Linda: Some couples get caught in a highly conflictual style of communication where fighting is commonplace. Because trust is so low at that time, each of the pair is caught up in fears of being dominated by the other. Being on alert to prevent domination from occurring causes them to be guarded, battle-ready and aggressive. They struggle over every decision, have great difficulty sharing power, and finding their way to acting jointly. Instead of seeing each other as allies, they regard each other as a dangerous enemy.
Developing strong conflict management skills allows for hefty deposits.
The origins of such a ghastly dynamic may result from being dominated by one or both parents in childhood, witnessing oppression of one parent by another, or having been in a prior adult relationship characterized by intimidation. Indulging in the domination and submission game is a sure-fire way to overdraw your account. Metaphorically, you have been spending irresponsibly and wildly without concern about the future.
Paying close attention and knowing how each partner wants love shown are hefty deposits.
Even more frequent than the domination and submission game is the pattern of neglect. Far more relationships suffer from passivity. There is a lack of understanding that new deposits need to be made regularly for the account to be abundant. Over time, there is a feeling of flatness, numbness, and a sense of “Is this all there is?” Neglect can take a relationship that began with strong passion, aliveness, and an expansive vision of what the couple would co-create, to a point of deterioration into the blahs. When there is no fun, adventure, novelty, soon emotional and sexual intimacy will begin to diminish. Whether the relationship has suffered from the abusive cycle of domination or from neglect, the recovery process is the same.
No matter what the causal factors are, there is a way out of the pattern, and a way to build up the depleted account. Some of the happiest couples report that they went through a period in their marriage that was characterized by either painful domination and submission game or neglect. But they learned how to build trust by discovering the magic of reciprocity. Once a couple makes this discovery, they are moving on a very different track. Each and every act of generosity and reciprocity is a deposit in the Karma Savings and Loan account.
Be careful not to overspend, but if we do, commit to building up the account as soon as possible.
When we keep making hefty deposits in Karma Savings and Loan, we build up a big account. If there is a broken trust of some kind, a lie, misconduct around money, a broken agreement, sexual misconduct, or a secret revealed, it is so much less likely to bankrupt our relationship. We make deposits in the account by stretching into our partner’s world. For those of us who tend to be self-centered, it’s our work to mature and practice many acts of generosity. Finding out what our partner wants and helping them to get it is our work.
Here are a few examples of reciprocity. If our partner likes a lot of intimacy, we make time for that even if it’s not our high priority. If they thrive by going on family outings, then we intentionally create family trips of different sizes. If they like a lot of sex, we stretch to create more sexual connection, or if they don’t want so much sex, to practice lessons in patience and letting go. If they are more secure with a lot of money in the bank, make more money; save more money; invest more money. If they like to travel and you don’t love it as much as they do, stretch to travel more. See if you can come up with the special deposits and Karma Savings and Loan that you each enjoy.
A time can come when there is so much that is working well in the relationship that we wouldn’t do anything to damage the working system because we are enjoying it so thoroughly, that we just wouldn’t do that to ourselves. And that’s when the relationship is the most delightful.