By Greg Illes
It is said that wherever your relationship is going, traveling together in an RV will take it there sooner. Here are some thoughts and pointers for traveling (and living) in close quarters with your loved one.
“Right” and “Wrong” — get rid of them
Does your brain work like this: “If I think one thing, and somebody else thinks differently — well, then, if I am right they must be wrong.” Ain’t necessarily so. Two people can be very different, and both can be right. Remember that old “I’m OK — You’re OK” book? Same idea. Blame, hurt, guilt — these are all part of being wrong, and they should not be part of your RV cargo.
You can’t fix the other guy
Remember how hard it was for you to change something in yourself that you really wanted to change (quitting smoking, fear of snakes, whatever)? Imagine if someone was demanding you change. Now imagine how difficult it would be to force a change in someone else who doesn’t even want to change. Let’s face it — we can barely, sometimes, make small fixes to ourselves. There’s just no way we can fix the other person. Let’s not try.
Are you a partner or a dependent?
Are you more concerned about loving your partner well or that your partner loves you? When you disagree, are you more concerned for your partner’s welfare or your own? Who would you rather turn out to be right? (There’s that word again.) Look for ways to care more about your partner than you care what he/she thinks of you.
Make it “their” choice
When you know they’re wrong (there’s that word again), and you know exactly how they can fix it, and you just can’t keep your mouth shut (this happens to us all) — give them the choice — really, give it to them. Be fully okay with what they decide. Try using a question instead of a command: “Do you think it would work better if you tried this?” instead of, “You should really do this thing this way.”
Nobody is (or can be) perfect
We’ve heard this so often that we no longer listen. All of us are riddled with imperfections. We’ll never fix them all — so let’s concentrate on the serious issues and let the petty stuff slide. Ask yourself: Is this really a serious issue with your partner? Be honest.
Right things are done for right reasons
A fundamental truth: Every human on earth makes the best decision they can at every moment of their lives. Sometimes they base decisions on horribly flawed data or dismally bad influences, and very poor decisions result. But those crummy decisions are the result of the information worked with, not any intrinsic failing of the person.
Respect is the cornerstone
Love is mercurial, capricious, magical and maddening. Respect, on the other hand, is foundational, heartfelt and lasting. Know, deeply, that your companion is being the best person possible. Respect them for that and help them — cooperatively, gently, supportively — in any way you can.
Can you wait?
In relationships, patience is a huge virtue. Today’s insufferable torture can well be tomorrow’s minor annoyance. Today’s steadfast refusal to change drifts into a bemused “we’ll see” later in the week. Moods and attitudes do change — even your own.
What do you really want?
Be honest with yourself. A “want” can be a must-have or a nice-to-have. Try to place as many as possible in the nice-to-have category, because this enables that “choice” for your partner. A must-have is a non-negotiable demand and should be used rarely if at all. So what if you are presented with a must-have? A refusal puts you both in the rock-and-a-hard-place scenario — not good. How about a more flexible, “I really, really want this (grin)” or “Well, let’s talk about it (wink),” as a starting point.
Negotiate for fun, but not for love
Approval, respect, love — these are not for sale. “I’ll do the dishes, you take out the trash” is fine. But approval, disapproval, love or shame should not be involved. Every partnership is a compendium of trade-offs. Make them cheerfully. If you love and respect your partner, you will not be concerned about getting the best of the deal; in fact, you’ll try to give them the advantage — because they are worth it.