Life can be very challenging and extremely difficult at times. So can relationships and marriage.
You may know about life’s difficulties firsthand—and you may also know that one’s marriage or relationship isn’t automatically immune to the twists and turns of life. You and your partner see each other at your worst and most stressed; you’re dealing with the demands of running a household, dealing with finances and juggling multiple priorities. Maybe the stress of parenting is overwhelming you at times; work stinks, your boss is insensitive, and your health isn’t what it used to be… There are many legitimate reasons to show up in your relationship distracted and beleaguered, with little to give your spouse/partner emotionally.
All couples face these and other painful issues at some point in their relationship. The challenge is to find ways to bring your best self to each other even when life feels too big; to rise above the swirl of life’s chaos and tap into the deep gratitude and appreciation you have for one another. That is the challenge we all face. (We all know that this is easier said than done. But this is the ideal we need to reach for—the ideal vision of ourselves that keeps us moving forward).
Couples Help: Connecting to Your Ideal Self
Our ideal self or “best self” is there to guide us when we lose sight of the bigger picture of what is important to us; it reminds us of our deepest priorities and values, what we need to protect and nurture.
Our best self is there to gently remind us of who we want to be after those not-so-pleasant lapses we all experience: those all-too-familiar slips when our anger and defensiveness blanket us; those times when our righteous indignation propels us to say things we later regret; our best self is there waiting for us after we’ve let our sense of entitlement distort our vision, causing us to stomp around feeling victimized and pointing fingers at everyone except ourselves.
And there are times when our best self is nowhere to be found and we flounder for long periods of time—hurt and angry, sometimes feeling crushed by what life has thrown at us. In these instances, it can be the words of a trusted friend that offer us solace, the guidance needed until we find our own emotional footing. At other times it can be the message of a friend that challenges us, giving us a larger and more balanced perspective about ourselves and the issues at hand. Whether these messages come from a friend or our best self, the energy and nature of these messages should center around compassion and kindness, even if they also include a no-nonsense firmness when appropriate.
Do you know what your ideal self looks and sounds like? How does this part of you speak, what are the values that guide you, and how are support and encouragement offered?
Perhaps your best self:
Takes a few deep breaths before reacting;
Journals in order to make sense of your feelings;
Uses “I” statements while communicating about sensitive issues;
Gives your partner the benefit of the doubt when s/he is having a difficult day and is acting snappish toward you;
Plans “date nights” and other relationship activities designed to deepen intimacy.
Becoming familiar with and connecting to your best self should occur on a regular basis, and this may require practice. If there is someone you admire or have admired in your life that you want to emulate, this can act as a prototype for your best self. We all need mentors to emulate, no matter our age or life experience.
Nurturing this part of you doesn’t mean you have to deny the times you are struggling or having difficulty—this would be a mistake. Instead, be mindful of these struggles and allow them the attention they deserve, but then at some point invite your best self into the picture and see what this part of you has to offer yourself and, of course, your spouse/partner.