“The Calculus of Relationships”


Relationships can make your life feel like heaven and a relationship can make your life hell. You cannot avoid relationships and how happy you are in your relationships, impacts your family life, your career, even your health. Relationship skills are not considered important learning for life and mostly left up to default learning from your family growing up. The result? Yeah, you’re living it.

In college, I found calculus to be very confusing until I realized the correct answer would only be obtained when I solved more than one factor. Once I learned calculus was not a linear process, solving calculus equations become a challenge I knew I could solve. Solving relationships problems is a lot like calculus-there’s always more than one dynamic to solving the problem.

Here’s an example of what I mean by the calculus of relationships. You know those fights you have with people where what you are fighting about isn’t really what you are fighting about? Yeah, on the face of it, you’re arguing about whose turn it is to take the dog out. When really what you’re arguing about is how you’re mad at him for going out with his friends instead of you last weekend and he’s mad at you for paying more attention to your friends than him. Grrr.

So what to do when you’re in relationship trouble?

1. Control does not equal strength nor power when it comes to relationships. A common mistake in relationships, this one will get you in trouble every time. Control in relationship presumes power over another person and no relationship will last nor be happy without mutual respect and sharing of power. Control takes many forms-from controlling the information you share with your spouse to controlling what your child is allowed to make choices about. Relationships need trust, respect, and courage to flourish or they become prisons the person being controlled will make a break from.

2. Change your channel from complaining to creating what you want. Complaining may make you feel good, even powerful at the time, and can become a bad habit you indulge in. Complaining has the additional bonus of making it seem as though you are doing something, but in truth, you are keeping safe on the sidelines instead of taking action for making things better. Instead of complaining about how the romance has gone out of your relationship, make it your personal mission to make date night romantic again. It takes just as much effort to be miserable as it does to be happy!

3. Speak up! The power of small is in voicing what matters to you. By this time in your life, you’ve most likely been told to speak up, that others cannot read your mind. Yet I bet there are still times you hold back from sharing with your best friend or your spouse when they’ve hurt your feelings, or speaking up about where you’d rather go to dinner. You tell yourself it’s not a big deal, stay silent and then find yourself in a funk or being a bit bitchy. Yeah. When you don’t speak up for yourself or what matters to you, your relationship with those near and dear to you will suffer as will your self-respect. That voice within you telling you to stay quiet is not your friend!

4. While it’s true it takes 2 to make a relationship heaven or hell, playing chicken with who “should” make things better, who should change, is a dangerous game. Relationships may initiate through chemistry, but what keeps a relationship happy and healthy is maintaining trust, respect, and empathy with each other. If you find yourself distrusting, disrespecting, or not caring for the other person, action is needed for tending the relationship before lasting damage is done. All healthy long-term relationships-be they personal or professional-go through cycles of change and renewal. To expect a person or relationship not to change is to not only invite unhappiness, it invites the death of the relationship.

Look for my next article on relationship ghosts. If you find yourself in an unhappy relationship, don’t despair nor cast aspirations on yourself or the other person. Not unlike realizing your body is unhappy, choosing to take action for tending and mending yourself is what makes you better, not blaming others nor berating yourself for being sick.