Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas
People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges. Unknown
A healthy relationship is one where you share your true feelings without fearing the end of the relationship.
In relationships, we sometimes have a silent agreement “unspoken “rules” of our relationships. We may give someone a pass when they are drinking for what they say that hurts us. They may have mood swings and we disregard there hurtful behavior but we don’t do the same for others in the family. We don’t bring up the “sensitive” subjects that should be talked about.
A silent agreement could be that we disregard negative comments from our spouse’s parents, “to keep the peace”.
These silent agreements can come back to bite us when we say things like, “you should have known that, or why would I have to tell you that?” It is often silent agreements that let us get along on the surface. In some relationships, this is the best policy. People are in our lives, we didn’t choose them, we just have to deal with them, and they are difficult people to deal with.
If we have unspoken agreements in our personal relationship this can be a problem, because the other person doesn’t know what we expect of them.
I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies. Pietro Aretino
One of the things that can happen is we end up with unmet expectations. We expect things from someone, but they have no idea what we expect. This can lead to hurt feelings and misunderstandings. We still have the wishes, needs, expectations but we didn’t share them, so how is someone to know what we want, hope for, or dream about.
Silent agreements grow out of the things we don’t say. For instance, we don’t bring up the subject we know would hurt someone we’ve gone to visit. This seems like a good agreement. Where it can get worse is if we never talk about things that need to be said. Things like “Mom is it safe for you to still be driving?”
Often we think our silent agreements are understood by other people, that we share the same meaning of an unspoken expectation. Maybe there are issues that could be dealt with that aren’t. Issues that if discussed could be fixed, worked around or at least acknowledged.
I’m reminded of an advertisement about sexual dysfunction where a man is in the Doctor’s office and the Doctor asks, “Is there anything else?” The man fidgets but doesn’t say anything. The man likely goes home berating himself, he probably went in saying, “I’ll talk to the Doctor, this time.”
His wife may not know about his problem, she may think the problem is with her, and she’s dealing with menopause, aging, and all that fun stuff. A difficult conversation could get a lot of these things out in the open. We can’t deal with what we don’t acknowledge. We say we want the truth, but we are afraid to tell our partner our fears, shortcomings, and failures. We may instead make them feel inadequate, unloved, and unappreciated.
Another example may be the division of labor within the home. If one person always cooks, and the other always washes the dishes that may be an unspoken agreement that works. When the one that doesn’t cook all of a sudden cooks, the unspoken expectation may be the other person washes the dishes, but they may not realize that and agree to it.
We may think some of this is such small stuff, but what if we each talked about what we wanted, expected, and dreamed of. What if we really said, and meant it, “this is our life, the only one we get, let’s make it the best for both of us.”
One of the ways our silent agreements may cause us huge problems is when we don’t acknowledge problems with overspending, maxed out credit, job insecurity, etc. When we pretend everything is okay in our relationship when it’s not. When we pretend our health problems aren’t a concern.
It takes courage to have hard conversations. Things can’t get better if we don’t acknowledge our problems. There is no guarantee they will get better if we do, but we are guaranteed they won’t get better if we don’t.
We have to be careful we don’t just look at our partner and tell them how they should change. The only change we can control is how we change our self.
If the cook in the family decides everyone is eating better because they are cooking better that is one thing. They can’t now tell everyone what they can eat when they are out. Or what they can purchase when they go to the store. They can only tell them what they are willing to cook and then cook it.
If we can’t agree on what a healthy diet looks like that might be a problem. If one of us is vegan and the other paleo at least we are both trying to be healthier. If we deliberately sabotage our partner’s efforts to eat healthier we may need to discuss what is going on. Is there a payoff for a not so healthy partner, is there an unspoken agreement that we are the “thin” one?
If we can talk about whatever is going on in our life. What movies we want to see, what places we want to visit, what’s happening with our health, finances, children, parents, in-laws, jobs, retirement, interests we’d like to develop, places we’d like to live. Doesn’t sharing our lives, mean sharing our thoughts, feelings, desires, fears, and our dreams? The more we share with each other, the closer we will be, the more we can make this life work for everyone.
Assumptions make an “ass” out of you and me. Can we get it all out on the table, be honest, vulnerable, kind, generous, and deal with real life with a sense of humor? Maybe it’s our spouse, parents, siblings, in-laws, friends, co-workers, Doctor, or someone else we need to have a difficult conversation with. Does putting it off make it easier? Is courage to deal with the things we don’t want to deal with, what we need?
Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude. William James
Thank you for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed reading it, I hope you will come back and read some more. Have a blessed day filled with gratitude, kindness, and love.
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Unspoken Agreements: A Journey Towards Your Inner Light Kindle Edition
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