Who Put the Free in Responsibility?

freenresp“We can be just as free as we are responsible.”
— Fred Rogers, The Cosmic Shed

These are not just words of wisdom to speak by, they are a practice to learn how to live by. The next step in learning the dance of Collabortive Relationships, we feature:

Accepting personal & social responsibility.

Blue spiralWe know the “blame game” all too well: “you did this… you did that…you started it.” We spiral down into a hole of tit-for-tat exchange. Truth be told—this is verbal abuse and this is how many are communicating through conflict with each other. We are hitting, smacking, kicking, and beating each other down with our words. This is why we feel so hurt when we walk away from arguments that are based on a reactionary social model. I call it verbal violence.

I remember when I realized my responsibility in participating in verbally abusive interactions, even if I didn’t intend to, or was unaware. I found myself in screaming matches with my partner at the time and one accusation led to another. All the while, I was a self-acclaimed peace activist. Something wasn’t adding up. If I wasn’t finding a way to resolve a conflict peacefully with someone so intimate, I couldn’t claim to be a peace advocate. I went searching for answers.

Non-Violent Communication (NVC) 000060840027_WEB-600x396developed by Marshall Rosenberg has shined the light on our socialized communication tactics that we (often unconsciously) use with each other. Culturally, through media, social norms, and relationship examples around us, we are constantly witnessing unhealthy communication styles rooted in reaction and violence. NVC was a wake up call to accepting my responsibility with how I interacted with my partner. It was hard to face the truth of how my intention (peacefulness) didn’t line up with my behavior (unhealthy communication). As an activist for peace, I was actually doing so much to help the “other side” so to speak—literally. I would be a phony if I didn’t pay tribute to Rosenberg’s NVC work and how it has contributed to my own education in unlearning a violent communication style (which is a constant work in progress).

In my own work, I found that the violence perpetuated by our cultural communication model exists due to the inability to accept personal responsibility i.e. the unwillingness to admit to a weakness, confront a truth, or apologize for one’s actions. I have found that when people accept personal responsibility, it

»  removes the roles of a villain vs. victim dynamic.
»  allows us to be truly honest with ourselves and speak from that place.
»  builds trustworthiness and integrity.
»  strengthens our vulnerability muscle.
»  engages conscious participation in the creation of our lives.
»  opens the doors to thinking about creative solutions, rather than re-living destructive problems.
»  invites people to be accountable in the creation of a situation or conflict.
»  creates openness to hear, respect, and understand one another.
»  engages learning how to navigate healthy conflict.
»  creates a feeling of deeper connection and being known unto each other.

1496_2574When we admit to our personal responsibility in interactions and find resolve by doing so, we are taken out of the confines and cages that blame, dishonesty, verbal violence, assumption, and unconsciousness create. We stand strong in owning-up to who we are with grace. We speak our personal truths. We claim our self-respect. We expand our ability to understand. But most importantly, we open-up and we let each other in. Responsibility is part of how we find the freedom to love and be loved as we truly are.

The Mating Dance

You’re both elated and can’t stop thinking about each other. You want to spend all your time together. Congratulations, you have just entered the Honeymoon phase. Welcome to the easiest part of your relationship.

IMG_2245-copy1In the beginning, there’s an explosion. Fireworks spark between you and another. Life suddenly makes sense. It feels like you finally know why you are here. Everything you ever did, every decision, every person you met led you here, to meet this amazing person. You find out that you’re not alone in your feelings and they feel the same way. You’re both elated and can’t stop thinking about each other. You want to spend all your time together. Congratulations, you have just entered the Honeymoon phase. Welcome to the easiest part of your relationship.

Fireworks may not have exploded for all of us when we met our significant others. It doesn’t matter. Relationships have ever evolving phases & dynamics. The first phase is the Honeymoon. We know it well. We put our best foot forward and show our best sides. It’s a phase that has no timeline. If it did, we might try to prevent the end at all costs. When this seemingly blissful, romantic phase comes to a close, there is only one thing knocking at the door to greet us—reality—at its finest.

lookat1This is when a certain level of comfort sets in and we are no longer performing at our highest, best, and ideal self. We find ourselves right back in the middle of our journey in becoming. What happened? We look to our partners. The things that used to be cute and endearing are now somewhat annoying. Who they seemed to be in the beginning, they aren’t living up to anymore. We’re feeling somewhat duped. What changed?

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“Is it me? Is it my partner? Are we compatible?”
—The questions arise.

 

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“He used to be so affectionate.”
“She used to just come along, even when it wasn’t her thing.”
“They never want to go out anymore.”
—Ahhh, remembering when.

 

 

13788-couple-talking-bed-white-argument-wide.1200w.tn“You’ve changed.”
“You’re different.”
“You’re not who I thought you were.

—The blaming begins.

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“Why can’t things go back to the way they were?”
—We’re holding on to a time when things were “perfect.”

 

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“How did we get here?”
—We wonder…

 

 

Well, I’ll tell you just how we got here. I call it, the Mating Dance. Let’s go back, shall we?
In the beginning is when…

» we put our ideal self forward.
» first impressions are formed.
» the first dynamic of the relationship is created.

974b532d2811cf7e4a698536a91c22f8The Mating Dance is the first dynamic. It’s the courting performance every animal does to entice a mate. Humans are no different. Whether aware of it or not, our euphoria kicks in and we try to show up as attractive as possible to our person of interest. It’s basic biology. In this state, it’s not that hard being our ideal self either. It feels easy in fact. However, seeing this ideal self initially makes an expectation that is hard to let go of once reality knocks. This mating ritual is often the only part of romance that is portrayed in most movie plots and unfortunately, these are the examples we learn from. Which means, the basis of our relationship knowledge stems from a simple snapshot, usually fictional. Couples lose sight of the reality of relationships as a whole.

torrey-pines-engagement-13When reality knocks, let’s get realistic about the Mating Dance too. This dynamic happens between two people who don’t know each other very well. They show off their ideal selves based solely on themselves as individuals. They meet as distinct I‘s or Me‘s. When the Mating Dance dynamic wears off, bringing the Honeymoon phase to a close, the next natural phase of romance awaits. The ecstatic euphoria has calmed down. We feel free to let go, relax, and get real. Congratulations, we’re now comfortable enough, and some needed trust has been built. Remember, this is only the beginning. There is much to come. A new chapter lies ahead, and when we are aware of it and willing, it involves a distinct We. I call this Coupledom.

Next week’s article will feature Coupledom and its dynamics.