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In The Key To A Healthy Relationship, we talked about how we should just focus on the areas that started the relationship in the first place. Those are the areas which form the basis of the areas of agreement between the two people in question. For example, if you met in a bar, then your common interest is going to bars. If you met through friends, then your common interest is hanging out with friends. If you’re two people who have sex all the time, then your common interest is having sex. This article will focus on how you can expand these common interests, without damaging your current relationship irreversibly.
To start, I’ll use my relationship with my mom as an example. When I was little, my mom supported me and allowed me to grow, but she never really understood me all that well (and I would have to assume the reverse is true as well). Here, our common interests are the welfare of each other and the memories of the experiences we’ve had together. Therefore, when we reminisce about the past, or buy each other gifts, things are always great. However, beyond that, we had radically different viewpoints on a variety of subjects. For example, my mom is much more conservative with money, while I am much more liberal and aggressive in investing it. This caused us to fight a lot when I was growing up. Every couple of weeks, we’d have a big fight about something.
Yet, sitting here today typing this article, we are still mother and son. There are no hurt feelings between us and our relationship is better than it has ever been. So how can that be? Well, we had the policy of going to bed and then waking up forgetting everything that has happened. A lot of times, the fights were over unimportant things, just like in the previous article. Therefore, after we wake up, there’s really nothing to argue over, so we would just let the feelings fade away, and continue on. Of course, some of them were important issues, and they would resurface later, or we would resolve them.
The main point here is that after we get into the areas where we have severe disagreements, we always had a way to back out – just sleep on it and forget it. As long as the issue isn’t one that requires immediate action, this should be an effective way of just resetting it back to the way it was.
Of course, this depends on both people being able to let go. What if the other person decides to stay angry at you? Well, I’ll use another story for this.
When I was in high school, my mother rented a basement from our landlord. Unfortunately, one of those days, I got into a very large argument with her son, and the two families were no longer on speaking terms. Yet, once again, the fight was about trivial issues, which can be dropped. My mom, knowing this, made some food and brought it up to our landlord. The landlord was still extremely angry though. Every time I came home, I would see her working in the garden, and would have to ignore her.
Fortunately, my mother was more experienced in relationship matters, and told me to smile and say “Hi” every time no matter what her reaction was. Notice that this is the same thing I described in Make People Comfortable By Greeting Them Right. A couple weeks later, the whole thing blew over. Today, my mother and the landlord are still good friends, as am I and her son.
The thing to take away here is that even if the other person stays angry, we have to remain calm. Afterall, it takes two people to have a fight, so if we just back out, then there would be no fight. The angry feelings would go away eventually, and it’s what happens after that which matters. However, that point only occurs some time in the future, so we need to not make things worse until that point in time. By saying “Hi” to the landlord every time I passed her, I was telling her indirectly that I would prefer a happier relationship between us and she’s welcome to speak to me happily at any time.
The key here is to keep things open. Let the other person know that you are open to returning to the happier relationship you had before the disagreement. Afterall, who wants to be angry rather than happy? Make it easier for the other person to be happy with you than to stay mad at you.
Before long, things will be back to normal, and you’ll have discovered an area where the two of you should probably avoid in the future (assuming it’s not terribly important).
In the next article, I’ll talk about what happens when one of people starts changing one of the interests that they have in common with you.
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