As you can probably tell by now, living by and relating to the principles are most important when issues and disagreements arise between partners. I’m always amazed that usually we can deal with issues and problems at work with little to no drama. We are polite and find ways to get past our differences and find solutions to the problem. And yet, when it comes to problems in our relationships we all too often fall to blaming and shaming, even if we avoid even worse behaviors like yelling and crying. We seem to loose our abilities to be civilized when dealing with those we are the most intimate with.
Never complain to a third party in place of dealing with the primary person directly.
This can lead to triangulation. According to Wikipedia: Triangulation is a situation in which one family member will not communicate directly with another family member, but will communicate with a third family member, which can lead to the third family member becoming part of the triangle. The concept originated in the study of dysfunctional family systems, but can describe behaviors in other systems as well, including work.
Triangulation can also be a form of “splitting” in which one person plays the third family member against one that he or she is upset about. This is playing the two people against each other, but usually the person doing the splitting will also engage in character assassination, only with both parties.
This is very easy to do in a poly relationship because it’s only natural to want to talk to a partner about how unhappy you are with someone. Do your best to avoid this as it can only lead to more problems. If you’ve got a partner who is coming to you about their issues with another partner listen and offer no advice other than encourage them to talk to the other person. (sometimes they just want a vent, so set a timer and tell them they have 10 minutes to get it all out. haha)
And if you aren’t poly, don’t take your problems with your partner to family members or close friends. Suck it up and talk to the person directly.
When disagreeing, both sides must listen to the other intently.
Active listening is an important skill to cultivate. It means listening intently, then paraphrasing what you heard back to them, so they know they’ve been heard. Most of the time when we are in the midst of dealing with issues, etc we half-listen to what they are saying, while forming opinions and rehearsing what we are going to say back to them when they finally stop talking. Subsequently, when it’s out turn to talk we really don’t address what they just said. We give them our rehearsed speech and then wonder why the argument lasts so long. Stay focused on what they are saying and when it’s your time to speak, take your time and address their concerns along with voicing yours.
When disagreeing, interruptions, raised voices, angry movements and demeaning language are never appropriate and must be apologized for when they are pointed out.
Apologies for interruptions, raised voices, angry movements and demeaning language during disagreements must be accepted.
These two can be tough ones. To be honest, I haven’t always followed these principles during disagreements, because, hey I’m human and screw up. I remember one discussion we were having in a restaurant (that was our first mistake) about money and our upcoming divorce and I got so angry I got up and marched out of the room. I don’t remember but I’m sure there were a few “fuck you’s” thrown over my shoulder when I left. However, one thing that living by these principle does is make it very difficult to be out of integrity for long. After a few minutes, I tucked my tail between my legs and came back and apologized. And he accepted it, no recriminations or questions, he just accepted it.
And that’s how it works. This is really about staying in integrity and being your word. That’s what the principles make possible. While of course we get angry, say stupid things, raise our voices and interrupt, having the principles as an agreement between you makes it much easier to get off it and get back to the matter at hand.
When disagreeing, neither person is allowed to say “I already told you such and such” – they have to patiently repeat themselves.
This goes back to active listening, or rather when they forget to use active listening. Patience isn’t always easy when we’re upset, however it’s important in any disagreement or when dealing with volatile issues that we understand what each other is saying. And if that means you repeat yourself, repeat yourself. If you’re both using active listening techniques this should seldom come up.
When disagreeing, neither person is allowed to accuse the other of starting the argument or creating the disagreement.
It’s never your fault, right? Disagreements happen, who caused is not really the issue. Getting through the disagreement and handling whatever the issues are is what’s important. Accusing someone of starting the argument is playing the blame game and also a bit of the shame game. The subtext is “shame on you for cause us to fight”. And actually, if there is a disagreement or issue you’re both dealing with then who started it is moot. You both need to figure out how to move forward from the disagreement. No fault or blame needed.
Well, that’s it for today. I’ll be back next week with the final four principles. Have a great weekend!