August 7, 2021

How Self-Aware are You? How we Unknowingly Create Problems in Our Relationships

by Janet Tingwald in Dating, Relationship

I have to admit this is a bit embarrassing for me to share this. I have had many thoughts like, “ You should know better, you’re a relationship coach for heaven’s sake. What will they think!” And, I decided, I still wanted to share what I learned on a river in Wyoming in hopes that it would also help you. 

A few weeks ago Bruce and I went to Wyoming for a little time away. We stayed with my cousin and his girlfriend. They live on the North Platte River and we had decided that it would be fun to float down the river. The day came and all four of us headed to the river for a fun afternoon.  

My cousin and his girlfriend got in their raft and headed down the river. Bruce and I got into our raft and within 30 seconds he fell out.  

Now, like any good relationship coach would do, my reaction was; “OMG…YOU HAVE GOT TO BE EFFING KIDDING ME!” Now I didn’t say this out loud, but I was thinking this in my head. My next thought was, “I’m going to need to do this. He doesn’t know what he’s doing so I need to take charge.” (As my eyes were rolling.)

So I started paddling and trying to guide the raft where I thought it should go, the way I thought it should be done. He eventually spoke up by saying, “You just can’t help yourself, can you?” My reaction was, “Fine!” and I put my oar across my lap.  

We proceed down the river…BAM! We slam into the bank on the right. BAM! We slam into the bank on the left. I, of course, pushed us off of the bank and back into the channel. But, I sat quietly in the front, rolling my eyes thinking, “I knew that would happen…what an idiot.”

This went on for at least half an hour, and as we floated through a quieter spot, it came to me that this man, my wonderful man, is always kind to me…always. What was I doing? I was not giving him what I so appreciate in him. And then the thought, “What would support look like?” I felt foolish and embarrassed by my behavior. The truth was neither one of us has any real experience at this kind of thing. I probably would not have done any better if I’d been in the back doing the guiding.

For the next hour and a half, I came from support and encouragement instead of judgment. I relaxed and started to have fun and notice the amazing beauty of nature that was around us.

What I was reminded of that day was: 

  1. None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes.
  2. We so often get in the way of our own joy with our judgments, opinions, and biases.
  3. Watch your expectations. It could have been a fun learning experience where we laughed and felt closer rather than being attached to “doing it right”.

The biggest ah-ha for me came the next day. It wasn’t even about Bruce. It was me, I’m the one with the trigger around incompetence. (Ugh…) I guess this is why self-awareness is the most important skill in relationships. 

I want to encourage you, the next time you’re frustrated with your partner, check-in with yourself.  How are you feeling? What’s the story you’re making up? How might this be more about you than them? And…what would compassion and grace look like?