We have said it before and it's worth repeating, what doesn't develop and grow will slowly die. There is nothing in the Universe, nature or even in our own inner where there is any kind of form of so called "status quo" where things are immutable. People who shiver out of discomfort before a change often have a hard time grasping that more than 90% of their body cells are replaced during a year.
So what has this to do with your relationship to other people? If a relationship to a friend or your partner doesn't develop it will slowly die. We have seen it many times, under the influence of daily routines one or both partners will lose some of the spark and stop to fully engage in to the relationship. They start taking it for granted. It might feel like things are moving on as always. Then, one day will come when we realize that we are miles apart from each other emotionally since something has slowly died from lack of developmental attention.
A perfect way to give something developmental attention that stimulates it to growing and vitality is to actively reflect over it. To actively reflect together is the true power when it comes to relationships. It is like nourishing a flowerbed with the best and richest nutrient fertilizer.
We will here explore a bit deeper of what it can mean to reflect together in a relationship, how it can be done and what you should think of. One of the basic conditions to be able to reflect together in a good way is often to take control over your own time. It easily happens that we feel we are lacking time and in the frenzy of getting a lot of things done in a short while we miss out on spending time together with our partner to talk about what gives satisfaction and happiness in our relationship in the long term.
Markus: One of the things that I feel has added most value in my partner's and my relationship is what we call the relationship moment. Once a week where we turn everything around us off and sit down together and look back on the past week, what we have experienced and felt during the week.
I feel that it has developed our relationship a lot and it has given me an opportunity to get to know my partner on a deeper level. Sometimes it has been frustrating to set aside this time when I have been in a mood to do something else but every time we have done it the feeling afterwards has been great, no matter if the feelings that was brought up was awesome or difficult.
It is about human presence, about experiences
No matter how many books we read about relationships, how many movies we see or lectures about success in relationships we listen to, the most powerful way to develop a relationship is to be fully present in the same and talk about what is happening in the relationship. We can call it a form of experience based teaching. We learn based on our experiences. It is also then what we learn becomes most resistant.
Who can forget the tears of your partner when she tells you about something you did that made her really sad? Who can forget the aching emptiness when our partner failed to see an important need in us that we so deeply wanted satisfied? Who can forget the true happiness from when my partner tells me how what I did and how I was made her feel like a princess in a paradise? Who can forget when my beloved saw me just the way I am, without masks and shells, and loved every part of what she saw?
It is the experiences, emotions that we remember and should use when we reflect to create powerful lessons. It is how well we are able to handle and process them together that determine how well we develop together in the relationship.
At the bottom of the well you can find the life giving water
We are often not trained enough to reflect over ourselves and mostly over our relationships. There was no subject in school, at least not in the school we went to, a subject on the schedule that was called something like "reflect over your life". When we look back on an experience, with the intention and hope to learn something from it, we can do this process on different levels. We can like it to a well, where we have to go to the bottom to find the life giving water, in this case symbolizing the best lessons, the most important insights and the most sincere topics for a long and living love.
We easily get stuck on a superficial level where we only repeat what has happened. "On Monday we went shopping and when we got back home we had an argument about money. We then turned the TV on and watched the news before we went to bed." This level rarely leads to new lessons or insights. On the next level we refer to what has happened. Just like a sport commentary doesn't include every second of what has happened during the game but just what the reporter at that moment find interesting to comment on. "What did we do on Monday?" "On Monday we had an argument about money!" This tells us something about what the other person found most interesting to recount but it doesn't really lead to any new lessons to learn from.
Taking us one level deeper in our conversation we will come to review. Just like a review of a movie we will mix in views, opinions and thinking. "On Monday we went shopping and I thought you were uncommitted. We then had an argument about money that wasn't good and then we watched a TV show that was really good." Here we learn the other person's opinion and to an extent how he or she perceives me in certain situations which to a certain degree can increase the understanding for each other. It will however not lead to any new lessons that will lay as the foundation for the relationship of our dreams.
In order to achieve real development and real life in the relationship, we need to get to the level called reflection. We don't just talk about what happened but also about how we experienced what happened based on our own feelings. Together we will then look without judgment on those events and feelings and see what they have got to teach us for the future.
A model to follow for reflection
In context to learning it is called the learning spiral, but we might as well call it for reflection spiral. In the shape of a spiral it helps us clarify the steps in a good reflection so that we get a supportive structure to follow.
1. First Experience
We are part of one or several events of some kind
2. What happened?
Clarify each other's images of what actually happened. Avoid mixing feelings in at this point. Sometimes we can have different images of what happened.
3. What did we feel?
Talk about your respective feelings in connection to what happened. Practice a non-judgmental listening and focus on to understand the other person, not to be understood. Here is also an optimal opportunity to give each other loving feedback.
4. What can we learn from it?
Talk without judging about what you can learn from what happened and what you felt in connection with it and how you can apply these lessons in the future to feel even better with one another.
5. New Experiences
It is now time to try the new behavior in practice and get a new experience in shape of an event or task.
6. What happened?
Just like in step 2 we talk about what happened in connection with the new experience.
7. And so on
We continue the spiral with what we felt, what we can learn from it and so on. It is also of help to come back to if we in the new experiences and events managed to use what we previously had learnt from previous experiences.
Filippa: I used to think the important thing was to learn something new when I stopped and reflected over something. Until one day I stopped and reflected over that some of the lessons that I drew made me moving away from my goal. I could draw lessons that made me more afraid and that lowered my self esteem, for example "I'm messy".
I have now started to learn to find lessons that will strengthen my confidence and that makes me grow, for example, what I just did didn't go in the direction I wanted, how can I do it next time so that I in a simple way reach the results I want? I keep my performance and result apart with me as a person. A trick to do this is to ask the question "What was good with what happened?"
I also have a new truth that helps me forward and that is "Everything that happens, happens for a reason that will benefit me in the end" Often I have drawn conclusions too fast and when I've got a distance to the event I can more often see the positive effect it had on my life.
Reflection is worth more than gold
A lot of unnecessary conflicts can be stopped before getting too big, the understanding for each other will deepen and the love strengthen by together have reflecting conversations around the relationship. It is like with a car, if you do smaller regular services you will avoid those big expensive repairs where the whole engine has broken down.
Finally we would like to send with you a dose of stubbornness, it can feel a bit contrived in the beginning if you're not used to reflect in this way together, but it is like with most things in life, every master was once a catastrophe. Practice makes perfect!
What fits better than to choose an important relationship to you and in it practice to sit down in peace and quiet and together reflects over the last week or month? Invite the other person to read this article before you start so that you have a bit of common frame of reference to work from.