Tune in to Get Out
Every woman knows that she is the one most likely to be the “canary in the mine” when it comes to sensing the health of the atmosphere between partners in a relationship. Research confirms that women usually lead in “tuning in” to relational dynamics, assessing them for thrive-ability and survive-ability. Men have had more evolutionary programming to be attuned to the realms of career and achievement. Yet, in our lifetimes we have witnessed that river of evolution make some pretty big turns. There is more and more sharing of these functions of attunement as the roles of nurturer and provider are less gender defined.
Our generation, 50+ women, are leading the way—tuning-in to both the health and strength of relationships and career. We expect a lot from ourselves, partly because we are capable of a lot. Often, however, there is a big price for all of these expectations: emotional debt.
The first sign of going into emotional debt is internal. It’s the feeling of resentment.
The second sign is external. Its seen in words and attitudes filled with blame.
How unfortunate and ironic when attempts to alert the relational system to worsening conditions ends up polluting the relational ecology. What to do?
One of the most user friendly concepts for addressing the condition of a relational atmosphere was introduced by Eric Bern, a psychiatrist and the author of Transactional Analysis and Games People Play. Bern recognized that we each have three internal core parts: Parent, Adult, and Child. (I’ll refer to them as P, A, and C ). The dynamics of a relationship are determined by which of these three parts of us gets engaged.
The diagram below represents the 3 kinds of parts in Mary and in John.
Mary and John can engage in P to P conversations: the parental parts of each of them talk and plan and strategize how they will raise their kids, manage their behavior, and guide them toward adulthood. The lines of communication are straight and this can be great teamwork.
When Mary and John are responding in an A to A way, there is self-responsibility and mutual respect between them (not to mention the possibility of good sex).
If a C to C encounter occurs in an appropriate setting, there is a whole lotta fun to be had (hopefully not only at vacation times).
But, in a partnership, when P talks to C, the atmosphere quickly collects pollutants. One person feels or acts overly responsible, needing to be in control, or communicates in a judgmental, condescending, or punitive way. This often elicits C thoughts and feelings (ie “I’m not enough,” “It’s my fault,” “You’re victimizing me”). Similarly C behaviors such as acting out (drinking, rage attacks, moodiness, irresponsibility with finances, etc.) will evoke P responses (“I can’t count on you,” “I have to control or change you,” “What’s wrong with you!?”)
Tune in to your P, A and C parts and those of your partner. Be assured that even if your spouse comes from C, the atmosphere is less toxic when you choose to respond from A. Likewise, you do not have to be drawn into a C response when your partner is coming from P.
Getting out of the blame and resentment game begins by giving your canary a “Spare The Air Day.” Keep communication clean, clear and pollution free.