This week I’m re-publishing a blog about relationships as it really connects with how values can clash in a relationship. Next week I will write a new blog about security and relationships.
Here is the relationship blog to get you started.
I want to start this week with a confession!! Two weeks ago I wrote a blog called “I love you, now change!” I was rather proud of the title, now imagine my shock when I realised it was someone else’s idea!
This morning I picked up my copy of Scientific American Mind because I knew there was an article I wanted to reference this week, called “the Partnership Paradox”. On the cover of this copy was a phrase “I love you, now change.”
So big apologies, my unconscious mind picked up the great idea and re-cycled it for my blog. The article by Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman was picking up on some other aspects of the issues that can often cloud relationships.
They were writing about a common observation that in relationship we often become most annoyed by the very thing that attracted us in the first place. Now this is similar to the ideas I was writing about two weeks ago however their explanation has some differences.
The explanations offered are connected to social exchange and equity theories. Equity theory suggests that social norms encourage a sense of fairness, we feel more comfortable if we are being treated equitably.
When the relationship starts to feel out of balance for any reason there is a sense of discomfort in the partner who feels the unfairness. This is likely to be an unconscious realisation that may manifest as just feeling we are being taken advantage of.
For example, imagine someone is attracted to a partner for their laid back and fun attitude to life. According to this model it is likely to be a trait we do not exhibit ourselves. In the early days this feels attractive and admirable.
As the relationship progresses beyond the honeymoon phase this trait starts to be perceived differently. Perhaps there is a sense that the partner is irresponsible, leaving all the hard decisions to you while having all the fun.
We might even still like or be comfortable with this trait in others but become annoyed with it in our partner. Why would that be?
According to Palca and Lichtman the trait becomes an issue because we cannot escape it.
We can spend social time with another person like this but we get to go home. Our partner is still there day in, day out. The issue is over-exposure. Diane Felmlee, University of California calls this “disillusionment”.
Felmlee associates this with social exchange theory, according to her extreme traits have rewards but they also have costs especially for people in relationship. This is why the hardworker seems to transform into the workaholic. Their behaviour may not have changed, what has changed is the over exposure to this trait so that it now appears unattractive to their partner.
Unsurprisingly the solution begins with self-awareness, where a couple realise what is happening there is the opportunity to change their reactions. The steps are straightforward.
- Recognise that what is annoying you is what first attracted you to your partner.
- Remind yourself why you were attracted to this trait and re-frame your new reactions more positively.
- Identify your own extreme traits, understand how they may be perceived by your partner, or as Felmlee suggests increase your awareness of your own flaws.
- Share new experiences with your partner regularly to give you counters to both of your habitual behaviours.
These steps are certainly a great place to start, from my own perspective I think they are still not addressing the more in depth part of this process. Felmlee’s approach seems to be based mainly on learning to put up with the annoyance.
It seems to me that we could look at ways to extinguish the annoyance. In the coming weeks we will explore this a little further for now consider the following ideas.
- If we liked it at the beginning why can we not continue to like it?
- If we were to really communicate with each other what would happen?
- If we examine our own habitual behaviours and find them change worthy, why not just change them?
- Is it possible to be truly accepting of others?
- What would happen if we lived our relationship in the present?
I will return to these questions over the next few weeks, do send me your thoughts about them first. I would love to hear what you have to say.
If you would like to read more about the article mentioned above see “Scientific American Mind”, Jan/Feb 2012 or go to their website
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March 17th to 25th 2012
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