Relationship Fitness

S17 Focus E2: Mother of All Issues

In “Relationship Workout for Men,” Season 17 Episode 2 titled “Mother of All Issues,” Vince confronts the pivotal issue causing significant drama and potential breakdown in relationships. He challenges listeners to view relationship problems not as burdens but as opportunities for growth and stronger partnership, advocating for a shift towards a Beginner’s Mind. This mindset, open to exploring new ideas and solutions, is crucial for resolving the pressing issues between partners. Vince emphasizes the importance of objectivity and fishing for helpful facts without succumbing to negative thought patterns, setting the foundation for creative problem-solving and enhancing relationship quality. This episode is a guide for men to navigate through their most challenging dilemmas with patience, empathy, and a commitment to excellence, urging them to value their partners and the relationship above the conflicts.

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner, and being a better partner for the person they choose.

Season 17 Episode 2: Mother of All Issues

Okay, let’s get back to that real showstopper, the mother of all dilemmas that’s creating drama and disconnect between you and your partner. You’re both head-popping-off mad. This may be the issue that breaks up the relationship. 

But before you pack it all up, say thank you for all the organisms, and set your sites on greener pastures, let’s care enough to take a step back and ask where are the solutions to this mother of all issues that’s laying red hot on the table?

Of course, it would be nice if she just agreed with your point of view. You are completely right, aren’t you? Unfortunately, my way or the wrong way may have worked in previous generations, but not these days. She has something to say as well, she has her story, otherwise there wouldn’t be an issue in the first place.

So, what are you going to do now?

For starters, if you approach this issue not as a problem to wear you down, but as an opportunity for growth, then you’ll see you’re in the best of situations. This particular issue is giving you not only the opportunity to learn more about each other. This particular issue is also providing an opportunity to further validate that you’re strong partners for one another should you together find a solution that works for the two of you.

Back to Beginner’s Mind

Next, remember, letting negative thoughts consume you is not going to resolve the issue. Like fighting with that stuck screw discussed in the last episode, negative thoughts are only going to consume valuable mental cycles that could be devoted to resolving the issue at hand. Instead, you’re going to need to get back to a Beginner’s Mind if you’re going to have a chance at making some headway — a mind open to creating, hearing, and discussing new ideas. 

So now that you have a Beginner’s Mind, you’re ready to start fishing for helpful facts.

Going Fishing for Helpful Facts

But which facts about the issue should you observe and consider to find a solution? What she says you did? What she left out in her story? What you say she did? What you choose to leave out in your story? Her communication style? Your communication style? Your frustration? Her impatience? Replays from previous fights on the topic? Your unresolved childhood wounds? Her unresolved childhood wounds? What your friends say about her? What her friends say about you? 

Like the situation with the stuck screw, there are an infinite number of facts you could observe surrounding the issue. Unfortunately, the useful ones aren’t going to line up in front of you like a New Year’s Day parade. 

No, you’re going to have to dive in and start looking. This means you must care enough about the relationship to care enough about resolving the issue.

When you care, creativity, originality, inventiveness, intuition, imagination, patience, compassion, and empathy come into play with the commitment to relationship excellence and quality relationship as the guide. When this happens, you’re out in front of the train.

Objectifying Your Partner

As you fish for facts, it’s helpful to start by observing if any subject-object thinking has crept in. From your perspective, is it you (the subject) against her (the object)? From her perspective, is it her (the subject) against you (the object)?

  • If you’re blaming her for doing something “bad” to you, then you’re thinking subject-object. She did this to you (in other words blaming) translates into you being the victim (which is you as an object) and she as the villain (which is her as the subject).
  • Calling each other names (in other words, contempt) is also subject-object thinking. “She saying you’re such an ass” (which is showing contempt) translates into I’m superior (which is the subject) and you’re just an ass (which is the object). Likewise, saying, “You’re a bitch” (again, contempt) translates into I’m superior (the subject) and you’re inferior (the object).
  • Egos needing to win is subject-object thinking as well. I am right (in other words, I’m the subject) and what you do or say is just plain wrong (in other words, you’re the object).
  • Defensiveness is subject-object thinking. I (the object) need to protect myself from you (the subject).
  • Showing hostility towards your partner is subject-object thinking. You (the object) are the enemy to me (the subject).

When you fall into subject-object thinking, your mind gets very rigid. It’s like thinking that the only way the screw will become unstuck is by turning it to the left. 

For instance, if all you can think about is that she’s a bitch, then you’ll find yourself stuck with those inflexible thoughts. How can you possibly hear a word she’s saying or think of the most helpful ways to proceed and fish for new facts if the voice in your head is yelling: “Bitch, Bitch, Bitch!”

Even if she is acting like a complete bitch toward you in this very moment, consuming yourself with these negative, subject-object thoughts isn’t going to open your mind to new ideas to resolve the issue. It’s just going to get you stuck throwing bricks in the boxcars.

Objects offer little to no value. And when you think of the person you’re in a relationship with as an object with no value, then chances are you won’t really care to work on resolving the problem. What difference does it make to you if you two breakup, if there’s little value put on her and the relationship?

As well, objects don’t have feelings (as a screw doesn’t have feelings). Therefore, when we objectify our partner, we rob ourselves of the ability to have empathy for her. She becomes like that torn screw, something to direct hostility toward, rather than someone with feelings and needs just like yourself.

Finally, objects can’t be right. How can a torn screw ever be right? How can a partner viewed as just an object ever be right? Objects are just objects that just sit there causing problems.

Bottom line, when we objectify our partner, it’s like turning her into an inanimate object. An object without value, without feelings, is never right. Just like that torn screw, an object is something to deal with, versus someone you treat like a loving partner even when challenging issues are on the table in need of resolution.

This leads us to a re-valuation.

Yes, you and your partner do have value. She does have feelings and her feelings have value and matter. Likewise, you have feelings, and your feelings have value and matter. Her ideas, no matter how much they may differ from yours, have value because they are her current reality, her current story, her current experience. The same holds true for your ideas, story and experience.

With the stuck screw, its value jumped from mere pennies to being worth the total value of the motorcycle. After all, the bike would become junkyard scrap if it didn’t run, and it wasn’t going to run with that torn screw still stuck in the side assembly.

Likewise, by making this dilemma the mother of all problems, its value has skyrocketed to the total value of the relationship. After all, if the issue doesn’t get resolved, then you two might kiss being together goodbye, or at least feel very disconnected from each other likely for quite some time. 

If you care about and value the relationship, then one would think you’d care enough to give it your best try to resolve the dilemma.

Respect and Trust

But beware: If there’s a lack of trust and/or respect for the other person, then this will show itself as diminished value. 

If you don’t respect her, then you may not value what she has to say — almost by definition. After all, to respect someone implies having “a sense of the worth or excellence of, a person, a personal quality, ability, or a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.” If you believe she has limited worth, then how are you going to hear what she has to say and feel it’s important? Of course, the same holds true if she doesn’t respect you.

Likewise, if you don’t trust her, then you’ll care less about what she has to say, because you won’t trust that she’s being completely honest and balanced in her story. You’ll wonder if she’s shading her story to prop up her innocence and maximize your guilt. The same, of course, holds true if she doesn’t trust you. 

Her mental cycles will be spent trying to decipher how you’re being untrustworthy, versus caring and valuing what you have to say in its entirety. When trust is lost, what the other person has to say can be devalued to the level of soiled toilet paper — best flushed rather than taken seriously as good fishing-for-facts material.

In addition, when there’s lack of respect and/or trust in our partner, then what other people (who are trusted and respected) have to say can carry much more credibility. And when ego is controlling, then only the opinions that support the ego are given value. 

Getting Out in Front of the Quality Train

So, to get out of the subject-object thinking is to get out of the boxcar and right in front of the train. Instead of labeling your partner as an object with no value, you’ll start asking functional questions about the issue. Of course, a relationship can be much more complex than getting out a stuck screw. This means you’d be best served having a game plan for asking those functional questions, which leads us to the topic of our next episode: The Focus Core Assessment.

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