Pay No Attention to That Relationship Behind the Curtain!
The Great and Powerful Oz looked so impressive: huge, fiery, intimidating and legendary. After being impressed, we experience the reality that it was a dude behind the curtain working furiously to pull levers, turn cranks and push buttons with everything he had.
That is exactly the wisdom I have gained from coaching partnerships: our culture is happy to exalt the showy, shiny relationship, but refuses to acknowledge the lever-pulling, crank-turning relationship behind the curtain.
My experiences of being invited behind that curtain with partners seeking satisfactory relationships have shown me that the work that happens there is significant. It is crucial to acknowledge the relationship behind the curtain if we are to support and create healthy, satisfactory and realistic partnerships.
Culturally, we experience fairy tale courtships, grand weddings, perfect partnerships and spectacular crash and burn break ups. Where are the satisfied, inventive, creative and hard-working partnerships? They are out there. They exist. I see them in my office all the time. But, culturally, we don’t value that paradigm. We just don’t find it to be sexy.
What I have learned from looking behind the curtain is that the myths our culture upholds about relationships are dead wrong in two fundamental ways.
1. The best relationships are easy. THE BEST RELATIONSHIPS ARE AN ADVENTURE!
As I have observed partnerships in action, those who share they are deeply satisfied in their partnerships are always moving and shaking. They never stop pulling levers and turning cranks. They have finely honed their communication skills over time, often with lots of trial and error.
When it isn’t working, they say so. They make it known and they create solutions that work for all involved. They honor each other with regular, direct, honest communication. I call that the 24-hour news ticker: always sharing where your head is, simply for the sake of supporting a shared experience. Constant communication allows your partner to do their very best to support you and allows you to support them.
They also recognize individually and together they are always changing, that what worked in the first year of their relationship may be completely obsolete two years in. Satisfied partners maintain a constant curiosity about one another. One way I like to conceptualize constant curiosity is to see every interaction as another first date. Learn who your partner is over and over again and be honored to play a special role in their evolution.
2. Working at a relationship isn’t sexy. CO-CREATING A RELATIONSHIP IS SUPER SEXY!
Satisfied partners in action maintain an attitude of shared vision. They realize that every challenge they face is an opportunity to improve their relationship again and again. When they start to experience stagnation or complacency, they shake it up. They try something new. They welcome the ebbs and flows, because they recognize that they are each an individual universe in their own right and the relationship requires focused energy of its own. And that is not just okay, but is exactly how it should be!
They honor one another as having needs, desires and interests that are independent and they support each other in those efforts and explorations. Satisfied partners constantly learn from each other and recognize the value each brings to the relationship.
A co-created partnership honors that what happens behind the curtain is the good stuff. It is yours and yours alone. It can look exactly how you want it to look. Not how your parents think it should look or how your friends think it should look. And definitely not how our culture illustrates it should look.
Throwing off any other influences and working together to make your relationship uniquely and beautifully yours leads to the most satisfying partnerships. I’ve been grateful to look behind the curtain of many relationships and I guarantee what is happening there is far more impressive and wonderful than the illusion of the perfect relationship.
Behind the curtain is the source of the magic!