Repairing Relationships-Part V
In my capacity as an outpatient psychologist for twenty-five
years, I deal with the same eight conditions over and over.
One of the most common complaints I hear about is relationships.
(The other seven are mood problems, children's behaviors, ADHD or
learning disorders, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor assertiveness
and addictions). This is Part V of a five part series of articles
that describe the five most essential elements for keeping longer-term
relationships alive. (It so happens that these same techniques work
in all relationships.) Please read Parts I, II, III and IV before
Part V speaks to the judicious use of capacity when dealing with
your partner. If you think about when "things" go well between you
and your partner, there are several "things" that come to mind.
I think of enjoying a common activity, sharing a meal or a movie, or
just having time together with my wife. The common variable underlying
all these is capacity. Specifically, we get along when we have energy,
and when we use that energy wisely there is a greater chance we will get
Thinking negatively, we fight and generally don't get along when
there is lack of energy, when our capacities are used poorly, or when
stress knocks us off the track. We fight more when we are sick, out
of our element or surprised with something unpleasant.
Most arguments occur when our resources are dwindling or poorly
used. Specifically, most relationship disagreements occur later in the
evening after work, when one or both of the participants is worn down.
Then, when a conflict surfaces, there is greater irritation (piggybacked
from the stresses of the day) at exactly the time when the participants
are less capable of containing it (too tired).
To repair a relationship, or in this case to not make it worse,
invoke the "9 o' clock" Rule." The 9 o' clock Rule states that after
9 p.m, the only thing couples should say to each other are compliments.
That is because during or after this "danger hour," the likelihood of
squabbling increases exponentially. I've conducted this survey numerous
times over the years I've been a psychologist, and most of the time,
fights occur during this time when people are "winding down." The time
can vary. For example, if either or both partners has to get up at
5:00 a.m. to be at work very, very early, then the rule becomes the
7 o' clock Rule, because each participant poops out earlier at the end
of the day. Different hour, same principle. If you can sleep late,
then adjust the time to a later one.
The 9 o' clock rule speaks to the broader issue of capacity, which
is how this article started. At any time when either partner's capacity
is reduced, the likelihood of fighting increases. In this article, I've
been talking about normal "left over" energy at the end of the day.
In reality, anything that compromises one's ability to fully function is
going to be trouble. Does either partner drink or do drugs?
How about illnesses? Is either partner under undo stress from some
outside event? Are there too many distractions that are unavoidable?
While not the specific focus of this article, each of these categories
potentially can lower a partner's energy, integrity and ultimately his
or her ability to effectively deal with a partner. In short, make sure
you keep your own capacity at peak levels, if possible, to be able to
effectively deal with your significant other. If not, after 9 o' clock,
say only nicethings to your partner.