Wednesday, July 20, 2011


"To love means to open ourselves to the negative as well as the positive - to grief, sorrow, and disappointment as well as to joy, fulfillment, and an intensity of consciousness we did not know was possible before." -- Rollo May

Most of us are probably allured by the attractive notion that effortless relationships exist. Whether it is a happily-ever-after marriage or friendship which last forever, or parent/child bonds which supersede the need to understand each other, we'd all like to believe that our most intimate relationships are unconditional, and strong enough to withstand whatever may come. However, at some point in our lives most of us need to face the fact that relationships require effort to keep them strong and positive, and that even wonderful, strong relationships can be destroyed by neglect and stress. Nobody understands this more than I do. It's pretty easy to identify the most readily recognizable sources of stress in our lives--too many commitments, workplace hassles, financial strain, and society’s (and our own) oftentimes unrealistic expectations of who we "should" be and how much we "should" be able to accomplish. But not as many people realize that "communication stress" can be one of the biggest sources of stress in relationships. After all, we're all talking the same language, aren't we?
So What Am I Saying?
Whether you're looking to improve a love relationship, familial relationships, friendships, or employer/employee relationships, understanding your own personality type and the personality type of the other person involved in the relationship will bring a new dynamic to the situation, which will allow better understanding and communication. Although the different types of relationships have very different characteristics and specific needs, there are two basic areas which are critical in every relationship: Expectations and Communication!
Obviously I am focusing on communication!
What do we expect from ourselves and the other person involved in the relationship? How do we communicate these expectations, and our feelings and opinions to the person in the relationship? How does our personality type affect our expectations and methods of communication with my/your partner? These are all valuable and insightful questions that make the relationship…or in the opposite…break it! Believe me…I have learned this the hard way!
Personality Type
I am an INTJ – and by definition, INTJ’s believe in constant growth in relationships, and strive for independence for themselves and their partners. They are constantly embarking on "fix-up" projects to improve the overall quality of their lives and relationships. They take their commitments seriously, but are open to redefining their vows, if they see something which may prove to be an improvement over the existing understanding. INTJs are not likely to be "touchy-feely" and overly affirming with their mates or children, and may at times be somewhat insensitive to their emotional needs. However, INTJ’s are in general extremely capable and intelligent individuals who strive to always be their best, and be moving in a positive direction. Most INTJ’s, if they apply these basic goals to their personal relationships, they are likely to enjoy happy and healthy interaction with their families and friends.

Not so fast….
There are many other factors that influence a relationship and its long-term viability…especially if you are and INTJ. Those of us who are…are not naturally in tune with their own feelings, or with what other people are feeling… (“suck it up honey!”)  They also have a tendency to believe that they are always right. While their self-confidence and esteem is attractive, their lack of sensitivity to others can be a problem if it causes them to inadvertently hurt their partner's feelings. If this is a problem for an INTJ, they should remember to sometimes let their mate be the one who is right, and to try to be aware of the emotional effect that your words have upon them. In conflict situations, INTJ’s need to remember to be supportive to their mate's emotional needs, rather than treating the conflict as if it is an interesting idea to analyze.

Good communication is the hallmark of any solid relationship. In contrast, poor or ineffective communications are the cause of most relationship problems. Ideally we would communicate everything we are thinking and feeling to our partners so that they know what is worrying us and can share when we are feeling postive. There would be no secrets or no-go areas. Unfortunately we may choose to limit or stop our verbal communication and this has a disastrous effect on a relationship. Even when the words have stopped, non-verbal communication such as body language or mood is still present and this can carry negative messages.
If we or our partner have stopped communicating it shows that there is an issue so painful that we have subconsciously decided to reduce all verbal communication for fear that we might raise this difficult issue. Low levels of communication become a vicious circle because the silence creates fear and a sense of disconnection which in turn breeds more withdrawal…and mistrust.
In the absence of not knowing…..
We hear it all the time on chat shows, help shows, on the radio, and there are thousands of books on the subject - we need to communicate better, especially in our marriage. Just how do you get your point across more clearly though? Do you find yourself yelling or getting angry when your partner fails to "just know" what you need? (Typical of INTJ’s!) Or perhaps you clam up entirely? Contrary to what you may have thought, your partner isn't just magically going to be able to "figure out" what it is you want or need. The real secret to effective communication between any couple is that you will need to put some effort into this. I have always said…”I am not a mind reader!”
The relative success of every relationship you maintain in life is built and hinges on communication. It is the foundation and bedrock of your bond with other people…and as a result, you may assume that we/you are an expert in the field of good communication. Of course, such an assumption is false, and even absurd. Because, as we all know, the most common relationship predicament is communication. (I am repeating myself here!) We have difficulty with it and submit to almost unmanageable urges that compel us to act in a manner divergent from good relationship behavior. Men (I speak for the masses here!) are the main offenders in this epidemic. We have that massive male ego to contend with for one, and an almost primordial instinct to "win" at every endeavor we partake in.
When we unleash these typical male forces in the confines of our relationship, we blaze a trail of self-destruction. We start a pattern of dysfunction that breeds contempt, malice and the eventual downfall of the relationship. When all you have to do to prevent it is communicate with your woman, being a good partner looks to be a piece of cake, right…? As part of the species, I can tell you that most men drop the ball and fail to have a successful relationship with a woman because of a failure in good communication. Here is the kicker…men suck at communication…but so to do women! Our better halves may have an innate sense for conflict resolution but the bottom line is that we can all improve the way we communicate with each other.
My favorite…..non-verbal communication!
Nonverbal communication includes gestures, movements, facial expressions, and other physical forms of body language. Take note, however; it also includes tone of voice, sighs, screams, and vocal pitch and volume. Pay attention to all of these when you walk through the door and the first thing out of your mouth when she is looking at you is “What…what did I do?” In good and bad times, nonverbal communication will serve as an instant sign as to how she feels about you at that very moment, not to mention how she feels in general. No matter what words she chooses, her body language cannot mask her real emotions.

You Son of a B***; You’re an A**; I H*$te You…etc
You need to let her know that you understand even if she is yelling and obviously…quite upset! This is where men in general fall behind. We usually pick it up as queue to enter “into the fray” as well. Our competitive nature compels us to try to win every fight; to the point where we forget the one simple tenet about relationship conflict…there is no winner!

It's time to stop thinking of every fight as a chance to get the upper hand and use rhetoric until she admits you're right. It’s not the end goal that any of us should strive for...because if it is, your partner is going to resent you in the long run and recovery will be non-existent!

In the end let her know, no matter how bad, how intense and how passionate the fight, that you care. Amidst all the rage and even when tempers flare, take a deep breath and do something to let her know that when all is said and done, you love her.
In the End...
Why the rambling? Why these musings? It’s all about being with the one you care most about. Understanding who and what you are it’s just as important as understanding your partner and his or her needs.
Mistakes….you bet…made more than enough to fill volumes and sell some incredible books along the way but development, both personally as well as in a relationship, is an ongoing and iterative process. It’s not a crutch…we are all human and mistakes will happen…but communication bridges the gap between not knowing and knowing why…and that is the true meaning of understanding your partners needs, wants and desires.    

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