This past weekend, we kicked off our new Community Enrichment Series at Sync Counseling. We partnered with Coffee.JPEG in Sierra Madre, CA for this series. Dr. Curtis Miller, Executive Director at Sync, spoke with couples about the key elements of “Making Love Work.” As I listened, I realized that his words could resonate in any kind of relationship, not only in a couple dynamic. Dr. Miller shared that there are two ways we live in relationship with the world and with others: objective & subjective. These two things play a big part in the degree of intimacy present in our relationships. Here’s how.
What Does It Mean To Relate In An Objective Vs. Subjective Way?
When you relate to your partner objectively, you are mainly relaying facts. You are talking about the factual details of something. For example, you get home from work and share with a partner, family member, or friend. “I was in a two-hour meeting and then it took one hour to get home in traffic.” Here, you are relating in an objective way.
An alternative way of relating to someone is subjectively. When you relate in this way, you share more of your feelings with that other person. An example would be “I had a migraine during the meeting and struggled to get through.” Or, I was frustrated with the traffic but I put on some classical music and that helped me relax.”
Both ways of relating are important. However, relating objective facts to your partner too much of the time allows emotional distance to grow. Throughout the presentation, we received a lot of questions about how to foster change in a relationship.
“So how do we even make the shift?”
“How do I stop doing that negative cycle of our relationship?”
“How can we find more moments together at the subjective level?”
The Importance Of Empathy & Novelty
Dr. Miller emphasized EMPATHY & NOVELTY.
What Is Novelty?
Novelty in a relationship refers to trying something new or unusual in a relationship and we are not talking about just in the bedroom. It can refer to solving a problem in a different way. Or, it could mean relating to your partner in a completely new way. Here are some examples of novelty.
You respond to your partner in a different way after you realize that your current way of responding is not healthy. Perhaps humor becomes the novelty. Together, you see something silly in the old pattern and laugh about it. This allows you to shift more into your subjective experience.
How To Introduce Novelty
Some of the many ways we can introduce novelty, as explored by Dr. Miller, are to…
- Look for the subjective in yourself, risk sharing it with your partner
- Seek ways to build trust through attending to old hurts in new empathic ways
- When you find yourself repeating a pattern that directs blame, anger, resentment, or defensiveness, ask yourself… what am I feeling underneath it all, What is my hurt, fear, or sadness? … Begin to find ways to share these feelings with your partner.
What Is Empathy?