Why It Is Important to Develop Individual and Relational Maturity
Generally speaking, couples come to my psychotherapy practice, whether they know it or not, with problems that are remedied by developing a greater sense of both individual and relational maturity. Rather than being aware of this root of so much discord, each person tends to blame or attribute the relationship problems to the behavior of their partner or spouse.
Inevitably, what is important and essential for a healthy and mature adult relationship is to be able to see another person’s point of view or perspective.
This is easy to do when we’re getting along well with each other, regarding a subject that isn’t terribly challenging and difficult feelings do not arise. For instance, if we’re deciding what kind of restaurant to go to, it might not be difficult to see the other person’s view, empathize with it, give up our own preference or perspective, and go along with the other quite happily.
However, we all know that it’s a different story when it comes to dealing with the challenging and difficult feelings and problems when we’re in a conflict with one another. This, of course, is when it is most important to be able to see the other’s point of view in order to avoid the common trap of being in an unresolved argument.
In order to develop the ability to view another person’s perspective, our own emotional reactions – often frustrating, angry, or hurt feelings of some sort are often blocking our path to relating in such a way that we are just not interested in the other person’s view. Instead, we are, all too often, just interested in our own view being heard and agreed with. (“Agree with me and we’ll be just fine.”) This dynamic is quite common in couple relationships that aren’t functioning well. Each person wants to express their own perspective and have their own view understood before they are willing to appreciate the view of their partner or spouse. Too often, this is the dynamic that turns into an argument. From the perspective of the relationship itself, arguments just don’t work.
In facing any challenges, difficulties, or potential impasses that impact our relationships, especially those of couples, it is important that we attempt to see and understand the other person’s perspective and to convey just that to one another as we communicate.
First: We see our own difficult emotions prior to and without reacting to them as in the reaction of a mood. “How am I feeling right now?”
Second: We express them as they arise in a situation by taking responsibility for them, i.e. that they are our reactions, our feelings. This is very important!
” I feel this way when this happens.” i.e. we take responsibility.
(Not: “You make me feel this way.”)
Third: We express our view and at the same time we show interest in the other person’s view:
“How do you see it?” (the situation)
Fourth: We listen to the other person’s view and allow them to completely finish speaking.
Fifth: We respond to the other person’s view by briefly summarizing what we’ve heard, asking the other person if we have understood them correctly, and only then, do we voice our own perspective or view with regards to what was said to us.
By meeting this challenge, we are walking the walk of relational maturity.