Tuesday, December 23, 2008

User-friendly Relationships

How are you at navigating the programs on your computer or for that matter the internet? Navigating relationships, just as the navigation of the programs on a laptop can seem difficult for some while others seem to ‘point and click’ effortlessly. What is the difference? Understanding the language required for desired responses is critical if one is to have an effortless relationship with the laptop or their chosen partner.

It can’t read your mind
Learning to use your computer with the appropriate inputs from the keyboard and mouse can be extremely frustrating. Often we assign names, personalities and poor character traits to our desktops. We speak to this electronic device as if it were some invention from the depths of hell sent to torment our souls. Our ‘inner child’ may believe we are being punished for our stupidity and ineptness. This inner child wishes the computer could read our wants and desires as did our early caretakers. All of this could be said about our significant relationships. Some navigate relationships as easily as some who “become one” with the laptop; and others have an emotionally charged relationship marked with conflict, frustration and reluctant tolerance.

Most everyone recognizes the power of our early programming. This programming affects our person and our behavior. Family of origin, birth order, historical events, tragic events, gender, and culture all play a powerful part in making us who we are today. Each one of us has had a unique personal programming. One way of describing this programming is related to personality types. Exploring these personality types can bring clarity and understanding and set the stage for learning new and effective ways to relate to our loved one that creates a ‘user friendly’ relationship.

I just disappear…
My wife, Pat and I, are living illustrations of these differences in programming. I find myself fascinated with ‘what makes things work’ and can spend hours in learning how to work with a piece of software, while Pat wants the software to do what she needs done when she wants it done – now! During a conversation between the two of us, an idea or question may arise that I want more information about. I disappear to the library or Google to find the answer rather than continue on in the conversation. This frustrates Pat.

In the process of building our house, I delighted in the structural design and construction with little interest in color, texture, ambience while Pat would wait until a room was completed before deciding on colors and textures to create the warm and comfortable home we experience everyday. These differences are both challenging and complementing.

She’s not my type!
A mother and daughter team developed an effective system to describe and understand the type difference in people. These two women, Myers and Briggs, developed a type indicator instrument, (MBTI) based on Carl Jung’s analytic psychology. True to type, I am fascinated with this kind to ‘systematizing’. While Pat doesn’t spend time reading the Jungian theories, she is a master in applying the knowledge described by the theories. Pat is the “woman that runs with the wolves” described by Jung’s student, Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Jung was the architect while Clarissa, was the interior decorator and articulated the characteristics of powerful women. I am fascinated by music theory and Pat brings the theory into existence with her beautiful voice. I love her voice and I love to hear her singing. She brings beauty to a structure that I can describe but struggle to implement.

The SJ and NT
David Keirsey has further refined the personality types of MyersBriggs into four temperament types. Pat seems to be predominately a type described by Keirsey as SJ (Sensory and Judgement), or Gold in other type descriptions. Martha Stewart shares this type with Pat. I fall solidly into the NT (Intuitive Thinker) type or Blue, sharing this architect typology with James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. This combination presents challenges and clear strengths in our relationship. As the NT, I am an endless source of frustration for my lovely SJ bride. My thoughts and actions leap to and fro while Pat’s SJ seeks to maintain routine and order. Pat values traditional ways of doing things. She will seek to quietly read the assembly instructions as I thrash about seeking to understand the “structure” of the system.

Knowing the language helps!
User friendly relationships are empowered with knowledge of the operating system of the other. A quote from Mother Teresa, Pat’s sister SJ, “"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier”, helps me better understand Pat’s operating system. The language recognized by her system is words and phrases that answer her “how” questions. For example, “How do the details fit together?” Or “How can I plan ahead?” and my most dreaded – “How can you guarantee that?” To keep our relationship ‘user friendly’, I must be conscious that Pat’s how questions may not be compatible with my operating system, but are essential for her sense of balance and harmony. I am in control of my communication; it’s not Pat’s task or the laptop’s job to make sense out of my intentions. My inputs must be recognizable and meaningful to have a ‘user friendly’ relationship.

Action Steps!

1. Get to know your type – if you need help, email me and I’ll be glad to help – no cost! russ@russhardesty.com
2. Seek to know your partner’s type – please don’t get into being a shrink and psychologizing – again I can give some assistance
3. Mindfully listen to your partner’s comments and language – this is a great way to learn their language.
4. Seek an opportunity to read and discuss this blog with your partner, calmly!
• Explore ways with your partner to improve your communication

Please comment on ways that you have applied this awareness to your relationship. It will be a gift for others. Russ

Check out Russ's materials at Your Ultimate Relationship

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Reader Comments

"...My spouse and I have been married for 32 years and I've experienced our relationship from giggly in bed, to passionate in bed, to mad in bed to "sleeping" in bed...As we grow older the intimacy definition changes for me. Intimacy also for me is just sitting quietly, or driving for miles quietly or walking just hearing our footsteps crunch the leaves, holding hands. My usual struggle in intimacy is in my head - I have to intentionally stop my daily to do list, my past and future stuff and live in the present moment..." Pam

it's ... smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion

“We have found that passion ebbs and flows but we set a goal for our relationship a number of years ago that is working for us. At least every six months we do something that will create a lifetime memory. For us, we love to travel, so it's been pretty easy to find something big to do that will create that lifetime memory, but sometimes it's the finding of smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion.” Steve Rae

What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?

“The "typical beliefs that people have when the “fire” seems to have gone out of a relationship" I believe are a) that you feel your partner should have changed or should not have changed and b) that you feel you should change or that you should not have changed.

Acceptance of yourself and your partner leads to forgiveness. What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?” Brian Massey

A word from Russ Hardesty

The realm of relationship is mysterious; filled with magic, surprise, excitement, passion, intimacy, loss, disappointment and creativity. I am fortunate to have a life partner who is at once a mirror, teacher, lover, nurturer, student and companion. In this place of mystery, I continue to grow into a mature, loving and free man. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and comments – which is a gift to me! Thanks for joining the expedition! Russ