Are you trying to defy the laws of gravity in your relationship?
"Gravity problems” are things that you cannot change no matter how hard you try. If you trip and fall, you fall down, not up. That is how gravity works. It is just the way it is. You can waste a lot of time and energy railing against gravity or you can simply accept it for what it is and figure out how to work within its parameters. (See Burnett & Evans’ book, “Designing Your Life.”)
As a mediator, sitting in other people’s conflict all day, I would often see people in conflict railing against what I would see as "gravity problems" in others. They wanted the other person to change. It may have been in the other person's best interest to change. However, the other person had no ability and/or no interest in changing. That is a gravity problem, my friend.
When you see it as a gravity problem, then you can start to make better choices about how to deal with it.
For example, let’s say that Sarah and John are in a relationship.
Sarah is always running late. She has always run late. She will, in all likelihood, always run late. She pays lip service to wanting to be on time, usually under pressure from John who prides himself on being punctual.
John grew up in a military family, where being 15 minutes early was on time and being on time was late. Being late is horrible! according to John. Sarah's tardiness drives John crazy.
John “just” wants Sarah to be on time.
John has a gravity problem. He can want Sarah to be on time all he wants, but that is not going to get Sarah to be on time. Sarah is who she is.
Once John accepts that, he has options.
If John and Sarah are both going to an event together, they can take two separate cars. That way, each is in control of when they arrive.
If John and Sarah are both going to an event with a definite start time, such as a movie, play, concert, wedding, etc., John can tell Sarah that they need to leave 15 minutes (or more) before they really do, and really give Sarah a buffer so that they can be on time. I know a couple who did this for big events. The wife told her husband that their friends’ wedding was an hour earlier than it actually was to ensure that her husband would show up on time.
John can talk with Sarah about the heightened anxiety he feels when waiting for her and when being late. This may help Sarah to better understand things from his perspective. He can ask her to make an effort to be more timely. (However, this is a request, not a demand, and she may not end up being any more timely in the end.)
Sarah can talk with John about the fact that she is time-challenged and has difficulty with transitions and/or tries to fit too much into her day and/or doesn’t like to waste time just sitting and waiting. This may help John to better understand things from her perspective. She can ask John to try to allow for a window of timeliness, rather than just a moment of timeliness.
Look at a conflict that you have with someone. Do you have a gravity problem? Are you trying to defy the laws of gravity?
What is the best that you can do with the situation, recognizing that you only have control over yourself and your actions?
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