SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares some tips and tricks to improve your relationships.
My husband feels that when our adult kids come over for Sunday dinner that I act more childlike especially if we are playing some type of game. He thinks adults should never act like children and it bothers him. From my point of view, I work very hard and I enjoy having fun especially with our kids — and since I have to be serious all day at work, it is fun to let up a bit on occasion, but he does not appreciate it. How do I respond to this and what should I do differently? Should I change to please him? Should he want me to change or love me as I am?
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I have written quite a few times this year about how important it is that we allow others to be different from us. We all have a tendency to think the way we function in the world is the right way, and we subconsciously expect others to be the same and are irritated if they aren’t. This isn’t fair, right or workable in your relationships.
Every person comes with different perspectives, different internal wiring, a unique upbringing, and a different set of past experiences and views. They are, therefore, going to view and do life differently from how you do it. If you cannot allow them (and even honor and respect their right) to be who they are, the relationship is going to be a hard one and may not work.
Here are some tips, tricks, truths and rules of engagement to consider when you run into differences with someone you love:
1. If you have a different way of being that bothers your partner, you need to have a mutually validating conversation about it.
This means a conversation where you listen to their views, thoughts, feelings and concerns, and explore with your partner why the behavior triggers something negative in them. Try to understand why they feel the way they feel and honor and respect their right to feel that way. But this does not necessarily mean you should change the behavior.
2. If someone is unhappy with your behavior, you must ask yourself if you think the behavior is working for you.
Be honest with yourself and willing to see the problems or downsides of the behavior. Be willing to hear the other person's concerns about it and consider changing it. But, if you do this and you authentically like this part of yourself and think it’s working for you, ask them if they would be willing to listen to your feelings about it. Explain why it’s a part of you that is not going to change and that they will have to learn to accept. You could also look for some kind of compromise that might make you both feel honored and respected. But generally, you should not change who you authentically are unless you can see negatives in the behavior and agree that it’s not working for you.
In your specific situation with your childlike side, I tend to think you should honor and validate your partner’s feelings but continue to be you. If it doesn’t feel like a damaging enough or negative behavior that causes any real problems, your partner probably needs to learn to love you are you are.
3. You should always try to let the people you love be their authentic selves.
Allow others to have different views, beliefs, styles, routines and behaviors from yours. Never expect them to be like you. You can expect them to treat you with kindness, respect and love ,of course — and if they don’t, you should definitely talk about that — but personality type differences in behavior should be cherished, laughed at and even celebrated.
4. The key to changing another person’s view, is to be open to changing your life first.
If a person you love has major differences in values or morals, or they have views you really feel are wrong, you can speak your truth about this and even try to educate or change them, but you must do it the right way. You must first be just as willing to listen to their views as you are to talk about your own. You must handle the conversation with respect, seeing them as equal in value (because you aren’t perfect either). If you cannot approach them this way, with humility and respect, they will likely just get defensive and defend their right to be how they are. They will dig in their heels and refuse to change if you aren’t open to changing too.
5. Never assume your way of being is better or right, and others are wrong.
If you want a person to be open to learning and changing, you must be willing to listen and learn from them. You must be open to being wrong and learning something new yourself. This is the only way to encourage openness in them.
6. Be a safe place for each other.
The biggest problem I see in most relationships is that partners don’t feel safe enough to discuss critical issues with each other. They are both too quick to be offended and get defensive. They don’t feel safe with each other because they fear they are going to be made wrong or made to feel they aren’t good enough. The first thing that must change in these relationships is both partners must commit to be a safe place for the other, a place where the other's infinite value will be honored and their self-esteem protected.
7. Loved ones have more power to hurt us and, therefore, we must work twice as hard at being the cure to their fears.
We are all afraid we aren’t good enough and we aren’t safe. These are our deepest, darkest fears. We want, more than anything, to have the people we love most see us as good enough and to feel safe with them. Unfortunately, this sometimes doesn’t happen. The people we love disappoint us, let us down, irritate and offend us, and we in turn get critical and defensive. These fear reactions block our ability to love and cherish these people.
If you want to have healthy, rich, loving relationships, the most important thing you can do is make sure the people you love feel good enough and safe. You can literally be the cure to their core fears, instead of often being the cause. Be careful with criticism. Give lots of validation about everything they do right. Let them know, at the end of the day, they and their self-esteem are safe with you. Make it your No. 1 goal to give validation and reassurance to your partner on a daily basis. This will create a relationship based in love and trust.
You can do this.
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