In this second part of my conversation with Dr. Gaines, we talk about romantic relationships and what he’s found are the differences and similarities around the world. We also discuss what makes relationships more challenging and how we can show up in a way that is generous and open-hearted to help make our relationships successful, especially romantic relationships. Listen to part 1 here.
We recorded this episode on May 23, 2022.
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What we’re offering, if the other person were offering that to us, would we think that was enough?Tweet
Timeline of the Chat
[01:00] The Self in relationships
[04:22] Identifying personality
[06:37] Forming relationships
[09:59] DWe’re more alike than different in relationships
[11:18] Impact of reality TV on relationships
[14:03] How about Good Enough
[16:51] Interdependence theory
[18:24] What influences commitment
[19:42] Attachment theory
[22:00] How attachment theory and Interdependce theory predict the ways that we show up in relationships
[23:49] We all need relationships
[26:44] Inter-ethnic Relationships
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Transcript of the Episode
[01:00] The Self in relationships
[01:00] Damianne President: So I’m fascinated about the idea of self and a few months back, I read some information about what the idea of self means, and that it’s often negotiated from relationships and in community. And you seem to have also written on the idea of self.
[01:19] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: Um,
[01:19] Damianne President: Could you talk to me about this concept of self and how it relates to relationships?
[01:24] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: Sure. I mean, if we think of the self in general, it’s basically an individual’s sense that he or she is separate from yet interconnected to the rest of his or her physical and social environment. So that’s true in general. Some people write about a relational self, so what aspect of us are most salient within the context of one type of relationship versus another type of relationship?
Now, some social psychologists argue, well, there’s no one self there as many selves as there were relationships. I view it a bit differently. There is something to us that we take from situation to situation that we’re unable to change at all, but at any given moment in time, if we have to sort of take a snapshot of the individual, there’s something about that person. And in principle, that person aught to be able to reflect on that being separate from yet interconnected to other people, to humanity, but certainly connected to significant others.
So yes, self is important in general And self as played out, as you say, negotiated, even formed, changed, in relationships is key. So I think on the one hand, we, as partners, often want to have some sense that the person we’re dealing with has some consistency, at least in dealing with us across time. But by the same token, we might encourage that other person to evolve, mature in different ways, just like that other person might challenge us in different ways.
So on the one hand, ideally there is a self that’s relatively stable yet kind of open to change; that might be kind of the best of both worlds.
[03:15] Damianne President: Yeah. And, and you’re write also about values, attitudes, motives, emotions, and all of those are different elements, I imagine as well, that may change to different degrees. So for example, while values might be a bit more constant, emotions are much more variable.
[03:34] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: Exactly. When I write about personality, I cast a broad net and like you’re saying, there are the more stable aspects, like so-called traits, motives, values. Attitudes may be not quite as stable as what I just mentioned, traits, motives, values, but may be more stable than moods or emotions. So I consider all of that part of personality, really, individual differences in qualities that are outside the domain of so-called intelligence or presumed cognitive ability. So much of that other stuff gets lumped under personality. All of it, personality, intelligence, and more can be grouped together into this big idea that we call the self. At least that’s what I would argue.
[04:22] Identifying personality
[04:22] Damianne President: To what degree can we tell people’s personalities when we first meet them and how do we get to know people’s personalities over time?
[04:31] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: Yeah, there is the whole issue of first impressions, huh? So there’s one issue sort of the person within, and then there’s the other part, the person projected to other people which may or may not be one of the same. It may be that, you know, a first encounter, maybe doesn’t reveal all that much, depending on what we see is kind of the purpose for the interaction.
If I go to the bank and ask for a withdrawal, I won’t be especially concerned about the impressions that I make on that person, that person makes on me. I just want in that transaction maybe quickly, maybe with a smile, maybe not with a scowl on either side. That’s all that I expect of that encounter.
And it may be that if I keep going back to that bank, I keep encountering that same person, maybe we form what’s called a social relationship, where it’s not especially high end emotional intimacy, but maybe there’s some familiarity. Now it’s a whole other matter if we’re talking about what’s called a personal or close relationship, where some degree of emotional intimacy is involved or may be anticipated. Then, it matters very much on both sides what impression am I making? What impression is the person making on me? And we’re often on our best behavior in those settings. It’s like, you know, a job interview is something you’re like, hmm, okay, they’re judging me; I want to put my best foot forward. And it’s maybe not that easy to get much of an accurate picture of what a person is really like based on an initial meeting. So probably some series of interactions take place. And gradually, as people begin to feel more comfortable and start to reveal more aspects of themselves, then you start to have more of a genuine basis, I think for some type of close relationship if that’s what one or both people are seeking. It may not be what they’re seeking, but if it is, I would suggest gradually kind of peeling back the layers of each other personality-wise over time.
[06:37] Forming relationships
[06:37] Damianne President: When we listen to interviews with so-called experts on dating or experts on friendship, there are all of these figures in terms of how long it takes to form a close relationship, whether that’d be a friendship or some people say you have to be dating at least one year before you even think about marriage and that kind of thing.
What do we know about how long it takes or how we get to know people’s personalities? I imagine it depends on the kind of activity that you’re engaged in to a large extent.
[07:09] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: I think that’s right. Maybe that if two people keep running into each other over and over again, you know, over days, weeks, months, there’s some routine and there’s some familiarity built in. I don’t know of a particular timetable as such. I think you’re right that really what people are seeking out of the interaction matters.
So I would think if two people do want, let’s say to establish a, let’s say a friendship for the moment, well probably they’re going to seek out different activities that hopefully both of them will enjoy, or maybe one of them knows more about, and one teaches the other one and maybe the other one is open enough, curious enough to say, Okay well, I’ll try that out. So I think once people get into those interactions and kind of keep talking, keep learning more about each other, and kind of reflecting on, well, how are things going, that sort of thing.
You’ve heard about love at first sight. That’s one thing, that sudden rush of emotions and stuff. But building off that will take time. One shouldn’t be surprised if it takes several meetings and maybe in different contexts, so people can get to see more and more aspects of each other. I mean not that we’re talking about marriage as such, but you hear things like, oh, how are they with kids, you know, that sort of thing. So you can imagine, depending on the stakes of the relationship, I don’t want to make it sound too calculating, but it’s like you’re almost sampling. You’re getting to know bits and pieces of the other person, just like the other person’s getting to know you or me. And that likely will take a while.
Maybe not rushing it, letting it kind of unfold in its own time would be a good idea, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that were to take some, you know, days, weeks, months. And if we’re talking about the highest stakes, it could take years.
[09:14] Damianne President: One of the things I noticed in terms of looking at some of the research you have done is that there are differences sometimes in relationship beliefs from country to country. And so I guess we could kind of see patterns amongst countries, but there’s also differences amongst people. So for example, some people believe in love at first sight. And I think that’s kind of a mindset to some extent or even a determination of what do you consider to be love? Is it that rush that you talk about or are there other elements to it as well? And I’m curious as you’ve explored different countries and different people, what have you found about some of the differences in those beliefs around close relationship?
[09:59] We’re more alike than different in relationships
[09:59] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: Honestly, what’s struck me in terms of my main research has been a lot of the similarities actually in terms of not only what makes relationships tick, but what sorts of expectations people have out of those relationships. The more we oriented people are, the more they tried working things out when their partners were angry or critical, maybe in seemingly unfair ways.
So that’s been the interesting part, seeing the dynamics of the relationship, what makes the relationship tick and keep going. There’s a lot of similarity across different parts of the world but how we tap into those concepts, like cultural values, these organized sets of beliefs that get communicated to us. But may be like you were saying, we, as individuals may differ; we don’t always buy into the same values to the same extent, even in the same country.
So, that to me has been in a way surprising given how a lot of the literature talks about like individualism versus collectivism, like it’s either or, entire countries are this way or the other.
[11:07] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: What I found is number one, it’s like, you’re saying a lot of differences among individuals. And number two, the similarities are striking once you take into account the methodology aspect.
[11:18] Impact of reality TV on relationships
[11:18] Damianne President: And it’s very interesting now, too, with all of the, I guess I don’t know how much credance to give this, but all of the reality TV things that happen around relationships as well. So let’s see like is love blind or how much do people need to talk and explore values? Do people have to live together before they get married, all of those interesting questions that society seems to be grappling with to some extent as well.
[11:44] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: Absolutely. Absolutely. At a time when it seems that we expect more of our relationships than say previous generations did in various parts of the world; that’s pretty well-documented in so-called Western countries, but increasingly in countries that wouldn’t call themselves Western as well. So as the stakes go up, for example, marriage, well it’s about you know, creating that home, maybe starting a family or maybe not and stuff like that. But we place demands and our partners place demands on relationship that maybe, you know, 50 years ago weren’t getting placed on relationships to the same extent, like mutual respect, mutual, genuine love.
So we have those expectations. Plus in many parts of the world, it’s a lot easier to get out of marriages than it was decades ago. So yes, lots of societal change around the world. We’re demanding more of relationships, expecting more. The way that I think about it is if we, kind of generally, could think a little more in terms of what am I bringing to the relationship? What am I doing to make it work, as opposed to just approaching it as sort of a tick box what is my partner doing for me? What does my partner bring to the table? I think that could be like a useful starting point, trying to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.
What we’re offering, if the other person were offering that to us, would we think that was enough? Like lack of commitment. I’m just making up one. So you’re right. Lots of demands that in previous eras just weren’t an issue, maybe should have been an issue but weren’t for a whole host of reasons.
So-called reality shows could be selling us a bit short. There’s this image that there’s that right person out there; you just gotta look hard enough and present yourself well enough. Well, your life doesn’t really work like that. And it may be that there’s not one particular person. There may be lots of quite suitable partners, but if we can work on us, at least as much as we hope to, you know, work on drawing out the best of other people.
[14:03] How about Mr. Good Enough
[14:03] Damianne President: There is this concept, I don’t know if it’s layman’s term or if it’s psychology, but they talk about maximizers and satisfizers. And I’ve been thinking about this and wondering about this, because what if the mindset was around this could work, like this is, I don’t know, fine gets a bad rap, but this is fine, like, this is good enough. There aren’t any romantic comedies around let’s find Mr. Good enough. It’s let’s find Mr. Right.
[14:39] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: uh,
[14:43] Damianne President: And so there, it’s really not part of our culture, of our society, of our approach to relationships to find a match rather than the right match or the best match, all of those words that make it really complicated to know when to stop looking.
[15:04] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: This idea, this romantic idea. I mean, I pick up the U S since I’m from the US so I can get away with it, what Hollywood markets as kind of your standard, like romcom, that sort of thing. Even if we take the unreality of the modern scenarios out of the picture, there is exactly that point that you’re making, because they really are about there’s that special someone, there’s that special soulmate, you’ve just gotta be open. Whereas it may well be that there are any number of people who would be great relationship partners that we might be overlooking because we’ve got these, you hear things like, oh, but I’ve got my standards.
I don’t want to intrude on anybody’s standards, but it’s just, well, we want to be aware of the kind of relationship that we might be entering into, but if we’re judging people, for example, solely on external characteristics and maybe not taking the time to get to know the other person. It may be that we actually know various people in our lives relatively well, but we’re somehow holding out for what we think is like the best catch. It may be that people spend their lives doing that. This is like the total worst case scenario, right. I’m holding out, holding out and never developing a close bond with anyone, at least to that person’s liking, because, oh, well so-and-so was never good enough.
Well, but all of us, we’re human. We’re going to have our flaws and we often don’t take that same mindset into relationships, thinking about us as opposed to what we think about the other person. It’s about, like you say, what can we get out of this relationship? What’s in it for us? There is maybe for a fair number of people that kind of calculating aspect.
[16:51] Interdependence theory
[16:51] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: And one of the cool things like the work, I mentioned on accommodation was it comes out of a whole tradition called interdependence theory. It’s about how two people affect each other’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We started off as a very much exchange based theory of like if I give so much to that, I rightfully expect to get this much in return. There’s a calculating aspect. And maybe a challenge is for people to sometimes get past that tendency to try to work out what’s in it for me right now because it may get in the way of seeing, well, what could be a good thing over the long term once we get over this difficulty, whether it’s financial circumstances or whatever that’s preventing us, making us hold back.
[17:33] Damianne President: I know that you go both into attachment theory and interdependence theory. I’ve had an episode before on attachment theory that listeners can listen to but interdependence theory is a bit newer to me. Can you speak a little bit more about that in relation to close relationships?
[17:52] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: So interdependence theory is all about to what extent are people affecting each other in ways that promote a relationship or maybe undermine a relationship. Like if people are being very selfish, very I orientated, it wouldn’t be surprising if they say they do things, that even if they don’t intend it, can kind of wear down the relationship, the resolve of the other person. That in a nutshell is what interdependence theory is about.
[18:24] What influences commitment
[18:24] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: Now, there’s a key part of it that looks at influences on commitment, and that’s really our decision to stick with a relationship over the long term. For what it’s worth, this is what the theory argues, that the more people experience goodies rewards, the more likely they are to commit. The more often they receive like penalties, costs, the less likely they are to commit. But there’s more to commitment than just how satisfied are people.
Interdependence theorists admit there’s more to it than that to a person committing and then staying in a relationship. Part of it is also there is that looking around, that calculating do I think I can do better? Is this the best that I can do given the circumstances? And the more alternatives we see to relationship, which could be actually just being on our own or being with somebody else, the more we see those other options, the less committed we tend to be.
And then, finally, there’s kind of how much we put into the relationship, what’s called investments, time, money, emotions, anything that’s hard to pull back once we’ve made that offer, basically. For example, for married couples, what about the house we’ve bought together, what about the children we’ve raised together, all sorts of things.
[19:42] Attachment theory
[19:42] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: Attachment theory has its critics. But I must say, over and over again, I find the more securely attached people are, the more willing they are to trust partners in general, the more often they’ll try to work things out with their current relationship partner.
The more distrustfull people are for whatever reason, the less they’ll try to work things out, the more they’ll do things, say things that undermine the relationship.
So for me, independence theory itself is interesting, but it’s not the whole story. Just like attachment theory by itself is interesting, but not the whole story. One’s more about personality. One’s more about social behavior.One can inform the other, doesn’t have to be either or.
[20:19] Damianne President: I guess some people have an escape hatch, whereas other people do not. And if you have an escape hatch, you’re more likely to use it, because you’ve created it exactly for that purpose.
[20:30] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: Yeah. that’s a really good point. And sometimes we’ll go into that relationship with that escape clause that maybe they’re not shared with the other partner, but they kind of have it in mind. And that’s part of where that alternatives aspect of the whole investment model comes in. So people might be always sizing things up, and it might be not to be with somebody else, but rather to be on one’s own, you know, so just not being in that relationship anymore.
It may be that some relationship ought to be ended. The extreme is if someone’s getting abused by a partner. Hopefully they’ll be supported in getting out safely. But if it’s a matter of it being a non abusive relationship and it’s kind of all what’s in it for me, that’s a different story, but I don’t mean to be judgemental. It’s just, that’s a different set of circumstances for people to be looking for an escape clause, you know, maybe a little more to the relationship and what’s positive about it for both people. And by the way, we as individuals have our own thoughts that we play out in relationships.
So maybe giving our partners a little bit of a break, not assuming the worst about them and maybe taking a little bit more critical view of ourselves, maybe that more balanced way of thinking about the self and other could benefit if the goal is to remain in the relationship. If that’s not the goal, then maybe being upfront about that would save some time and aggravation, but who am I to judge?
[22:00] How attachment theory and Interdependence theory predict the ways that we show up in relationships
[22:00] Damianne President: Well an escape clause, and especially for people who are less securely attached is I’m quite happy by myself. That has been my escape clause to myself in some circumstances. So, yeah, I think that the whole idea of interdependence theory and attachment theory and seeing how those play out in how we show up is interesting, not just on a theoretical level, but what does it actually mean for the way that we show up in relationships?
[22:30] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: That’s a good point. I mean, if I think about myself over the years, I’ve been all over the map on the different attachment styles. If we think about who’s like insecure, what are the reasons for insecurity. One supposedly is what’s called anxious ambivalence, like I want to be involved, but I’m worried that the other person won’t love me as much as I love that other person. Hence, I distrust the other person.
There’s another type that’s called avoidant. I want to be in a relationship, but I’m worried that my partner will ask more of me than I feel I can give. There’s a sub variant on that one called dismissive avoidant, which maybe characterizes me a lot of the time. I don’t know. Disclosure alert. I’m a divorced dad. I have a 17 year old son. The way I think about life has changed fundamentally since my young one’s come into the world. So now I think of myself as dad basically.
But in terms of romantic relationships, there’s this dismissing avoidant type that basically says, well, I don’t need relationships. I got my job. I got my hobbies, got my education, I’ve got whatever. I can think of lots of times in my life and maybe right now, but lots of times in my life where that’s been kind of my thinking. So I know what you mean that too kind of undermines relationships. And it’s considered insecure because it’s not admitting all of us need that bond with other people.
[23:49] We all need relationships
[23:49] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: Now we may find different relationships fulfill that need in different ways, whether it’s romantic or family or friends or whatever, but all of us as humans basically, well, nearly all of us have that built in need. I mean, we are an extremely social species as the events of the pandemic made very clear.
It’s really stressful to us when we don’t have that bond reaffirmed. And it it’s important when we can get it reaffirmed. So yeah, I’m with you.
So what looks like to the kind of untrained eye as, oh that person’s just confident. It may be behind that confidence, it’s that, you know, do I have what it takes to make it in relationship?
And if I don’t even want to admit that and instead immerse, it’s not judging anybody but me at the moment, so I make up like a trivial mini example. It’s like, I’ve got my music. I love music is like the story of my life. I could spend the whole day just listening to music, but I can’t really because I gotta like pay mortgage and do all sorts of stuff, raise a son.
But there are lots of things I can do with my time that kind of divert me from even seriously considering relationships. And it may be that a lot of people are in that situation, maybe not for bad reasons, but the effect is that it’s distancing. It’s not acknowledging the need within us that all of us have basically.
Anyway, how do I keep going on these tangents when you ask such straightforward questions? It’s just fun stuff to talk about, I guess
[25:27] Damianne President: Well, your passion is coming through about the topic.
[25:32] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: I hope if nothing else, I hope that comes through, it’s an endlessly fascinating topic for me.
[25:37] Damianne President: So one of the areas that has become more of interest in the recent past is inter-ethnic relationship. And so inter-ethnic relationship is between ethnic groups, as opposed to within an ethnic group for listeners who may not be familiar with the term. So we use inter-ethnic for between groups and intra for within a group.
You’ve already shared earlier that in your research, regardless of who you’re focusing on, you’ll find the same things in terms of what makes relationships more successful versus less successful.
[26:15] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: That’s right. In terms of like the one-on-one dynamics, there’s a lot of similarity. I think where there is difference is a lot of the outside pressures that people bring to bear and it can be stuff like strangers or even acquaintances, you know, yelling ethnic slurs or being violent or stuff like that. But it may not be such dramatic stuff. It could be friends or even family members being more standoffish or concerns about, well, what if my boss at work finds out?
[26:44] Inter-ethnic Relationships
[26:44] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: When we did the study of inter-ethnic relationships, we had some open-ended questions, like have people experienced difficulty. One of my colleagues was especially interested in sort of organizational psychology and we had an opening question, like to what extent have you shared your relationship with your coworkers or your boss? This was in the 1990s; it was a while back. But they were saying stuff like, I don’t dare say a word because if my boss found out I’d be sacked. Has nothing to do with job performance. It’s about that person’s stereotyping, that person’s prejudice, that person’s discrimination, that outside person; those are real influences. They can undermine potentially even the best of efforts within the relationship.
So I think what makes inter-ethnic relationships unique is quite often people feel like it’s okay and almost like it’s their right to weigh in on somebody else’s relationship. It could be an abstract way, like how they answer surveys about are you opposed to this sort of marriage or whatever, but it may be more concrete in your face ways, physically or psychologically abusing other people. So those are real difficulties that a lot of interethnic couples face that help to explain why the divorce rate tends to be quite a bit higher for inter ethnic versus intraethnic.
So I guess maybe the more kind of full way that I should think about it is there’s a lot of common ground across intra and inter-ethnic relationships, but there are some unique difficulties I think that inter ethnic couples face that if those same things had happened to intra-ethnic couples, we’d be seeing comparable divorce rates and break up rates because like people not letting enough alone.
Can I just share one tidbit with you?
I remember this was years ago when I was in the states, I remember being at a restaurant New Year’s Eve with my then fiance and I’m from Texas for what it’s worth. And this elderly gentlemen, I’m elderly now, but back then I wasn’t. This older gentleman comes up and he starts quizzing cause my then fiance was Latina, Hispanic. And he seemed to take interest in us, started asking us questions like, oh, you know, it looks like you two are out for New Year’s Eve. How are you doing? Can you tell me a little bit about yourselves? We’re just like answering his questions, like, wow, he’s paying attention to us, how nice. But then he goes, no, but what I don’t understand is how could you two be a couple, because you, pointing to me, have dark skin and kinky hair. Now at that point I think my then fiance went to talk to the manager or something because now this guy and I started to have more of a heated conversation. The gentlemen was asked to leave the area of was kicked out of the restaurant, but it’s just one of those, what they call it microaggressions. It’s like most couples wouldn’t even have to deal with that issue.
When I’ve been involved intra ethnically, intra racially, that’s been a non-issue. I can’t think of anything comparable happening. Over the years I’ve been involved inter and intra ethically. It’s with the inter ethnic racialships that those sorts of outside factors have come intruding. So I say that sort of, so if it’s standard and it’s an anecdote, it’s called a Stanek dote. I made that up at some point, but, but it’s, so it’s the kind of flesh out in a kind of concrete way what a lot of individuals were reporting to us anonymously, of course, that is part of their lived reality. And it’s not like this stuff stopped happening. The intermarriage rate is going up in various parts of the world, but that doesn’t mean that the backlash is going down necessarily. It may be that some of the more overt, you know, racism or whatever ism is going on, maybe it’s not as overt or quite often a lot of the more covert stuff is there.
[30:51] Damianne President: Yeah, it’s interesting. Cause as you were talking, I was thinking, well, has it gotten better? We can see the movements towards the right kind of in popularity in countries, all over the world in Europe and well in the U S, we saw what happened of elections.
so I was thinking it is better. Now, I’m not at all sure. I just get back from Belgium, where I saw a lot of interracial couples, mixed children and that kind of thing. And I stopped in a few cafes and stuff where people were very friendly and very welcoming. And thought, oh, I wonder if people are just more open-minded and more welcoming of all sorts of people here compared to elsewhere. I was there for a whole week, so I really cannot make any generalizations. But yeah, I was curious if it’s getting better, but it doesn’t really sound like we’re quite where we could be yet.
[31:49] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: I agree totally. I think if there’s any good news to be had it’s that younger generations tend to be more open-minded in the attitudes they express and in terms of their behavior, words, their deeds. And in fact, they’re the ones who’ve been driving more of this upward, like if you look at the U S about 15% of married couples are inter-ethnic. Now you might think, well, what about the other 85%? But compared to say, you know, the 1960s or seventies where you wouldn’t have even had 5%, to go from that sixties and seventies to like the 21st century so far,15%, that’s a major increase in the proportion. And it’s largely young people who are driving that. Not completely, but disproportionately younger couples who driving that shift. So that’s maybe one source of hope.
[32:45] Damianne President: Yeah. And I guess in some ways we could say that it is generally better because it’s not illegal as it used to be in the sixties.
[32:54] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: That’s right. That’s right. You know, there’s one us state, I think it was Alabama. I don’t want to misquote who had an anti so-called race mixing law on the books until 2000.
But it took that long for a majority of the population that they had the special vote to take it out of the state constitution. They couldn’t enforce it, right? It’s a lot of, you know, ingrained call it what it is, racism that was slow to die down.
[33:26] Damianne President: We’re winding down. So I would like us to end with maybe some invitation for listeners. And so if people in a relationship, whatever relationship they’re in, so maybe this is a dating or romantic relationship, but if not, maybe this is a close friendship. What’s a relationship maintaining behavior that they could be doing over the next week or two.
[33:50] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: Yeah, I think it may feel natural if somebody who’s close to us is critical toward us, is angry toward us. And we feel like they’re being unfair. Maybe the gut response is well, if they’re going to treat me this way, I’m going to treat them that way and so there. Understandable and at that moment it might feel like the right thing to do for the individual. Maybe stepping back a little bit, if the relationship is worth maintaining and maybe it isn’t, but if it is, stepping back and maybe before retaliating, basically stepping back a bit to ask, well, is this really what I want our relationship to come to? Is this how I want it to end and do I want it to in right now? If the answer’s yes, then hey, if a retaliation is what you need to do then fine. But if the answer is no, I actually want to keep this relationship intact, stepping back, trying the best that one can to get the partner to talk through.
Wow, what’s what’s going on, you know, with you? Can we talk about this? And that simple step of not retaliating, kind of dialing down the tension can be enough in many instances to keep relationships going strong. And where it gets slightly more controversial is if that fails, what do you do next?
My mentor Carrol Russell would say, well, don’t say anything. Just hope the partner comes down on his or her own; that’s a,tougher sell, and it’s not the ideal way that one can handle it. But it may be the best of a bad situation.
So if we can practice a bit more of that ourselves, and like we’re saying about demanding things not only of our partners but ourselves as well, that would be maybe the best bit of advice I can give.
And the other thing would be even if a partner is behaving unfairly, maybe rather than believe the worst about why they’re behaving that way like that’s just who they are, well maybe it’s what’s going on in their lives that maybe they could do with some talking through. Because maybe that’s really what’s going on; they’re just taking out this frustration on us. So that would be the one other thing, to try to hold back from judging the other person right then, and trying to work out well, what situation brought on this behavior. Was it really, you know, not me and was it something else that happened at work or with, you know, mates or whatever?
So those would be a couple of little bits of advice that I know the research is there.
[36:19] Damianne President: Yeah. And as you said, not necessarily something that’s easy. It involves us letting go of our ego to a large but.
[36:27] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: got that?
[36:29] Damianne President: Yeah, but I’ve definitely seen that be helpful in all sorts of situations if you could deescalate the tension. And if you could show up with compassion, with love, with whatever positive emotions you can bring to bear in that moment tends to really help.
[36:44] Stanley O. Gaines Jr.: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more.
There’s more to commitment than just how satisfied are people.Tweet
So what looks like to the kind of untrained eye as, oh that person’s just confident. It may be behind that confidence, it’s that, you know, do I have what it takes to make it in relationship?Tweet