When working with relationships one of the first necessary steps is to look at how the parties relate.
- Are they defensive and competitive?
- Do they maintain a balance sheet of exchange patterns?
- Do they spend time and energy listening to their partners point of view seeking to understand or waiting to find the flaw in the argument?
How parties relate gives you information about what is driving each person and what is the underlying foundation of the relationship. Once you have a sense of this you can identify the underlying needs. Evaluation of what is driving each individual results in n integrated picture of needs, exchange patterns, belief systems, paradigmatic structures, connections and relationship and security structures.
Narcissism and Competition in relationship are forms of relating that disallow inter-action and interdependence. These are styles of relating that are part of a singular, need-focused structure.
Narcissism tends to be a ME form of relating and often results in a co-dependent relationship structure. In this structure the parties utilize an exchange pattern and the paradigmatic structure is you take care of me and me take care of you; each exchange is noted and weighted, and the parties require an equal exchange for each action of care. Need underlies the tie to each other and there is a lack of independent action or thinking. It may appear collaborative but in actuality the giving is highly conditional. The insecurity in this type of relationship is that the other completes him and so abandonment is feared; there is a high degree of separation anxiety. These partnerships require intense agreement on everything and do not respond well to independent thinking. Intensity can be the marker of intimacy rather than a sense of trust and security. From a financial perspective one party may have all the financial responsibility and the other party may have all the emotional responsibility. The exchange is money for support. In this style of relationship the two persons are halves to the one whole, there is no individuality, only couple.
Competition tends to be an I form of relating and often results in a pairing that is independent without inter-action or interdependence. Each party is in a wholly enveloped structure. There is no dependence or co-dependence, as you might see with a ME structure, but there is no inter-dependence either. Each party stands on his or her own two feet. It is as if the two people are walking side-by-side. There is no integration or mixing of the two beings. Fairness and rigid boundaries are the characteristics of this type of relationship. There can be an exchange pattern balance sheet but this has more to do with winners of the competition and proof of being right rather than what each brings to the partnership. The financial structure of this relationship is independent as well; each person pays his or her way and if there is a need for a money exchange it is set up via a contract or with some set of conditions and plan for pay back. The emotional structure is equally self-contained. In this style of relationship the two persons are two persons, there is no sense of we-ness or group only the two selves walking side by side. Here the insecurity centers around avoiding dependence and connection as this is seen as a way to stay free from bondage.
Collaboration and connection are a third wave of partnership. In this style of partnership the two parties have an interdependence and integration without a loss of individual selves. In this style of relationship the two persons maintain a sense of self and have individual beliefs and experiences AND the two have an integrated participation with each other which is we. In this style of partnering there is space for two Is and a We, interaction incorporates a tapestry of flexibility, a weaving that results in a rich experience of collaboration, connection and a sense of increase. This WE style of relating offers enhancement of each party, without a loss of freedom. It is flexible, accepting, and inter-dependent. The security is derived through a sense of support and connection without a loss individuality. Conflict in this style of relating offers a way to work through issues to come to a higher level of understanding and connection to each other that incorporates each person’s core desires, needs and beliefs. It is a function of negotiation rather than a compromise. Financial and emotional structures are interrelated and integrated so that both parties are flexibly participatory, flowing easily in a responsive, dynamic fashion.
Once you have found your style you can begin to shift your attention in the relationship. Embrace your fears and your insecurities and embark on a journey to move from narcissism and competition to collaboration and connection.
These styles of relating are developmental in nature, you are able to move through these various styles or structures through loving, attention to your own security and individual fear-based patterns. Mindfulness is a useful focus of thinking to assist you and your partner to evaluate and transcend your personal blockages in relationships.
Development of your personal sensory guidance system will be highly valuable in this process.
You can use these models to determine what kind of relationship structure you are in and then use mindfulness to uplevel your style of relating.
- If you discover that you are in a Me oriented relationship turn your love toward yourself so that you can be the best partner to yourself first, this is a beginning step to moving to independence.
- If you find you are in an I oriented relationship trust yourself and your partner to risk giving and receiving in an unconditional way. Create a belief that being connected can be fulfilling rather than disheartening, this will open your heart to create a path of connection with your partner.
Mindful, loving, attention toward yourself and your partner opens the door for a shift in how you relate. Namaste, beth