Let me tell you about the secret sauce to relationship bliss. I mean to taking your relationship from good, or dreamy, or manageable, or up and down to next level.
What is that, pray tell Erin?
Championship is for starters the opposite of adversarial-ism. Yes I am taking the liberty to add an ISM to the end of the word adversarial.
The truth is that we are taught an adversarial model of relationship.
Adversarial-ism is rampant in society.
It’s the foundation of our legal process.
The general idea is that fighting leads to the fairest outcome.
Each person gets someone in their corner, fighting the good fight for them, at least theoretically, and that is supposed to achieve fairness. One side argues the opponent is the villain and the other side argues no they are the villain and the arguments go back and forth until either a bunch of kids from school (jury of peers) or a teacher (the judge) chimes in and says “One of you is right!!!” And “One of you is wrong!” Dun dun dun. Based on their independent objective fact saturated opinion measured against the laws of fairness, aka the law.
Obviously this can’t go wrong.
No one innocent could end up in jail if they have, well, like, a professional arguer on their side. Umm like even if their professional arguer is like sorta barely graduated and works for a non-profit and kind of sort of managing like 1354 other cases. No biggie, right? All works out in the orange is the new black wash, right?
Anyhow, when it comes to relationship this whole approach is supposed to slide on over and transfer, like a transparency (remember those if you are old like me and grew up without technology?) I mean maybe no one officially suggests we bring lawyers in to hash out who should do the dishes Tuesday after dinner or whether they used that tone of voice with you after promising not to use that tone of voice with you.
BUT, what is suggested is that you…or WE should approach relationship trepidatiously, because it’s dangerous. One wrong move and we could end up losing years of our lives, or worse losing ourselves!!! Have you ever lost yourself? It’s not fun. Have you lost yourself and then found yourself again? Have you written a poem or a song about it? A Broadway production? Have you composed an opus? Sold the movie rights? Have you prepared a power point presentation, a PPP?
Were you mistreated? Did you do more dishes? Did you put in so much effort and they put in none? Maybe there were more terrible, awful things that went down that you can’t even speak about.
The point is, there is going to be a long laundry list of what wasn’t good and shouldn’t be repeated. Which leads to the temptation to stand guard with every cute person who shows up with a rose in hand asking what you have planned for Wednesday.
So what happens if you over protect yourself? Well if you go in swinging a bat, you’re going to play baseball. In other words, if you go in scrutinizing behaviour, looking for what is wrong, waiting for the shoe to drop on your little head, you’re a. not going to have that much fun b. they aren’t going to have a whole lotta fun, and c. you’ll have your starter kit for the first ten fights without having to bat an eye, lol.
It’s time for a sidebar where I talk about snapping a zee culture. Snapping a zee culture, an expression that I made up, you’re welcome, it’s pretty funny I know, references, in case it’s not obvious, the rise in popularity of shaming friends and family for putting up with shitty behaviour, or less than adequate behaviour from a date, or a romantic potential or partner.
Well what’s wrong with that you may ask me. Shouldn’t we want our friends and family standing up for us? The answer is well it’s okay to want them to care, but we really don’t want them scrutinizing the do’s and don’ts of our relationship. We don’t want them snapping or wagging a finger in our faces, saying no you didn’t just put up with that bestie/bro. Why? Firstly, because they may be outside the relationship, but they are not objective. Our relationships serve as the unintended arena for well-meaning friends to work out their own regrets, past mistakes, wounds and heart aches. As friends we unconsciously seek redemption by standing up for ourselves vicariously. Secondly, as friends we don’t have an investment in the relationship. We are not in like, love or deep smit with this person. So obviously it’s much easier to throw them out of bed for eating crackers, to reference a joke my girlfriends made back in the 80’s (I wouldn’t throw him out of bed for eating crackers). Some may find cracker eating cute and harmless. Who are we to decide, or judge? Thirdly, snapping a zee at our friends is disempowering and can feel patronizing. It says you are too weak to handle this yourself and you need me to get up in your grill about your choices. It’s one thing to lovingly say, I want you to be happy, or help a friend consider what is important to them. It’s another to play Judge Judy of the dating game.
Why am I bringing this up? Well because not only does the SAZ culture undermine healthy autonomous decision making but it’s a major contributing voice to the adversarial relationship model. It encourages us to step into relationship with a back up, a North Wall, an infrared for red flags, waiting for the other shoe to drop so we can stomp on it before it stomps on us.
How do we build the good things we want in a relationship when we are looking through a lens of fear and mistrust!?!
Better to get better at trusting. Not betting the emotional house or farm, but holding space for someone to show up as we need them to, getting great at asking for what we need and not taking someone else’s stuff personally, and engaging in a collaboration on showing up as our best partner selves with and for each other.
When do we get to the championship thingy you mentioned way back?
Well the championship is the natural extension of the collaborative model of relationship.
What is it to be someone’s champion? It is to be their advocate not their adversary. To encourage, to uplift, to unconditionally accept…not shitty behaviour or terrible treatment, no one wants that, but show up as a champion of your partner’s needs and crazy dreams and idiosyncrasies and endearing foibles. Be that for each other. There is a crazy magical intimacy to lifting and building one another up, and I swear I’ve seen it and a few mermaids in my day (JK). There is a power to collaborating against the triggers, the B.S., the FEARS, the ego voice that says we are “less than” and wants to undermine and compensate.
What if we go into dating and relationship with the mindset (and insight and mojo to back it up) that we are going to create a healthy relationship? That we are okay within ourselves and that we are seeking a partner to share in a journey (whenever I use that word I feel someone should break into a chorus of Don’t Stop Believin’) of expanding, rejoicing, sharing, doubling down on undoing the BS and the pain, building, creating, loving, supporting. I am working on me, I am willing to gain insight and therefore you can add to my life, but I don’t give you the power to undermine it or ruin it or fail me –who wants that power anyhow, maybe just a few narcissistic types and we aren’t going to date them this time around, lol.
Over the next few days I’ll recall dozens of examples and I’ll be sure to fire you a text at 3am but right now I’m thinking Cuba Gooding Jr. and Regina King …who play the football couple and Tom Cruise’s first clients in Jerry McGuire. Now that partnership was a championship. They cared so deeply about each other’s needs and passions, about creating together. They were in it for each other for the win, I mean that metaphorically but yes also literally.
Remember that story I told you about running across the border from the US to Canada? Okay well this makes me sound like Terry Fox or Forrest Gump. Some backstory is that I was staying in an RV park ten minutes across the border from my mom’s small beach town with my small kids and hubby, and agreed with my hubby that he would take the kids and I would get in my run, then takeover (fair-sies). It was about 11 minutes into my allotted sixty, I was just ramping up the endorphins –you know I could feel them tickling my brain, ready to course through my veins, if they even do that I’m not a scientist, when up drives the minivan, windows open kiddies crying, husband looking frazzled and furious and suggesting I get in the car to stop the argument that had taken place in the back seat. Okay so not his finest parenting moment. Very bad for me, because I needed that run, 100/10 on a scale from 1-10. No I am not being dramatic. I am never dramatic. After I calmed down from someone taking away my next 24 hours worth of calm, not even midway into the calming, I endeavoured to share how important the run was to me, and how if he could figure out how to support me in it, I would take the kids for the other 23 hours. Now I am being dramatic. I did not offer that. But I did share that all of those amazing things that I did in a day that he often thanked me for were not possible without my sponsor -SWEAT. And I did it without attacking, even though a bitch was kinda panicked and tempted to be attack-y about it all, like just imagine all of the sarcastic things I could have said at that moment.
Something happened then. The Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day. A small dog mightily pulled a sleigh heavy enough for a team of reindeer. Forward a few weeks and that husband of mine was the treasurer and keeper of my sacred run time. And did I ever give back! And we took the championship ball and ran with it (the sports metaphors just keep on) together. I think of that pivotal moment as an opportunity to do something very different with a relationship than what we were taught to do. And we really went the distance with it (that one was unintentional I swear). We had so much fun learning the ropes of rallying for one another. It’s something that I have always found fascinating in life; turning the tables on fear and digging as far as you can in the opposite direction. How far can you heal? How far can you love? How far can you forgive? How far can you champion? It’s fun. It’s liberating. It inspires. It creates equality. It builds intimacy. It establishes a sturdy foundation for the mutable and unexpected nature of the world.
I am fond of sharing this truth: No one can make a fool of you. If you are compassionate and kind and patient and loving with yourself, and oh I know it takes some practice, but if you commit to this, then you don’t give someone else the power to derail you, because your source of life is coming from within. And that makes it hella easier and safer to enter the world of romantic liaising without a suit of armor, bullet deflector, fresh supply of cootie spray, and make a friend instead.
P.S. If you have a friend or loved one who is struggling sometimes a few sessions of support can make all the difference. Reach out and we’ll find the solution that is right for them.
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