Far from running from the idea of relationships during my divorce, I found myself fascinated by the dynamics of successful relationships. I wanted to learn everything I could about relationships and what makes them successful. This model from world-renowned life coach and self-help author Antony Robbins made an enormous difference to my life. Essentially, he moves through the cycles of how we communicate with each other in a romantic relationship and how, if we’re not vigilant, intimacy and love can break down. The 5 R’s are:
Initially, you start out your married life with some kind of hope for a prosperous relationship. You’re in love, your partner is amazing and everything is perfect. One day, something happens. He says something unkind or does something that elicits resistance in you. You get that “Whoa! Hold on, that was not OK!” feeling. This initial resistance is a completely normal reaction to learning new things about your partner and also normal for any behavior he displays that is not OK with you. As women, we often assume that men will know when they’ve done or said something wrong. So we wait for them to acknowledge this by sulking or withdrawing into silence.
Some men are very perceptive and will know something’s up, others won’t have a clue that their behavior has made their partner unhappy. When we keep quiet about our resistance, the feeling can shift into resentment. Many people in unhealthy relationships simply avoid facing reality. Sometimes this can be because the people involved may be trying to make themselves appear superior. Or perhaps they don’t want to face the fact that their mates really aren’t who they say they are, or that they’ve fallen from the ‘perfect mate’ perch.
For example, Anne B covers up and makes excuses for her mate, Ben B, who is always late from work and almost always misses family functions. She might be trying to avoid the truth: that he’s a workaholic, or having an affair. She does so because she doesn’t want to destroy their ‘perfect couple’ image in everyone’s eyes – and perhaps even in her own eyes.
It’s like ignoring that broken handle on a door in your home or not replacing that light bulb. If you don’t address the resentment, other resistances and other resentments will begin to build up. Once there is some momentum with your resentment, then you or your partner may begin to experience rejection within the relationship.
Once rejection creeps into a relationship, it becomes overwhelming and makes it difficult to create or sustain an intimate sexual relationship. Those of us who have been married a long time know that once the relationship feels strained, the regularity of sex is affected, and things can spiral downhill very quickly. The bed becomes divided into ‘his’ and ‘hers’ zones and intimacy suffers. Even the smallest things he says or does are irritating and more resistance, resentment and rejection builds up. If you don’t discuss your feelings of rejection, then your relationship can shift into the place of resignation.
This is when you can so easily slip into co-habitation; operating as housemates or mere friends. Passion, love and chemistry, and all the elements needed to maintain the spark and fire within the relationship, exit through the window. You can end up with an amicable friendship.
This is dangerous! Contentment and harmony are wonderful hallmarks of a marriage, but be sure they’re not camouflaging deep resignation in a relationship. When left too long, resignation can lead to repression. We’ve all been out to dinner and watched the married couple opposite sitting in complete silence. They’re courteous to one another and exchange pleasantries, but perhaps they have succumbed to resignation or repression and no longer actively discuss their relationship.
Repression completely kills the passion and chemistry in a relationship. At this point you may begin to question your commitment to the relationship. You may wonder if your partner was ever right for you. You may begin to spend hours day-dreaming about escaping from the relationship. When we’re not claimed as women by our men in a relationship, we can become obsessed with romance and escapism, daydreaming about being rescued from the disappointing reality of life and marriage.
When you’re removed from the reality of your relationship and your life and escape into a fantasy world, then you’re in real danger of seeking fulfillment outside your relationship and marriage. This is fertile ground for cheating. This is when the ‘midlife crisis’ happens. This is when we start eating for comfort.
Because we didn’t communicate openly, vulnerably and humanly about all the little resentments, in the moment, they built up and killed the relationship.
So I here is an exercise which I want you to do together with your partner every day to defuse some of the stress you both have. Once you have de-stressed then start focusing on managing the 5 R’s in your relationship.
Every evening when you have put the kids to bed, I want you to do the following:
BUCKET YOUR FRUSTRATIONS
- Go fetch a bucket (a real one) and sit together with no TV or chaos in the background with the bucket between you both
- You start by vomitting your frustrations into the bucket – it’s not allowed to be aimed at him or aimed at fighting with him – he is not allowed to respond except to acknowledge that he hears what you are saying – aim it into the bucket and vent everything that is pissing you off about life, how life should be, what your finances should be like not like etc.
- The job is – JUST LISTEN
- He will ask if you are done – if not, keep going until the bucket is full and you can think of nothing else annoying you
- THEN he will ask again if you are done, if you are – you both pick up the bucket and throw out these frustrations out of the window or door
- Now it’s his turn
- You also are not allowed to engage in conversation – he simply will vent his frustrations into this bucket – everything will go into it
- You need to listen only and not argue or speak – just allow him to vent and encourage him to vent so he learns to speak more about how he feels about life
- You will ask if he is done – if not, encourage him to keep going until the bucket is full and he can think of nothing else annoying him
- THEN you will ask again if he is done, if he is – you both pick up the bucket and throw out these frustrations out of the window or door
Now you both take turns to say what you are grateful for about your life. Your lives are actually very rich and amazing BUT because you dont focus on that, you dont see this. I want you both to come up with at least 5 things you are grateful for
Now you both take turns to say what you will accomplish tomorrow. This is important because at the moment, life is happening to both of you – neither of you say how you want your life to go or feel like you have any control over your lives. Examples include: I will finish the filing tomorrow, I will take a nap in the afternoon and find someone to take care of the kids etc. It will also be good for your husband to share with you more about his job.
The goal for the next week is to do this exercise daily. Once we have you both calmer and in a place where you can defuse the stress, we will move onto next steps!
Till next time!