose the battle but you will win the war.  This is a key feature of being able to think as a team.

Allow yourself to have selfish thoughts.  It’s perfectly okay and quite frankly, if you didn’t it would be a little odd.  Recognize that those thoughts are what’s good for you but may not be what’s best for the team.  Attempting to never have selfish thoughts will only lead to frustration and resentment.

Now consider what is best for the team.  It may include elements of what’s best for you but it probably won’t be everything that you want.  If you’re unsure about your decision, consider how your partner would react; then consider how you would react if the situation were reversed.

Give yourself room for negotiation.  If you truly want something, talk to your partner about it before you make the decision.  If you’ve truly committed to your team, you don’t want to screw it up over something essentially insignificant (insignificant = temporary and fleeting).  For example, if you’re saving for a house, you probably shouldn’t drop a few thousand on cute clothes but you probably can pick out a few nice things each year to supplement what you already own.

Committing to your team

I’m sure you’ve seen people who are coupled up but act as individuals, perhaps you’ve even been guilty of this yourself.  It can be difficult to transition from one person to one-half of a couple.  It can push you out of your comfort zone as you contemplate the potential downside of coupledom:  loss of freedom, losing your identity, or even being played for a fool.  These can be difficult issues to overcome and, if left unconquered, they will derail your progress as a couple.

Yes, you will lose a bit of freedom when you are in a couple.  You will need to consult the other person on everything from staying out late to major purchases.  Very few decisions will ever be solely yours again.  On the other hand, no trouble will be entirely yours either.  You will have a sounding board for your decisions and someone to lean on when you need support.  This is a trade-off.  When you think of what you’re giving up, think of what you’re getting in return.

The only time you risk losing your identity in a relationship is when you’re not strong enough in it to begin with.  Know who you are and act accordingly.  Do not betray your guiding principles.  If needed, start at the beginning of this blog and do the work.

Every time you trust someone, you risk being played for a fool.  That’s simply the truth.  However, you can minimize that risk by choosing wisely.  Do not trust people who have proven themselves to be untrustworthy.  Keep your wits about you.  Do not take things at face value – probe until you get to the truth.  Even having done all that, there is still risk and you must content yourself with knowing that if someone “fools” you, that it reflects more on them than it does on you.

So here, now – commit (re-commit!) to your team.  Sit down with your partner and talk about your commitment and really feel it.  This is your team.  You have one half of the responsibilities and one half of the rights.  You are jointly responsible for how life turns out for you with no heroes and no victims.  For better or worse, you are together to the end.  This one shift will affect everything in your relationship for the better.

Creating a win-win environment

It’s hard to fathom creating a win-win environment when you’re in the middle of an argument.  This is why it’s important to create a fair and balanced relationship ahead of time and hope it helps influence what happens during  fight.  Remember – they’re challenging to create and easy to destroy so handle it with care.  The one thing that you must keep in your head at all times is we’re on the same team.  That is your partner to the end (or to the bitter end which can happen if you’re not in a win-win).

You create a win-win environment in a relationship incrementally.  This is all about trust.  Can you (both) be vulnerable and trust that the other person will protect that vulnerability?  If the answer to that question is “no” then you either have a lot of work to do or you need to get out of this relationship.  You create trust by being trustworthy.  Never lie but more than that, be pro-active in your honesty.  Be fair in your dealings with him and with others.  Listen to what he has to say and make him feel heard.  Be consistent so that he knows what to expect.  Do this from the beginning and continue it through-out your relationship and you will create an environment where both partners feel that they’re on the same team.

When you argue, do not undo all of your hard work. When you feel that desire to go in for the kill shot, look into their eyes and know that you’ll be living with that nasty comment for a very long time – you can’t un-ring a ball.  It is more important that you both win rather than for you to win.  If you win the argument but lose the man, what have you really won?  Try to see his side of the argument.  Take time to consider what he’s said and if you’re being unreasonable.  Be first (and quick) to apologize for any mis-steps you might have made in the course of the argument.  Negotiate a reasonable solution that both people can live with (note:  I did not say skip through fields of daisies singing its praises, I said live with).