Ming the Mechanic:
Relationships

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Relationships2002-05-15 19:45
17 comments
by Flemming Funch

I just realize that I'm not talking much about my counseling practice here. I suppose that's in part because I mostly talk about things I haven't quite figured out yet, and the focus of my learning is nowadays mostly in other areas.

And I can't really talk too specifically about the juicy details of my client sessions, because they're confidential. But at least I can talk about some of the principles at work once in a while.

For those who didn't realize it at all, I'm a counselor. I'm very low key at this point, seeing just a handful of people each week, and not really trying to get new clients. But since I've written a couple of books and get a steady stream of inquiries and questions, etc., I feel obliged to maintain at least a minimal level of visibility.

One of the types of work I can't say I've completely mastered is work with couples. I.e. two people, often a married couple, who are having some kind of relationship issues. Like when they're about to get a divorce, but they decided to try this as a last straw kind of thing. And there's certainly no guarantee that it will make any difference. That's a bit unnerving to me, because in my work with individuals I'm pretty much certain that I can always help them, as long as they show up of their own free will and sit down in the chair in front of me. For couples I have no such certainty. OK, maybe half of the time it works, their marriage is saved, they cancel the divorce, etc. Another percentage of times, they become more clear on the whole thing, and more certain that they don't belong together. And a certain percentage of time, they're just so entrenched in an unsolvable situation that there's no visible result.

One of the key things that is often "wrong" with a relationship is that the parties don't know how to deal with the fact that they're different people, with different ways of experiencing the world, different priorities, different habits. To many people that comes as a complete surprise, after a couple of years of marriage.

A relationship is of course based on having something in common. If nothing else, the decision to hang out together and share a big part of ones lives together. But a large number of people think that it is about finding somebody who matches all your criteria. So, you make a list of what you want. She needs to be blonde and pretty, and neat, and like to go to the movies, and she must like sports, and she should want 2 kids and to live in the country, etc. The more detailed the lists are, if two people actually manage to find each other based on that, chances are their marriage would last about 3 years. At first they're in love and they can plan it perfectly together, and they're busy arranging things according to their now common list of how it perfectly should be. But after a while that has mostly been done. Your wedding was perfect, you've had your honeymoon in the designated manner, you have a home together, with the right kind of furniture, etc. But after a while we start getting down to the things you didn't think of, the areas where you actually don't agree on your preferences. Little things like the stereotypical toothpaste. Little things that after a while become bigger and bigger. You start irritating each other, arguing, fighting, avoiding each other's touchy subjects, etc.

At that point, either some lights go on and you learn what it is really about ... or you decide to go back to the drawing board. Your list simply wasn't good enough, and now you know to make it much longer, and include the toothbrush and toilet seat and a bunch of other things on the list. So, you split up, decide he/she just wasn't the right person, and you go look for somebody better. But, no, that probably won't get you any success in relationships. Just a string of unhappy ones.

The apparently well-kept secret is that the core of a good relationship is about what you do with the things that don't quite fit. Its about whether you have a process for actually dealing with each other. Not just an approach for deciding who wins, but rather an approach to how you can change together, and how you can love each other even when things aren't perfect. When you realize that you're two different people doing things differently, and there's a collision there of some kind, that's where there's opportunity for the relationship to grow, and for each of you to learn something.

Some people avoid having to do such work by dividing things up in advance, so that the parties remain separate per definition. You know, we each have our separate checkbooks, we take turns doing the laundry and deciding what's for dinner. We divide the week up between us so that we can go to our separate activities, and we only do those things together which we already agree on.

Either way, those are often ways of not facing the actual relationship. Either if we try to match everything up so we agree on everything, or if we try to separate everything out so we each can remain in charge of our separate domains. They're ways of avoiding the scary territory of working things out and growing together.

Some couples just need to realize that their differences aren't necessarily a problem, that they aren't necessarily opposed to each other - they're just different. Very common examples are found in how people organize their minds differently. Some people think about necessities before anything else - i.e. they think about what must be done, what job is at hand. Others think about possibilities first, like, all the many different routes that could be taken, creative new things one could do, etc. Two people who use two different primary programs might consider each other opposed to each other when they really aren't. The person who's focusing on the necessities will think that the possibilities person is a flakey airhead who's bouncing all over the walls, dreaming about unrealistic scenarios. And the possibilities person will think that the necessities person is boring, and stuck in a groove, and ignoring much better ways of doing things. .. But if those two realize that they're simply doing things differently, and that if they look closer, they might realize that they actually complement each other well, and they might find that they're something more together than when they're apart. They're a team, with more awareness and ability together than any one of them has separately.

Some people are primarily visual - everything is something they see in their mind, and if they can't SEE it, they don't understand it. Other people are primarily kinesthetic, and need to touch it and FEEL it. A kinesthetic person might look down, break eye contact, and go inside themselves in order to decide something. The visual person would insist on eye contact and would look around and draw diagrams in order to decide something. If they realize they're a team, they can make better decisions together. But if they don't, they might have very negative opinions about each other. "Why are you looking away!? What are you hiding?"

People who have been married for 20 years, and who have annoyed each other for all that time, might have completely missed something like that. 1/2 hour in a processing session might set that straight and they can suddenly communicate again.

A harder thing to fix is the thing about them being able to process the areas where they're at odds with each other. Because that's something they need to do together, by themselves, whenever it is necessary. So they kind of need to invent it together. They need some kind of space where it is ok for them to talk about what they feel and think about life and each other. A space of dialogue where they can suspend their judgements, look at things together, and end up somewhat transformed from the experience. Nobody says it has to be in any calm and serene way. For some people it involves yelling at each other. The main point is whether they end up somewhere new together or not. If they just have a fight and somebody wins, the relationship hasn't gotten anywhere. If they just have a fight, and both give up and forget about it, another opportunity for growth was missed. If they avoid the argument altogether and both continue to ignore it, the relationship suffers equally.

Relationships are about relating. That's a verb, not a noun. It is something you do, on an ongoing basis.


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17 comments

15 May 2002 @ 21:30 by shawa : Yep, that´s it
...Sounds like what is happening in here. Group relationships are like a couple´s, multiplied by a hundred, less the sex and all the goodies. :-)  


16 May 2002 @ 01:30 by magical_melody : MING - You married?
I have been thinking about many of the things you have written about. There are so many old rules and perspectives to bust in order to be in conscious relationship. With no map, we are making it all up as we go. Looking at what the differences are in each person, is important, and seeing how they can complement and enhance one another is essential, otherwise the old messages and assumptions seem to surface to push one to limit the possibilities and the spiritual flow. I often think that if two people really come into a couple relationship with a sacred attitude, and commitment to work on their own inner material, that the relationship has clarity and stamina to withstand the challenges. Building trust and an environment of safety seems essential. I think during a time of so much planetary transformation, many couples are challenged with healing their fears of abandonment and the shifting needs and perspectives that may come as each heal and transform themselves.

It takes courage to stay focused on being true to your path, and consistently discerning if you are called to be together at various junctures along the way. Fun and adventure definitely nourish the drive and strengthen the commitment for both, and doesn't everyone want magic? I also feel that many of the conscious relationships coming together at this time have more of a base of Purpose, and with that sense of shared mission, the relationship is equally fed as it does not stand alone AS the mission itself. Love, Alana  



16 May 2002 @ 03:26 by ming : Marriage
Yeah, I've been married for 21 years. We've had our ups and downs, but I think that probably what has made things always work out is the simple agreement we made with each other. We had all sorts of differences between us, and still do, and many things didn't particularly fit. But we had a certain recognition. Some light that went on, that told us it would work, even if we hadn't really looked at the details. We didn't make any agreement or expectations about how long it would last or how we were supposed to behave or not behave. The only thing we promised each other was that every day we would never go to sleep without having sorted out any disagreement between us. We promised each other to always be available for processing things, whenever it was necessary, and that we wouldn't let things stack up. So, no silly promises about being together forever, or about not looking at other women, or anything else that one really can't promise in advance. Just the agreement that as long as we're together we'll deal with anything going on between us as consciously and honestly as we can. My wife is still a bit of a mystery to me, and she hasn't quite figured me out either. But that is what keeps it interesting.  


16 May 2002 @ 04:30 by mmmark : The Differences
Wonderful observations Ming. I have a theory that any two people can work well together if that is their desire. On the other hand, any people who do not want to get along never will. We have poor models for relationships and the society really doesn’t teach anything about it in a formal setting, responsibly, so it really isn’t surprising that the divorce rate is running so high. Most problems appear to be a symptom of being closed off in a protective personal realm and bringing uncompromising expectation to every discussion.  


16 May 2002 @ 05:46 by swan : Conscious and honest is totally it.
I honor you and your wife for being able to love each other in this way. I was married, was not too conscious going into it and just thought I would life happily ever after. OOPS. Eleven years later I crawled out of there without a clue as to who I was. I have spent the last 17 years finding out. I have learned that if I am real, and honest and as conscious as I can be I can move through anything with another person. I am also a therapist and I have work with children who have the worst behaviors imaginable. Under all of their acting out they just want to be loved and accepted and when they can feel that from someone they blossom. We all want to be loved and accepted. Any of us born in the 1950 and beyond are on the cutting edge of creating new relationship models. Not the Ozzie and Harriet stuff but ones that are real and conscious and a place where we can find refuge, be it in intimate partnerships, friendships or in community. There are many stereotypes and media projections of what that should look like. It is easy to get caught in them. It is great to see all the evolving new relationships that I see around me that don't fit into stereotypes for the relationship that develops between any two people is unique to any other. Swan-hummingbird  


16 May 2002 @ 10:25 by martha : Marriage
"My wife is still a bit of a mystery to me, and she hasn't quite figured me out either. But that is what keeps it interesting." That says it all. I don't believe it is a sex difference as really just the difference between two souls. and this is where the spice of life dwells. In the differences and learning to honor them.  


16 May 2002 @ 10:57 by simpleman : SACRIFICES!!
Am I willing to make sacrifices for the good of the relationship? Basically, that is what I asked myself years ago, and still do. As far as relationships go I dont really know what causes the turmoil. It usually seems to be little, unimportant things rather than lifelong decisions. So, I ask myself, what is more important to me, this relationship or that unimportant thing that will make me feel good for perhaps 1 day, or a week, or just a short period of time. In the long run, making a sacrifice simply becomes the better decision. This is just one area of many when dealing with relationships. I feel the most important is the willingness to just sit down and talk and really listen to each other.  


16 May 2002 @ 14:58 by bushman : Counseling
Hey ming, do you talk with other counselors? I was wondering if you know a guy named Fred Merrs? Hes a family counselor in San Bernardino CA, think he moved north. Hmm, don,t see the word compromize, lol. Have you guys heard of the 60 40 method? Give 60 take 40, then theres room to grow. This also lends itself to those times when things don't go so well, you have the extra to give when it's needed. Can't give what you run out of. :}  


16 May 2002 @ 15:49 by ming : Compromises
No, don't know that guy. And on compromises, and sacrifices, hmm, I'm not sure I look at it that way at all. Yes, it is probably best to be more in a giving mode than a taking mode. But I think the objective is to accomplish something more than the zero sum of the parts. In other words, not whether you will give an inch or I will give an inch, but rather that we discover that the place we get to by intertwining our paths is more interesting than the paths either of us would have gotten to by ourselves. In my own marriage I can't think of anything important that I'm sacrificing or compromising on. Or maybe I've just been married too long that I've forgotten, heheh. OK, if we have one car and we both need it to go different places at the same time, something has to give. So there are many little things that I might let go. Like, the hope of being anywhere on time if I'm bringing the rest of my family. But on the important stuff, I don't particularly believe in compromises.  


16 May 2002 @ 19:27 by bushman : Assumed
I always thought that it was the small, seemingly insignificant stuff that creats the big stuff in the end. Kind of what happened to my mariage. We didn't solve the small stuff, that enevitably led to animosity and the thought of greener grass.  


17 May 2002 @ 01:22 by ming : Toxic Build-Up
Aside from the stuff I talked about above, yeah, I think it is the small unresolved things that build up and that are likely to cause a relationship to eventually become unbearable. If two people fall in love and get together, and they then 10 years later hate each other, that certainly isn't because they just sort of changed. More than anything I think it is the little unspoken things that add up. Not the little things we're aware of and sort of ok with. Rather, the things one can't quite talk about, because one is afraid of what the other person will think. Or the little transgressions, the little violations of one's contract, that one feels ashamed to mention, and then they gradually build up. Little pieces of dishonesty. Thoughts one is having that one doesn't know how to talk about. Problems one runs away from rather than working it out. And maybe just being unaware of most of that, not really noticing that things stack up, little by little.  


17 May 2002 @ 05:34 by tdeane : What Compromises, Simpleman? (chuckle)
I thought we had agreed that you are ALWAYS wrong!!!

Ming, there is a royal oak tree that grows right outside of our apartment that we have adopted into our family. It begins below the base of the Earth, becoming seemingly two separate trees on the surface. Each grows in different directions, with loads of beautiful long wavy branches characteristic of royal oaks. It even has what appears as male and female genitalia. Many of the branches intertwine, but the farthest branches never touch, yet always remain a part of the whole. This is our relationship -- two united, yet distinct beings -- we agree on many things, but we also agree on "Self." We respect that totally.

We don't diminish the motivation to solve problems by discussing problems outside of our relationship. This is not by agreement; this is simply how well we relate.

We also do not try to squeeze each other into a perfect partner model, but allow each other the freedom of our distinctions, and BASK IN THE DIFFERENCES. Gregg and I are both rebellious, so we don't make demands on or give ultimatums to each other, at least not serious ones. Jealousy is non-existent in our relationship. In short, our relationship is based on being "free to be me" together, and we are almost inseparable. Somehow not making demands and not having rules has strengthened, rather than weakened our relationship. We are the happiest couple we've ever known, and we've been together for almost twenty-two years without marrying (and hope for another 22 at least). We are each free to leave at any time. Somehow, I don't think that would have worked if we had imposed any limitations or rules on each other. Much love ~ Tricia  



18 May 2002 @ 00:52 by shawa : See what I meant ? :-)
Ming, were you talking about marriage ? For A LOT of people, they don´t know more about relationships than romantic ones and marriage. A group is a system, and functions somewhat differently. A VIRTUAL group is even more difficult to sustain. So - all in all, I would say that we are doing damn well! Don´t you think ? The "new" is what we are doing every day in these "corridors", as the Jazzman puts it - as a group, generally, non-defined, subjectively. Nothing, except the inner motivation of the need of the "new" in each one of us, is nourishing our interactions; we come in here, because we want to. Because, for some reason, a reason that is different for each one of us, we feel it is gratifying. I do think, dear companions on the Path of Planetary Healing, that we have a hunch, deep down, of what the "holy grail of interconnectedness" might be. But... silence. The story has to unfold. :-)
PS. Have been married three times! - double smiley :-) (-: (all very nice and civilized).  



18 May 2002 @ 02:21 by tdeane : Ah...
Shakti, what I was describing is our good relationship, which simply happens to include our partnership. Whether the romantic relationship will last a lifetime we don't try to predict, but the friendship is certain, and perhaps that is the missing link in marriages that don't work. For us, the friendship aspect of which I spoke is translatable on all levels with all people. We have no gender issues, since we see ourselves as part of the greater One, and our partnership is anything but traditional ~ we have never married. Our real life friendships operate much the same way, and we hope our relatively newfound virtual friendships will as well. The analogy of the tree is as much a description of mankind and womankind, and all living beings, as it is an individual relationship. Much love ~ Tricia  


18 May 2002 @ 05:43 by shawa : Hi, Tricia!
Yeah, I also have that kind of a current relationship, with a very Spanish Govinda (not on-line, however). So I can really hear what you´re saying. :-)  


18 May 2002 @ 15:38 by ming : Relating
Yeah, I think the principles of relating apply whether it is a marriage or in an online group of people like in NCN here. And I think we're doing pretty well here, considering we don't have money or sex or shared housing and fresh-cooked dinners to hold us together

As to marriages, I'm kind of tired of the very fixed concepts and assumptions a lot of people have about what it means and doesn't mean. For me it is along the lines that people share parts of their lives with each other as long as it is meaningful and practical and enjoyable, and that doesn't have to have any legal title or anything. And it is by whatever contract the participants choose to have. Doesn't matter if they're male of female or how many they are or whatever their agreement is. But no matter what it is, the relationship itself takes on a life of its own.  



23 May 2007 @ 12:49 by Miss BJFG @72.135.30.68 : Visual people
I just read your blog - first time ever. I have yet to read the rest of the string of comments but I have a question about "visual" people. My sister is a visual organizer. She must be able to see everything, therefore her home is a disaster. I believe she can arrange her house like a library. You can see every book but they are always neat and tidy. Any other ideas for helping visual organizers to actually organize and make life easier for those around them. Her mess drives her husband and kids insane because they are not so visual. Luckily my husband of nearly 20 years and I organize the same way. I'd appreciate any insight from you. Thanks! BJFG  


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