- optimize your relationships
How High Does Our Relationship Really
By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council
address of this worksheet is http://sfhelp.org/relate/mates/priority.htm
Clicking links below will open a full window or an
informational popup, so
please turn off
your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this
nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't
This is one of a
of articles on improving
primary relationships. It adds to others proposing how
with and without kids from prior
people divorce because
of feeling too low in their mate's priorities.
The ranking often depends on (a) expectations, and (b)
how well the other person fills their dynamic
provides a place for committed partners to rank their
relationship's importance in their lives. It also offers premises about
priorities, and options for dealing with inner and
mutual priority conflicts.
Get the most from this worksheet by first
Read and mull the premises that follow. Then by
yourselves, not as a couple, thoughtfully and honestly rank your and your
partner's recent life-priorities. Then discuss the results together for learning and
problem-solving, vs. for blaming, complaining, or moralizing...
Do You Agree?
Each partner in a primary relationship
needs to feel noticed and valued enough right now, and over time - i.e. each
mate wants the other to usually want to rank them and their
relationship "high enough" in their life
priorities. "Enough" is subjective.
actions demonstrate their real
priorities more reliably than their words. This is because adults
say one thing and do another. My
33 years' clinical experience suggests that
are often ruled by false selves
- and don't (want to) know that or what to
Our personal priorities are strongly influenced by hormones, habits, current societal norms, old childhood
"shoulds," and our dominant personality
Through meditation, journaling, and
cooperatively, we can become clearer on our
real priorities (needs)
relationships need enough ongoing mutual nourishment: undistracted time and attention, risk, and some sacrifices, by each partner. Partners usually need to feel their mate
wants to give
these things freely from love and respect, rather than from duty and/or anxiety
about possible conflict, rejection, or abandonment.
Each partner's mix of personal
changes dynamically, often
unconsciously, over time. So partners are steadily challenged to
intentionally keep their relationship's
priority "high enough." This implies the value of committed couples
periodically making reality checks: i.e. knowing and discussing mutual
priorities honestly together.
Here's your chance!
Make some undistracted time to do this learning
exercise. If you need to attend to other activities first, do so.
now? If not, other well-meaning
may distort your answers here.
Notice your feelings, motivations, and expectations now. Are you looking forward to this discovery experience? Anxious?
you expect that doing this worksheet and discussing it with your partner will be
useful or a waste of time?
the activity categories below and add any others you feel have been a significant
part of your recent lives;
Pick a recent time period -
e.g. the last three months - and decide: "where have I
put the most and least of my daily energy, on the average?" Take your time,
and rank-order all the categories (1, 2, 3... ). Option: pick the highest and lowest, then
repeat with remaining categories, until you run out. Ties are OK. Note any
feelings or awarenesses that occur while you do this. Think of
someone who knows you well. Would they basically agree with your ranking?
Shift mental gears, and repeat the process for your partner: rank
you see her or him generally having allocated their personal energy during the same period.
This is about discovery, not blame! Again, note any awarenesses that occur.
When you're both done and undistracted, compare and discuss what you came up
if this feels like teammates talking or "something else" (e.g. a
competition or conflict). Stay
of your inner and mutual processes. Note nonjudgmentally
how you're communicating together about this: openly,
defensively, guardedly, irritably,
you notice? What does that mean?
Recent Life Priorities
Birthfamily: time with or for parents, siblings, and other key
Community: neighborhood / church / town / regional / national / global
Friendships: socializing / entertaining / calling / support / meeting
Home and grounds: selecting / furnishing / decorating / cleaning /
maintaining / changing / planting / protecting ...
Leisure: hobbies / vacations / sports / reading / pets / relaxing
Me (personal time): eating / resting / exercising / meditating /
worshipping / counseling / grieving / journaling / non-career education / personal growth
/ medical care / ...
|Money, wealth, and financial security: budgeting / spending /
investing / accounting / taxes / saving /
Parenting dependent and grown biokids and/or stepkids:
enjoying / guiding / disciplining / supporting / playing / teaching / planning /
protecting / problem-solving / communicating with other co-parent(s) and kin / financing /
Possessions (material things): acquiring / installing / maintaining /
Work and career: commuting / job time / overtime /
on-the-job training / other education / entertaining / resumes / searching / career
|You / Us (couple time): communicating / problem-solving (or
arguing) / activities / intimacy / relationship-building
I truly feel (a) my words about
my recent key life-priorities generally match my actions, and (b) I feel this is true about
you too, recently.
I feel our recent mix of personal priorities has generally
been a _ strength _ stressor _ neutral factor
in our relationship-quality;
Do I or you need someone's priorities to change? If so:
who's, which, when, and why? Is anything in the way? What may happen if
there's no change?
I am satisfied enough with (a) how often and
(b) how well you
and I communicate and (c)
avoid, or complain) about our current
mix of personal priorities.
I feel that (a) my and (b)
priorities are pretty stable over time, vs. shifting around erratically…
If Im (or were) not
about our current life priorities here, it is…
How am I feeling about what Im learning here? Do I need
to change or do anything? What are my options?
If You Have a "Priority Conflict"...
either of you is significantly dissatisfied with the other's demonstrated
priorities, be alert for "Be
spontaneous!" paradoxes. These occur when one person expects or demands
something from another which can only be given spontaneously, like love,
honesty, respect, and interest. Demanding such things makes it impossible to
give them. ("You just respect me because I asked you to!") So "I want
you to value me and our relationship more!" makes it impossible to do so!
Also be alert for the difference between surface and primary priorities.
"You put your parents before me" may
really be "You put fear of parental disapproval and rejection before
"You put work ahead of our
relationship" may really be "You need to avoid our inability to resolve
our relationship problems by being away from home."
"You need to put socializing ahead of
intimacy with me" may really be "You need to avoid the guilt and shame
of feeling sexually inadequate with me"
Guideline - to identify your
below the surface clashes.
Help each other be alert for obsolete or inapplicable rules (shoulds, have
to's, musts) that influence your surface priorities. Often, rules are
unconsciously adopted form childhood caregivers / hero/ines / mentors /
friends and are not really applicable to your unique life situation. In a
priority conflict, seek underlying rules, identify where you got the
rules, and then examine whether the rules still fit for you and your mate
Finally, if you experience
about your priorities ("I should spend more time with __________
/ want to exercise more / get more sleep /
pray more often" / etc..), that often means a
controls you. Apply these ideas about
reducing guilt to normal, and
(Lesson 1) to raise your inner harmony.
you or your mate feel your partner doesn't value you and your relationship
high enough often enough, the real problems may be:
one or both of you bear significant
including possibly being unable to bond (commit); and/or one or both of
may not have fully grieved prior losses (like a former
relationship), so you aren't able to fully commit; and/or one or both of
made up to three
you two don't know how to
your relationship needs effectively, and
inevitable conflicts as partners rather than adversaries.
in this Web site offer practical options for reducing three of these
stressors. They can't undo unwise commitment choices, but the Lessons
can help you learn from them.
This Lesson-4 worksheet exists to help committed partners assess and discuss
their respective life priorities. My clinical work suggests that an
important cause of psychological and legal divorce is one or both mates
feeling too unimportant for too long, and being unable to correct this.
Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this article. Did you get what
you needed? If so, what do you need now? If not, what
you need? Is there anyone you want to
discuss these ideas with?
questions - your wise resident
page / Lesson-4 links /
course outline /
site search /
definitions / chat
April 30, 2013