Monday, July 9, 2012

Love Isn't About Control

On 60 Minutes this weekend, they featured a segment about the break-up that happened recently with Katie Holmes filing for divorce from Tom Cruise. It's all speculation, but they noted that Katie's "surprising" Tom with the divorce appeared to be a tactical, strategic operation taking quite a bit of pre-planning. The anchors conjectured that she seemed to be doing the emotional equivalent of escaping from Alcatraz. Popular media is reporting sources that claim Tom dominated Katie's career moves, the company she kept, and may have thrust her into a role in Scientology that she may not have wanted for herself, or for their daughter, Suri.

Love is better between equals. It really shouldn't be about controlling the other person, or getting them to do every little thing your way. A secure person can accept the unique differences between themself and the person they love.

When you choose a life partner, you want to build a life together, not fit them into your script. You want to hear about their desires, preferences, and ideas. You want a safe way to dialogue about your differences in a respectful way, and listen just as much as you speak. Don't lecture or deliver monologues to your partner.

Love between equals means that you each contribute to the relationship---through time, effort, and/or finances. You respect the contributions that your partner makes. You make big decisions together. You don't assume that you are always right. You don't hide important information from them, leaving them outside the loop in their own relationship.

Healthy couples disagree sometimes, respectfully and fairly. This means you don't call names. You listen to your partner. They listen to you. You both try to understand the other person's perspective. You compromise, or take turns in getting to influence important decisions.

People also change over time. In successful, enduring relationships, you need to be able to accept that your partner will probably change and develop over the course of the relationship. Hopefully you will also evolve. If you can't learn to be flexible, and make it safe and comfortable to be open with you about what they need, you partner may come to feel suffocated by the relationship.

Here are some tips for love among equals:

1.      Encourage your partner to talk with you about their needs, thoughts, desires, and hopes (even if they are different from yours)

2.      Celebrate the differences between you. Do some activities together, and some separate. (Happy couples also individuate. Think Paul Newman and Jo Ann Woodward: He raced cars, she was a ballet fan.)

3.      Allow yourself and your partner to change and grow.

4.      Listen as much as you speak.

5.      Share decision-making with your partner- don’t dominate in how things are done, from holidays, to how money is spent, to travel plans, religious practice, and everything else.

6.      Be open and transparent, and ask the same of your partner.

7.      Support your partner's growth and development. Keep working on your own.

It's over for Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise's marriage.
Hopefully, they can work out a way to work to respectfully co-parent Suri, despite the marriage ending.
It's sad when happily ever after goes bust a short five years later. Women are more commonly the partner to file for divorce. These critical skills of sharing power and control, and cherishing the differences between yourself and the other person are among the best tools that couples have for a loving relationship that really works and grows over time. You want to love someone who is your equal, challenges you, and lets you be you. Your partner deserves all these good things, too. Happily ever after? Maybe it's love, honor, respect, and negotiate ever after.

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