A Simple yet Effective Formula

The store is hot and crowed; my scarf feels like a python slowly strangling the life out of me; and this basket is so heavy, I feel like my shoulder is being pulled from its joint. Finally, we’re at the register—but on this particular day, of course, they won’t accept my particular form of ID. And as the customers in line behind me begin to grumble, I start looking for someone else to blame for this situation.

Thirty minutes later, safely back in our apartment, I am just waiting for the opportunity to say, “Well, I told you I didn’t want to go there!”

But before I get the chance, I remember that I simply cannot be mad at her (or anyone else) for a decision I made. What I realize, too, is that I’m only upset because I have forgotten why I made that choice at all.

“Never do anything in relationship out of a sense of obligation,” Neale Donald Walsch wrote in Conversations with God.

Did I do what I did because she made me, or did I do it because I knew, if the situation were reversed, she would have done the same for me?

“Do whatever you do,” he continued, “out of a sense of the glorious opportunity your relationship affords you to decide, and to be, Who You Really Are.”

It’s a trivial example—a differing of opinions in terms of where to buy the groceries—but the logic is universal, across all relationships, across all commitments. Again and again, we must revisit the same question: Who are you, as an individual and as a couple, when things don’t go your way?

What I’m talking about, essentially, is the impact effective communication has on a relationship. How you talk to (i.e., treat) your partner defines the dynamic between you. And often the most favorable conditions, I have discovered, can be generated by, simply, keeping my fucking mouth shut.

My dear old dad once told me, when you find yourself overly eager to express a thought or opinion, it helps to first ask yourself three questions:

  1. Does this need to be said?
  2. Does this need to be said by me?
  3. Does this need to be said right now?

And if the answer to all three of these questions isn’t a clear “yes”—there’s a good chance whatever you’re about to say will likely not improve the situation.

(Note my personal strategy above for generating favorable conditions in a relationship.)

At other times, when I’m in danger of putting my foot in my mouth more generally, I regularly turn to a different set of questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it kind?
  3. Is it necessary?

Conscious, constructive communication doesn’t guarantee harmony. Nor is it some cure-all intervention for ailing relationships; there’s always a range of other highly complex factors to be considered. The simplicity of a formula, though, is almost never also an indication of its effectiveness.

The decisions we make and actions we take in our relationships are all a matter of intention, of desired function. Where is your relationship going? Where do you ultimately want it to go? Where do you want it to take you?

“Now when you are in a relationship with another,” Walsch also wrote, “that relationship has only one purpose. It exists as a vehicle for you to decide and declare, to create and to express, to experience and to fulfill your highest notion of Who You Really Are.”

Are the words leaving your mouth a clear indication of where you believe the relationship can go or aren’t they?

It’s as simple as that.

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