Now, it doesn’t mean you must give up family and friends, personal hobbies and interests, or your profession. You probably shouldn’t cast the kids off into the wilderness to fend for themselves against the elements and fanged predators. It simply means you put the relationship first. When the relationship demands attention or repair, everything else becomes secondary for that season of time. Of course, family and friends, hobbies and interests, the Job, and your kids are important and deserve attention, too, but the relationship is first. But, should any of those things imperil the relationship, you may have to cut it loose if its proper role cannot be established in a way that supports you and your partner.
Denial of the self
Being in a successful relationship requires a certain subjugation of the self. Throughout our childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood most of us who are emotionally healthy become very good at learning what I want, what I need, what I like, etc… Nothing wrong with that because becoming and defining our own self is important but then we meet someone, start dating, fall in love, marry or otherwise commit to what we hope will be a lifelong partnership, and must be able to easily set aside all of our selfish motivations in favor of what’s best for the couple.
Uh huh, right… Setting aside twenty or thirty years or so of successfully learning “what I want, what I need, what I like, etc…” is not so easy. Add the natural assertiveness and confidence most of you carry as cops, which often translates into a belief that “my way is the only way,” and is it any wonder so many committed relationships – and especially committed LE relationships – suffer and fail? The trick to relational success, then, is knowing how and when to focus on WE instead of I (What do WE need, what do WE want, what do WE like, etc…). Please understand this does not mean you lose your individuality or sacrifice yourself totally. It does mean, however, that you start learning to consciously override your natural focus on your own desires when the health of the relationship is at stake. You learn to think and act as a couple, with the emphasis on mutual satisfaction and happiness.
If you are in a relationship, you are sometimes going to disagree. How you handle the inevitable fights dictates how likely you are to enjoy a lifelong commitment. Successful couples do not shy away from conflict; they know how to fight fair and in a way that improves their relationship and strengthens their love for each other.
Successful couples remain solution-focused (there is an answer to this problem we can both get behind, we just have to find it) instead of self-motivated (I’m going to vomit my frustrations and disappointment all over you, see how you like that!). They know the power and impact of words and how they are delivered, and take pains to do no harm to each other through their words. They know there are more right answers than wrong, and keep an open mind to different beliefs, ideas, and solutions. And they take ownership of what they contribute to problems instead of laying blame.
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Learning to think in terms of “WE” rather than simply “I” is one of the essential skills successful couples possess. To do so means overcoming our natural self-motivation, but it also means a lifetime of rewards if you can. Focusing on the four skills essential to thinking in terms of WE vs. I increases your chances of success.