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Improving a Personal Relationship
Identifying a Relationship
The relationship between my husband and I crossed my mind immediately I went through the details of this project. Like most people in my place, I definitely had no way of finding out what I was letting myself in for when I got involved with him. I wouldn't blame myself; he knew just how to play his cards. Not only was he interested in all aspects of my life, but he was also keen to ensure that he completely identified with me. We shared jokes, thoughts, and interests, and later got married. However, not long after, our relationship started assuming a different form. My life partner suddenly started becoming self-centered, and non-appreciative of my point-of-view. Things just had to be done his way. At first, I thought he was simply playing his role as the 'man,' but it all changed when I came across an online article about psychopaths. All the characteristics used to define psychopathic individuals therein: impulsiveness, irritability, manipulation, egocentrism, just to mention but a few, seemed to match his - the determination criteria outlined was, more or less, a confirmation. Convinced that individuals with such disorders would never change, I made up my mind to quit the relationship.
Once I expressed my intention to quit the relationship, he would have none of that. To save our marriage, he expressed his intention and desire to seek psychiatric, or whatever kind of help was necessary, to ensure that the said marriage did not fall apart. I, on the other hand, felt that the damage had already been done. The understanding and communication between us had totally deteriorated. However, somehow, I was convinced that he was determined to change.
After one and a half years of transformational therapy, characterized by frequent sessions three times a week, he came out totally unrecognizable from when he went in. He is more mindful of others' views, and better-endowed to control his own emotional reactions. The relation between us has since been getting better. I am determined to completely mend our relationship just as he is. I understand that in order to achieve this, I will need to re-construct those aspects that had been destroyed. I have attached great significance to this project because a favorable communication climate is one of the aspects that I intend to rebuild.
Part Two: Recognizing Room for Improvement
I wish to re-design this relationship, in such a way that it aligns itself to the aspects of proper communication. I intend to reverse the current tense communication climate, to one that provides companionship, relaxation, and affection. Martin Buber (as cited in Adler & Proctor, 2013), identifies two modes of human relations: the I-it, and I-thou. I am working towards changing the relationship I have with my husband from the I-it - characterized by excessive control, and persuasion, to the I- thou - which provides an opportunity to "explain our point-of-view, but ultimately, we respect the fact that others are free to act" (Adler & Proctor, 2013, p.13). As the authors further point out, communication helps in the satisfaction of a number of human needs: the physical, the identity, the social, and the realization of individual goals.
Relationships are considered more satisfying if they provide companionship. This is so, because better companionship enables better communication and better personal health (Adler & Proctor, 2013). Terry Anderson and John McCain, both former prisoners, recognize the importance of social relations, having spent years in isolation while in prison. Comparing this kind of isolation to death, McCain (as cited in Adler & Proctor, 2013) points out that "withdrawing in silence from the fellowship of other Americans…was to us, the approach of death" (p.5). Terry Anderson, having spent seven years in isolation, holds the opinion that it is more preferable to have the worst company, than none at all (Adler & Proctor, 2013). Additionally, researchers in the medical field have in the past linked good communication to good health. Studies conducted, in this regard, have established that people who socialize more are less susceptible to coronary disorders, cancer, and cold-related diseases such as pneumonia. This is in addition to reduced loneliness. Adler and Proctor (2013), however, recognize that adequate relationships appreciate the fact that "the quality of communication is almost certainly as significant as the quantity" (p.5). I want mine to be no exception.
Communication is essential for self-identification. As Adler and Proctor (2013) point out, relationships develop feelings of identity, and belonging. The authors use the example of the Aveyron Boy who, before he was discovered, lived wildly with no social interactions. The boy lacked both interactive skills and the human identity. Roger Shattuck (as cited in Adler & Proctor, 2013), notes that the 'wild' boy "had no sense of himself as a person, related to other persons" (p.6). A good relationship, therefore, is able to properly define an individual. In this respect, I would like a relationship that I would be proud to be identified with.
Communication provides a means for us to identify, not only with ourselves, but with others as well. This way, communication takes care of our social necessities. Adler and Proctor (2013) acknowledge the fact that there is a direct link between what they refer to as effective communication and healthy relationships. In the words of the authors, in a past research undertaking, "women reported that 'socializing' contributed more to a satisfying life than virtually any other activity" (Adler & Proctor, 2013, p.6). Communication, therefore, helps us develop the skills that foster our interaction with others. This not only enhances our adaptability to different situations, but also helps us develop empathy for people who matter to us (Kanu, 2011). Adaptability implies assessing a situation, then modifying behavior to appropriately fit into the confines of that particular situation. Empathy, on the other hand enables us to connect and understand the feelings and thoughts of others. Both adaptability and empathy boost the way we relate with others, and are key in the establishment of long-lasting connections. Since these connections are so vital, there are theorists who maintain "that positive relationships may be the single most important source of life satisfaction and emotional well-being" (Adler and Proctor, 2013, p. 6-7).
In addition to satisfying our identity as well as social and physical needs, effective communication is the best approach in the actualization of "instrumental goals" (Adler & Proctor, 2013, p.7). Restoring a comfortable, accepting, and safe communication climate is my goal at this time. I understand that better communication could effectively change a number of aspects. In order to realize this, I plan to make use of a number of concepts that I will identify in the subsequent sections of this text.
Part Three: Planning for Improvement
In this section, I concern myself with the verbal and non-verbal interactions necessary not only for the building, but also the sustenance of healthy communication climates. I will first discuss 'dialectics' as a feature of inter-personal interactions, then outline the different forms (types) of communication that facilitate the development of supportive and satisfying communication climates. Finally, I will give insight into the concepts of communication that could ensure that favorable communication climates are sustained.
Dialectics are the "opposing forces or tensions, that are continuous and normal" in social interactions (Wood, 2011, p.199). The first step to healthy connections is acknowledging and understanding dialectics, and then considering them normal. Wood examines three main forms of dialectics in social interactions: connection/independence, predictability/novelty, and closeness / openness.
The connection/independence dialectic results from the tension experienced "between the desire to be autonomous, or independent, and the desire to be close, or connected to others" (Woods, 2011, p.199). Human beings would naturally love to socialize with others, for the reasons that I discussed earlier on in this text. However, Adler and Proctor point out that it is also normal for individuals to attempt to protect their identity, and ensure that it is not completely taken up by these interactions. This kind of tension is equally common in relations that are work-based. People may, at times, prefer to carry out activities as a team - and at other times, people opt for independent work. Relations are healthy if they are in a position to enhance connection and at the same time maintain individuality.
Predictability/novelty refers to the relational tension caused by the opposing desires for the routine and novelty. Despite the predictability and security brought about by routine, people sometimes prefer the stimulation that change and new ideas brings. Wood (2011) points out that, whereas change is good, too much of it can have unfavorable effects.
Closeness/openness is the "tension between wanting open communication, and needing a degree of privacy" (Wood, 2011, p.200). A healthy relation takes care of both the closeness and openness needs.
Understanding dialectics makes us realize that each person is unique, and should be handled from an individual perspective. This further helps in the development of an I-thou culture of social interactions, which is appreciative of others' opinions and "arises…[continue]
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