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RELATIONSHIPS: THE BASICS

GRATITUDE:  “LET US BE GRATEFUL TO THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE US HAPPY; THEY ARE THE CHARMING GARDENERS WHO MAKE OUR SOULS BLOSSOM.”    ― MARCEL PROUST  
Defining Yourself by The Basics:  Mutual Respect, Mutual Trust, Fairness, Consideration /Perspective Taking/ Empathy, and Honesty in Truth & Tone


  • Reliability and Consistency in The Basics

It is simpler to find clarity in any relationship when you are consistently being you.  We often note in therapy that it’s not a “special day” for a close relationship to have mutual respect, trust, empathy, perspective taking, honesty, and a tone of love and respect. It is expected, as these are The Basics.  
While humans are flawed and occasionally deviate from the basics, cognitive dissonance signals to them that the basics are in conflict. If restored by aligning their actions to these principles, they restore congruity.  Over time, their own consistency and reliability of demonstrating the ordinary basic principles generates internal safety as well as safety to those around them.  


However, if the conflict in principles persists, humans sometimes compensate for the dissonance. The dissonance may be 1) justified and rationalized - blamed on externals, or 2) normalized as OK, since it’s already been done.  The compensatory response to the person’s undermining their basic principles deepens the incongruity within themselves and within the relationship. While the basic principles remain constant, the active deviation from one or more principles becomes more habitual.


  • When you stick with The Basics in relationships:  

The risk assessment for a disruption is low within a relationship of mutuality in the basic principles.  When there is reciprocity of these fundamental tenets, a deviation is a notable aberration and is discuss-able and resolvable.  In short, when each person is 1) secure in self, 2) healthy in self worth, and 3) most typically aligned in their beliefs in The Basics and their mutual demonstration, the risk assessment is low in your delivering your core principles of love, respect, trust, perspective taking, honesty, and loving respectful tone.  That is, you are safe in trusting that the balance in mutuality is steady and your actions will be respected and appreciated.   If the person is less secure, less grounded in internal validation, and/or stuck in a pattern of rationalizing cognitive dissonance, the risk in demonstrating the Basics goes up.  Unintentionally or not, the person may overuse your consistency in the Basics thereby disrupting the reciprocal teeter totter. 


  • Assessing Disruption:

When inevitable disruptions occur within relationships, each person is responsible for assessing their accountability for demonstrating the basic principles.  Deviations and conflict will undoubtedly occur within a human relationship.  When so, assess your own alignment of your actions with your basic principles.  Assess the other person's actions and how they align with respect, trust, fairness, perspective taking, and honesty. 

  • If your actions do not reflect these Basics, you are accountable for acknowledgment and realignment, as is the other person for theirs. 
  • If the other person does not acknowledge or resolve the misalignment, note the aberration and discuss it. 
  • If misalignment is repeated and you have demonstrated respect, trust, fairness, consideration, perspective taking, and honesty, your awareness is heightened. 
  • If this pattern continues, your elevated awareness will bring greater clarity to you.  


When you reliably and consistently demonstrate the Basics, yet reciprocity is absent, the teeter totter is lopsided.  Again, while this could potentially be a unique aberration, if history has shown multiple examples of this lack of basic reciprocity, then we would predict that the relationship is not healthy and not sustainable based on a lack of mutuality in the simple basics.  Is this fix-able?


  • Being the “Fixer”

You are not the solution to your partner’s special concerns, problems, or correlating history.  Each person has an individual responsibility for self governance.  Rather than compensating for the less healthy, and thus less reliable mutual participation in The Basics, aim to stay level and healthy (and “you-like”) by demonstrating the basic tenets of ordinary positive relationships.  In so doing, it is reasonable to feel comfort in knowing that you have retained who you are, regardless of the lack of reciprocity for the basic principles  -- the principles that you have predominately demonstrated. 

It is reasonable to recognize that you are not the solution to the other person’s difficulties in participating in the basic normalcy of a healthy relationship. By jumping the fence to fix the other person’s “special problem,” you are at risk of 1) being a confounding variable, 2) setting a precedent and establishing the basis of a pattern, 3) inadvertently obstructing their participation and contribution, 4) inadvertently de-valuing their capacities and skills, and 5) unintentionally risking perception of your way being the only way.  Should things go awry, you are at risk of becoming the well meaning scapegoat.


It is difficult to stay steady in your principles when the other person is not.  This difficulty is increased if the relationship has been rushed and you do not firmly know the core foundation of one another.  This reminds us of the value in taking time to develop and deepen the connectivity to and understanding of the person.  Whether or not this depth of connection has occurred, you may continue to “know yourself” and have the opportunity to be “a constant” and note if the other person is constant or variable. 


Yet this is a critical juncture to embrace comfort in knowing that you have remained reliable, consistent, and safe in being who you are.  As said in crisis management preparation, "Don't become the crisis."  If the other person is engaged in actions and words that are misaligned with the basic tenets of healthy human interactions, it is your responsibility to hold steady, maintain the Basics, and un-tether yourself from the negative.  In a negative response, you are creating more of what you don’t like.  It is tempting to fire back, yet in this, you are becoming the crisis and distancing yourself from your familiar more positive safety.  


  • What is the other person’s responsibility? 


  • The other person is accountable for their actions and words and has an opportunity to rise up to their potential. 
  • Angry emotions from you reinforces the actions or backs the person into a corner of negativity. 
  • Self blaming or putting yourself down also reinforces the negative actions. 
  • Holding steady to who you are not only models the Basics, but disengages you from being judge and jury of the person. 
  • Giving them "grace" does not indicate encouragement, yet simply neutralizes the emotional influence that their negative actions have had on you.  It is difficult, yet ultimately, this helps you to move forward cleanly and uncluttered of vengeful thoughts. 


This disempowers the "crisis" from defining you nor deciding how you think and feel.  And most importantly, you are empowered in knowing that you have been "you-like."  

While it is logical not to engage in the negative -- something that you do not like -- it can be uncomfortable.  Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable in similar relationship circumstances strengthens your capacities to self define and decide for yourself how you feel.  This reaffirms your internal consistency and reliability and increases your sense of emotional safety.  There you are grounded in a steadfast foundation. And when you are steady and anchored, you are less prone to defensiveness.  Defensiveness reveals that you are wobbly in your foundation.  You are less prone to tilting your wobbly poker hand when you remain steadfastly anchored — consistent in your beliefs, words, and actions.

It is expect-able to have mutuality in respect, trust, fairness, empathy, perspective taking, and honesty - generally every day.  It is not extraordinary — in a healthy relationship. As we’ve noted, it’s not a “special day” when someone does the Basics.  It’s just ordinary. 


"Chance favors the prepared mind." —Louis Pasteur

Dr. Joy Canfield

Licensed Psychologist