The foundation of all relationships, with friends, family members, co-workers, and especially our significant others is that it's both give and take. We agree to come together and form a relationship. Each relationship we have includes choices, responsibilities and agreements.
Each relationship provides rewards and gratification. Without both giving and getting our relationships flounder.
Relationships are not easy. They're not for wimps. They take time and effort.
Typically we spend more time planning our summer vacation than we do working on our relationships. We just figure that everyone thinks and feels as we do, so there really is not much to talk about.
Until something goes gone wrong.
One of us does not hold up our end.
We do not fulfill our responsibilities to the others, we do not meet our agreements.
Then feelings of betrayal and out of control are overwhelming.
"How could they do this?" we ask ourselves. How could this happen to me? How could I have been so stupid? What do I do now?
Saying sorry is easy, changing behavior is not.
And sometimes it's not enough to apologize, to say sorry, or to be forgiven.
Sometimes the behavior has been so awful, the betrayal so basic, that it's necessary to break off a relationship.
Our choice to enter into a relationship also means we understand there are three parts to any relationship: you, me and us. Each of us brings who we are, our strengths and limitations, our gifts and needs. And then we build a new entity by combining who we each are into a unique pattern of giving and getting. It's this combination of specific individuals and the relationship itself that makes getting together with someone so special.
The combination and the relationship is based on agreements: who does what, who gets what. We build a catalog of quid pro quo's, our own list of somethings for something. The agreements we forge depend on what we've done before and on what we decide to do together. All of our relationships combine our history and choices we make about how it will be this time.
Some agreements we talk about, others we do not.
Some, like fidelity and commitment, we assume are so basic that they do not need to be specified.
Others, we covertly agree not to deal with. We may keep secrets, or even slip into collusion.
We agree on what we are not going to do and talk about, but do not talk about our agreement not to talk.
A break down in any one of these areas, establishing reciprocity, honoring both the individuals and the relationship, or making agreements can send our relationship spinning into free fall.
Both people feel the relationship is out of control and try to grab control, usually by trying to make the other person change.
A futile activity. We can not change anyone else, and lots of times we can not even change ourselves.
Trying to control the other person not only does not work, but usually makes things worse.