Ordinary to Extraordinary… in a moment

How do people move from ordinary relationship to extraordinary relationship?

January 22, 2020

In ordinary relationship, we react to upsets by pulling out of the experience of relationship, the experience that we actually long for. 

It’s extraordinary to be aware that upset, irritation or annoyance are simply our individual reactions to ordinary events. 

At any given moment, you can choose to interrupt your automatic instinct to blame another for your being upset, and to stay connected to that other person. That is extraordinary.

Here’s an example from our life together:

Carol walked into our living room, and her attention immediately zeroed in on two blankets jumbled up on the sofa – left over from Paul’s nap the day before. Automatically, she thought, “Those blankets shouldn’t be jumbled up. Paul should have folded them yesterday!  The couch looks messy and makes the whole room messy. I don’t like it, and Paul is wrong, wrong, wrong.” We’re sure you get the picture.  CaroI felt irritated, at odds with Paul, and unhappy! 

But something shifted when  Carol noticed that Paul didn’t seem to have any of those thoughts or feelings. For him, the blankets were just the way they were. They were on the couch – simply a fact. No judgment, no story, no guilt, no irritation. The circumstance – blankets on the couch – was  the same for both of us. Yet Paul was at ease, and Carol was irritated.  That was interesting.  

Extraordinary relationship starts with waking up! 

Carol woke up to the price she was paying for holding on to irritation and blame: she’d lost the joy of experiencing relationship with Paul and, in that moment, her joy in being alive. Her focus had so narrowed that she didn’t see any of the pleasures around her that invite her to be happy. She had pulled away from the one person who is central to her life’s joy. And by the way, Carol was alone in this unhappiness because she was choosing to keep her annoyance to herself.

Carol hadn’t consciously chosen to feel this way. Her irritation was an automatic reaction. And she automatically blamed Paul for causing her feelings. He left the blankets, the blankets irritated her, and she was the helpless victim. (Are you snickering yet?)

What woke Carol up was realizing that the same blankets (the circumstance) didn’t upset Paul. She had to ask herself, was the circumstance the author of her feelings, or were her feelings simply her own reaction? When she realized that the only things “wrong” in this scene were her irritation and her opinion that Paul should be doing things her way, her irritation dissolved.  

Then she invited Paul to spend a few minutes with her. Just a couple of minutes looking in each other’s eyes, sharing what had just happened, followed by a hug and a laugh at how funny we humans can be. Our relationship was restored. 

That was going from Ordinary to Extraordinary in our relationship, and it only took a moment. 

Have you ever considered that your opinion, not the circumstance, caused your irritation with your partner, co-worker, child, boss, or parent?

Did you then feel distant from  the other person?

Maybe the next time you get irritated inside a relationship, you will wake up to your automatic reaction, interrupt assigning blame to the other, and make the extraordinary choice to stay connected and consider the other’s point of view.  Then the two of you will have the opportunity to consider how your relationship wants to live and what your relationship will do to fulfill that shared vision. 

~ Carol Herndon and Paul Bennett (Carol&Paul), Relationship By Design workshop leaders

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