Power struggles in relationships can be fascinating, yet the dynamic can be stressful to witness. I’m sure it’s no piece of cake for the participants either.
Here is one example. Maybe you can relate. Have you ever played the “Are You Ready?” game with your partner? You’re going to the movies at 7:30 p.m. It takes 25 minutes to get there, and you both wish to be on time. Given the time needed to park the car, retrieve your tickets, and find your seats, you will arrive in the theater right on time if you leave the house promptly at 6:50 p.m.
You have your hat, shoes, and coat on and are ready to go. You say to your partner, “I’m ready to go,” but your partner isn’t. You subsequently start a new task, though you are somewhat irritated for having to wait. At some point, your partner is ready to go also, but now you are in the middle of doing something else and are no longer ready. In your mind, the power dynamic has switched, and it feels good, at least in the moment. There are many levels to the dysfunction unfolding between you and your partner. Where to begin?
One dysfunction is the tug-of-war, or tit-for-tat, style of relating the couple appears to be engaged in. There is also the potential disagreement the parties have created by not discussing and committing to a predetermined departure time. Finally, the example showcases a lack of patience and a presumed willingness to be frustrated. Let’s take a look at the dysfunction of impatience.
If you are waiting for your partner, in a situation that is similar to the one described, you may consider yourself blessed. Blessed with a moment in time – a moment of quiet.
I perceive our world to be one of hustle and bustle. As participants in this hubbub, we try to figure out how to squeeze as much effectiveness into each day or hour as possible. Our minds are racing and our phones are incessantly in our faces. When someone is running late, or a circumstance leaves you feeling as though you are a victim to your partner’s poor time management, instead of packing in another activity, try taking a moment to relax.
Call that friend or family member you’ve been thinking about, but haven’t made time to reach out to. Read the newspaper. Sit, think, and take notes about your next steps toward something important to you. Take a quick nap. Meditate. Whatever your strategy, relax while implementing it.
A friend recently told me her father used to wait for her, her siblings, and her mother in the car as they readied themselves for church each Sunday. She also shared he would seethe in the process of doing so. By the time they all made it to the car, he was angry. This is not reflective of what I wish for you and your family. Do not grow angrier by the minute. Relax.
The other day, I found myself the straggler as my wife and I prepared to leave the house. I was pleasantly surprised at the strategy she implemented when I was running behind. She simply went to the car. No words. No irritation. No anger. She just waited in the car, turned the radio on, and jammed to the tune of the moment. It was delightful to experience. She did not try to guilt me into hurrying, and it left me a great deal of time, as well as the mental space to self-reflect about why I was running behind.
Please see your partner as a part of you. You can be a collective. One that you appreciate, even when the dynamic is not ideal. Instead of indulging frustration and viewing your partner as a weight in the midst of your wait, be liberated. Enjoy the time you have been given. Admittedly, you may arrive late. In fact, there may be many times when you or your partner run late. You may miss something. That can be okay too.
Punctuality and the co-creation of agreements are certainly traits worth cultivating in yourself and your relationships. They are not lost on me, even though I am focusing here on patience. Work on them. However, don’t forget to enjoy your journey together and relax into the experience of collectively creating patience and punctuality … that’s loving.
Frank Love coaches individuals who are in (or wish to be in a relationship) on ways to be more loving. He is also the author of “Relationship Conversations You Don’t Want to Have (But Should Anyway)” and “25 Way to Be Loving.” To schedule a free consultation contact Frank at Frank@FrankLove.com.