The Proactive Relationship
To get ahead and maintain a certain level of productivity, you need to be proactive at work. You plan out your schedule by priority level, tackle the most important projects first, and assess the effectiveness of your methods. All of this makes you a valuable and efficient employee, but what happens when you get home?
Every activity and situation in life has an initial stimulus and a corresponding response. However, in every occurrence of this there is a space between the stimulus and the response in which you make a choice. It is in this space that you have the opportunity to be proactive.
So, what does it mean to be proactive? Being proactive means that you act based on your principles and values rather than your emotions or specific circumstances. And in order to maintain a proactive balance within your relationship, reacting based on love rather than momentary frustration, you need to possess four important qualities.
Have you ever had an argument with your spouse, yelled multiple insults, and then could not remember what you said twenty minutes later? If so, in the heat of the moment, you lacked self-awareness. Becoming self-aware in times of frustration or anger is a process. It may not happen overnight. Gaining self-awareness in times of relationship difficulty means you must take yourself out of the emotion that has engulfed you, breathe, and think. How are you standing? What expression is planted on your face? On a scale from 1(quietest) to 10 (loudest), what is the current volume of your voice? Being able to gain perspective on how you are presenting yourself can help you to collect yourself and once again look at the situation from a place of love and caring, rather than anger.
Listening to your conscience, or inner voice, is also vital to having a proactive relationship. Some call it a gut feeling. Others envision it as an angel on your shoulder. No matter how you describe it, we all possess a little voice inside us that tells us how we are handling a situation. Consider it your inner relationship coach. Maybe you are giving your spouse the silent treatment. Something is tugging inside of you, telling you that you are not going about things the right way, but you continue the behavior due to stubbornness and ignore the voice. What would happen if you listened? Have you ever tried in those moments when you are overcome with negative emotions? Next time, try to take a step back, listen to what your conscience is telling you, and follow the advice. The effects for your relationship in both the present moment and future may pleasantly surprise you.
When most people think about important aspects of a healthy relationship, an active imagination does not usually come to mind. However, being able to imagine alternative ways to handle situations within the relationship is vital to its overall wellbeing. Creativity is key in making changes that fit the underlying values of your marriage. If you and your spouse approach a certain situation in a way that leaves you both feeling hurt and betrayed, imagine what the alternative would look like. How would the initial approach be different for both of you? What about the middle and end? And, most importantly, how would you both feel after? Instead of avoiding eye contact and going your separate ways for two hours, would you hug and cuddle on the couch? Imagine all the possibilities for change in your relationship and the promise of happiness is not far behind.
Now that you and your spouse have visualized an alternative to your unhealthy interaction patterns, the most important aspect of being proactive can begin: putting your plan into action. The next time the frustrating stimulus presents itself, take charge of how you react and respond based on your personal beliefs and principles regarding the relationship. Let’s say that you walk into the kitchen to cook dinner and your spouse has left a pile of dirty dishes in the sink after promising to clean them. In the past, you have marched up to your partner, yelled about the dishes, and listed multiple other situations in which you were upset. You both then argued for the next 45 minutes, slammed doors to separate rooms, and did not speak again until morning. Did this scenario get you what you wanted? No. The dishes were still dirty. This time, imagine the alternative. You visualize yourself walking up to your spouse, politely ask if he or she can do the dishes so that dinner can be prepared, and thank him or her for being accommodating. Once this has played out in your head, take a deep breath and start walking, one foot in front of the other.
By being proactive in difficult instances in your marriage, you and your spouse can both begin to craft your marriage into the loving relationship you both envisioned. You will live each day by the principles and values you share and, in doing so, become a closer and more effective couples.
(Source: 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen R. Covey)