I was people watching at the Costco and noticed a mom, dad, and their three children enter.  The mom was visibly agitated and letting out loud sighs of annoyance towards her husband.  As he continued on with two of the children, so she could stop at the customer service desk, she let out a loud call and then did a quick swipe of her hand to call him back over.  She mumbled under her breath, rolled her eyes, and then handed him their infant in the car seat.  It was abundantly clear that they had miscommunicated.

As a health coach one, of our greatest learned and practiced skills is building rapport. Rapport, created with presence, helps the client to feel safe and able to invest at the level of beliefs and identity which is needed for internal exploration and permanent changes to occur.  Our goal, as coaches, is to get off our own map of the world and onto the clients.  By doing so, we are fully present listeners, making no assumptions, thus allowing for a greater understanding of the client’s experiences.  I believe this level of rapport is also necessary in a healthy, loving relationship.

It’s genuinely an honor to be in a relationship, isn’t it?  Someone is offering their vulnerability, counting on the other person to hold a non-judgmental space where what needs to be shared can be.  John Kim, The Angry Therapist, explains it as, “Try to understand before trying to be understood.”

When I think about that Costco couple, I wonder if that is what they both envisioned as marriage on their wedding day.  My guess is that they were placing their trust in the other to hold them with love, maintain rapport, be faithful, be respectful, and consciously grow together.  In observing, it was also evident that the mom was not taking this moment as its own moment, but rather a culmination of unexpressed annoyances that were surfacing as hostility.  She was not in the ‘now’, but rather living in the emotional build-up from her accumulated list of perceived grievances.

Is it not up to us, the individual, to ask for what we need; or to express the source of the list of grievances?  i.e. “When you do ‘x,’ I feel like you are not listening to me and that triggers me and I tell myself I’m not important to you.”  We are all responsible to process our own beliefs, but it’s also essential that they are shared with our partner so that the reactivity can be minimized and the rapport maintained.  We all have days where we are more sensitive, but letting our partner in on that is so helpful to stave off moments like the one I witnessed.

What we put our focus on is a choice.  If this mom was continually putting her attention on the things that annoyed her, then no wonder her list was long.  It’s up to us to decide how we will maintain love.  If we focus on our partner’s strengths, and the things that create that attraction for us, then that is what we will see; it will be through these emotions that we will form our reactions.  Imagine, as this person’s partner, to be constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop; knowing your partner is studying your every move to judge and react to you.  However, if we knew our partner was always looking for the best in us. then we would likely feel able to more fully breathe, knowing our perceived mistakes would never warrant public shaming over a conversation.

My friend, Don Hall, recently posted this on Facebook about his spouse: “If you ever catch yourself completely godsmacked by the sheer unbelievable awesomeness of your spouse, so intense it makes your eyes water and knees shake, you know how I feel every three minutes of every hour.”  There is a reason why this couple is so happy together; they are continually looking to find the qualities they love in each other.

It can be hard to break old habits, but we need to ask ourselves why we are keeping them and how they serve us?  Do they promote the love we are seeking or wanting to share in? And. will they help to experience or preserve it?  How we react, and look on others, is always revisable as we ask more of ourselves, for ourselves, and the life we seek.  Love is only part of the equation of a healthy relationship; we also need tools to cultivate and maintain it.

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