Feb 122013

Although we are not quite sure if we want to embrace this Americanism, many here in New Zealand will be gifting chocolates, red roses and romantic cards as token of their love to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It is easy to be swept off our feet with romantic notions, but what does it take to really make a relationship work?

A key ingredient is to be in allowance of your partner. Allowance is seeing everything as an interesting point of view, neither aligning and agreeing nor reacting and resisting. When you are in allowance you are willing to be aware. You can be aware of your partner’s thoughts, feelings and emotions but they do not impact you. Equally your own thoughts, feelings and emotions are also just ‘interesting points of view’ that you do not have to defend, align with or make significant.

How often have you seen couples where one person says something and the other reacts defensively and the other partner responds and quickly a difference of opinion escalates into a heated argument? With allowance we can have different points of view and no one needs to be right or wrong.

When we are in allowance of our loved ones there is space for them and us to be ourselves. When we start judging by aligning and agreeing or resisting and reacting to what our partner does, we cut off our awareness and limit what is possible.

Let me give you an example from my own life. My husband Kris and I spent the first 8 years of our marriage in the US. He is an American. Now we are living in Aotearoa, there are many more aspects of me that I get to express that Kris had never seen while we were in the States. He never understood in the States why I always picky to get a house that had plenty of parking spaces and heaps of room for visitors, when there were only 3 in our immediate family. Now, when we live in New Zealand, and he has met my whanau (extended family) and seen the way we congregate, he get’s where I am coming from. My first purchase in our own place were 5 spare mattresses for when whanau stay!

I like to be involved with my whanau, I speak Maori more and our son speaks a lot of Maori too. At first, I expected that Kris would come with my son and me to hui and be keen to go back to Taranaki (where I am from) and that Kris would in time learn Maori, especially if he was going to have much to say amongst my te reo speaking whanau.

I pushed for him to find a te reo class and to build his vocabulary at home. After many months I realized that he wasn’t interested  (though his pronunciation is pretty good) and small doses of my whanau and Taranaki works for him.  I have accepted that that is who he is and where he is at. And he gets that I am going to continue to make lots of trips back to Taranaki, our boy will be raised in both worlds, and Agape and I speak Maori freely at home. He doesn’t begrudge my choices and desires and he is actually very supportive.  We are in allowance of who we are and what we each desire for our own lives. We don’t criticise or judge each other for this difference.

We actually both enjoy spending time away from each other. Kris watches his sic fi movies (which I don’t enjoy) and gets lots of rest and time for his special projects. By having allowance for each other we both get to be ourselves in our relationship and our relationship is a lot sweeter for it.

Now this is only one aspect of our relationship and there are many more where we are both learning to have more allowance. It’s definitely an ongoing creative process!

So would having more allowance for your partner’s preferences, aspirations and points of view , particularly where they are different to yours, create more ease and joy for you both? Here are some tools to use to be in allowance (and many apply for any kind of relationship):

  • Learn about each other’s preferences and ‘deal breakers’ and communicate them to each other in the early stages of your relationship (for clarity’s sake not as a threat). If one of you doesn’t desire children, and for the other partner it is a ‘must have’, it is good to know this sooner rather than later.
  • Don’t assume that because your partner loves you that he/she loves everything that you love. They won’t! What would it take for there to be space in your relationship to pursue different interests and preferences?
  • Avoid making each other right or wrong. What if your views or their views were just interesting points of view?
  • If you are single: pay attention to prospective partner’s traits. You can often see what habits or attitudes that may be intolerable to you early on.
  • Ask questions for more awareness and to invite more expansive possibilities to show up:

– What’s right about this/me/him/her that I’m not getting?

– What would it take to have more allowance for my partner when they _______________? (whatever it is that is bugging you).

–  When you find yourself judging your partner ask: “Truth, where have I been and done that myself?”

– Here’s a juicy one. What am I expecting my partner to be or do for me, that I’m not willing to be or do for myself?

Have a happy Valentine’s Day whether single or partnered. I’ll use the excuse of being married to an American for celebrating.  Bring on the chocolates!



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