Three Essential Viewpoints in Relationships

Real happiness is a good relationship.  Financial woes, illness, and most other hardships can be born if there is love and connection in our lives.   Good relationship need not be a mystery. There are three viewpoints that are present in  every good relationship,  I, You and Us.  Each aspect has unique needs that contribute to a successful, meaningful connection.
The I is the responsibility that we have for our own needs and wellbeing. One of the common patterns I have observed in my practice is that of the Accommodator or Caretaker. The accommodator typically gives ground to meet the other person’s needs and desires .    The assumption there is that, if I take care of you, you will take care of me. However,  the accommodator has often either chosen a self-centered person for a partner or does not make their needs known in the relationship.   They may even say “Well, what about me?”, and become resentful, but not voice this in the relationship. Their partner will be at a loss as to how to satisfy them. Years may go by as the accommodator literally shrinks from sight in the relationship, becoming invisible because, all too often, he or she has lost track of personal needs and boundaries all together.  All the Accomodator knows is   boredom and unhappiness.  It takes courage, to withstand the anxiety of not caretaking, to accept the responsibility of the I in relationship and to earnestly explore and meet one’s own needs.
The You in relationship is our awareness and understanding of the other person. It requires sincere listening, gratitude, and compassion. By listening well and asking thoughtful questions about the other person’s needs and viewpoint, we draw the other out.  One of the great gifts of a good listener is the opportunity it gives the speaker to articulate ideas and feelings that have not been brought to consciousness before.  The second element in the You aspect is honest support for your partner’s needs.  Giving a partner the freedom to be who they truly are one of the most precious gifts of life.
Gratitude and affection are the true grease of a relationship. We all need to know that we are valued and appreciated. Say thank you even for simple every day things. Touch can convey acceptance, appreciation, and support and soften an otherwise difficult communication. Together they keep mutual positive regard strong.
The Us  in relationship is the quality of togetherness   A living relationship needs time and attention to stay vital. In long term relationships, lives may grow separate  over the years and intimacy is lost.   I typically recommend that marriage partners  choose one of their partners interests  to share in  even if it’s not a strong personal interest and  that the couple develop one common interest other than children to share.   It is also valuable to understand your needs for dependence, independence and interdependence. What is the distance at which you can be healthy?   It will change person to person. 
You are the keeper of your heart. Relationship needs an investment of time,  attention and generosity of spirit to thrive, but the rewards are priceless.

published in Alaska Wellness, November/December 2003