Sunday, January 18, 2009

Relationship Control

No. 5 in the book, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, is "Any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least."

Isn't that an interesting thought to think about. The author's comments on this concept are pretty negative. He brings out that when a couple marries, they have a fifty-fifty chance of making it. And his perspective is one of a counselor who sees people who are desperate and need help. He brings out that the one wanting the relationship to work is pushing the other less interested party. Thus the control issue.

After I read this, I've been ruminating on it. And I've decided I really agree with this. I don't think I would have ever phrased it this way, but it is so true. I mentioned in the comments section of the last post that usually when we hear something said or taught, it strikes us as real truth because we've already experienced it in our lives, but just haven't put it into a thought or expression. And our response in those situations is YES! And that's my response to this truth. Yes!

I've done some talks on the giver-taker relationship. And I end up saying that a true relationship is one where each person is giving at times and able to take at times. And it should be about equal with each person in the relationship.

My personal experience in this area has been one of usually giving and very uncomfortable with saying I needed help and taking help, advice, or comfort from others. My awakening experience in that area was a time in my life when I was hurting, more than I ever had. I needed someone.

But those I turned to ran from me because they weren't comfortable with a needy me. That was quite a learning experience. I changed gradually over time and took myself out of the always-advising role and made myself vulnerable in areas where I needed help.

Another relational area where I learned this is when my children became adults. I continued in the parental advising role even though they, especially my girls, had established their own families. I remember well the day I said to my oldest daughter that I had no words of advice, that I had confidence in her and her decisions, and I would be waiting to hear how she had resolved the situation. Her response to me was that she didn't like this new way of functioning. I held to my stance and we "untangled" an unhealthy way of relating that we had established. It wasn't easy, but I'm here to say, it's the very best and it works very well.

I guess that's why I knew intuitively that this concept that Dr. Livingston presents is true. I have already experienced it in different areas. I would have said it this way: work on your relationships so that you are a giver only fifty percent of the time and that you are a taker equally as long. Of course, someone who's a taker all the time needs to work on being a giver.

Hope you see how all of this relates. Makes sense to me. : )


Bobby Brown said...

I am confused. In the first paragraph "Any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least." In the second paragraph "the one wanting the relationship to work (cares the most?)is pushing the other less interested party. Thus the control issue." These seem to contradict can you help me understand?

Bobby Brown

Mary Burleson said...

I had that exact thought when I wrote that. But, here's the scoop or the way I understand it. The one pushing to make the relationship work is "chasing" the other, trying to make them care, trying to make them interact. So the one who cares less is in control because he/she is "making" the other do things to try to get him/her involved in the relationship.

If you counsel couples very much, you will see this acted out so clearly. Within minutes you can tell who is "in control" of the relationship, and it's the one who cares less than the other. Generally that is not the one who wanted the counseling. Thus, the noncaring one is controlling, causing the other to seek counseling.

Not sure I can explain it, but this truth is one of those "YES!" moments, meaning for me this is so true.

Bobby Brown said...

Ok I got the "yes" moment and I understand. In order to correct the situation then what should the one in charge do?

Mary Burleson said...

Bobby, I think the question really is what should the one who has let the other, who cares the least, control the relationship do. The onus is on the one trying to fix things. He/she must realize they can't make the other one care. So they need to remember the relationship bridge, and that the most anyone can do is work to stay at the top of the bridge, and not go over into the other's area or side. That is hard work!

Truth: It takes two people who care about equally to have a true relationship. If there is an imbalance, the smarter, stronger one in the relationship will realize this and work to be there and be available (at the top of the bridge), but will not work on the other (or go past the midpoint and into the other's area) to try to make them care. Again, that's very hard work!

When this happens, the whole relationship is turned topsy turvy, and there will be accusations such as, "You're selfish. You only care about yourself." and "You don't love me any more." That's the way it will seem, but just the opposite is true. The relationship is trying to become healthy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Thus ends my long explanation. Hope it makes sense. MB

MajesticSix said...

I saw this book yesterday and "almost" purchased it. For some reason...maybe the fact that I didn't want to feel "old" as mentioned in the title, I put it back. After reading your blog, I'm convinced I would really like it. We're headed to Barnes & Noble tonight - think I'll buy it!

Great posts...keep them coming!

SF said...

Glad to see you blogging again! I saw this book too and it caught my eye , but was in a hurry, so glad that you are making it interestting to go back and buy. However, I can see I will be reading some of it more than once to get the point! ha! Re: Bobby's comment.......I had to re-read it and when you explained it, it reminded me of the story coming out of boundaries where the parents went in to counsel about their son who was on drugs etc. Townsend asked where was the son,,,,he was off sking. Dr. replied....I dont think he has a problem! We "care the most" when the other one is making us more uncomfortable! Thus becoming the controller for our getting rid of what makes us unhappy!
Am I on the same page!
And I cant believe you will be having your 50th..! Congratulatons. I was just reminding Mark , ours will be 40 next May! We were having a hard time processing that it has been that long, but greatful! Look forward to your input on the book. I like it best!