I tend to have tunnel vision. It’s one of my major flaws that I’ve never seemed to be able to figure out how to effectively deal with. As my attention is grabbed by one thing or another, I tend to become hyper interested in whatever it is I am doing and everything else falls out of my consciousness. The result of this is that I tend to have difficulty maintaining any real amount of focus on anything else as my mind races in lockstep with whatever current activity I’m involved in.
One of the consequences of this flaw in my makeup is that I tend to have a great deal of difficulty in maintaining my relationships with other people. This isn’t because I don’t care about the people in my life. On the contrary, when a need arises I set everything aside to make sure whatever they need is taken care of. However, when it comes to the day to day process of interacting with the people who are important to me in my life, I tend to not do a very good job of maintaining contact at the level that they would prefer.
There is an over-tendency to jump to medical diagnoses when it comes to behavioral problems such as this, throwing around terms like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but I think most of the time this is just an excuse for people to not have to change their ways. If we can blame a medical problem for our behavior, then we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions and we don’t have to put any effort into changing.
The other end of the spectrum is just as bad. When people don’t understand why you have the behavior that you do, it is difficult for them to accept that you might want to change but can’t do it overnight. Some of the people in your life might tell you that you should just be able to stop doing what they don’t like as if it is like flipping a switch. Behavioral habits just don’t work like that.
By far the most difficult situation is when your significant other stands in opposition to whatever behavioral issue you might be dealing with, especially when their is no understanding on their part about what your behavior is and why. They become hurt when you don’t act in the way they wish that you would, taking it as a sign that you don’t care. As a result, the situation is not only created by the fact that you have a negative habit in your behavior, it is amplified exponentially by the emotional hurt caused by a lack of understanding on both sides.
The goal would seem to be that each party in any relationship should approach the situation with a default attitude of not making any assumptions until enough evidence has been acquired to make a conclusion. Are they ignoring me because they don’t care, or are they busy with something and it’s just the way they are that causes them to forget everything else? Do they take care of the important things I need them to do, or do they let me down when it really counts?
At the same time, both sides should also be putting effort into resolving whatever behavioral issues are causing strain in the relationship. Ample patience and understanding should be had on both sides in understanding that the process of changing a habit takes a very long time, and behavioral habits are perhaps the most difficult to adjust. When we remember that some things take a lifetime to change, we start to see that even small, tiny changes can be a huge sign that the person really cares about making us happy.
In the end, the attitude on both sides should be something to the effect of “I love you the way you are no matter what, but I have hope this thing I don’t like will change someday”. This way our love can be unconditional and we don’t place unnecessary stress on the other person, but we keep the focus on trying to reduce the strain in the relationship caused by things we don’t like. If both sides can adopt this philosophy, then the frustration of dealing with interpersonal problems becomes much easier to deal with.
What do you think about relational stress? Do you have a behavioral quality that is causing problems in your own relationships? What steps are you taking to not only change your own behaviors, but become understanding of other people’s issues and support their efforts to change them? Relationships are perhaps the most important part of our life, and learning to improve them can have a drastic effect on our happiness and contentment.
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