Humans are meaning makers, meaning machines. We give meaning to everything. It is the meaning that we give to what happens in our lives that creates the feelings that we have, and consequently the conflicts that arise from those feelings.
To learn how to save my relationship, I have to become more and more flexible in my thinking, and this is possible for you as well.
Meanings are wired into each one of us from our own past experiences.
For example: When I see chaos and disorder, it usually makes me feel excited. It means fun and creativity because of the environment in which I grew up – a lively house in disarray. My husband, however, would probably interpret the same scene as a mess and feel negatively about it. It might make him feel uncomfortable because he grew up in a household of organization and order. Two different associations of a disorganized space. Who is right? Neither one of us. And, both of us.
Can we see that our meaning is relative, that we choose our perspective? We can change our meanings because there’s nothing absolute or inherent about a mess, right? When we get entrenched in our own beliefs to the point that we are not able to change them, we are no longer learning how to save a relationship.
Having a broader repertoire of responses, instead of just one, makes for a more vibrant and interesting relationship. Having a partner, who sees the world differently, helps us realize that our meaning isn’t right or wrong; it’s a limited way of looking at any given situation.
But am I afraid to give up my viewpoint?
For example: Is it only possible to be creative and have fun in a messy house? Rationally, I know the answer to this question is, “Of course not!” But, viscerally, do I feel my fun-loving identity is defined by clutter and stuff out of place? After 35 years of living with my husband, my reality now is: I can have tons of creative fun in all places that are in and out of order. My meaning flexibility has given me freedom.
When you and your partner can break free from your programming, you can cultivate flexible resilience in your thinking and learn how to save your relationship. The capacity to rewire your brain to have a spectrum of responses will create more joy and satisfaction in your life.
Instead of thinking and saying: “This disagreement means that we should break up.” Think and say: “This disagreement means that we have an opportunity to grow up and learn something.” This reinterpretation of the meaning of conflict will dramatically change your relationship.