Stick it out, rather than walk out is a distinctly anti-Me Generation response to survival fears and unmet wants — the opposite of the Baby Boomer ideology of self-gratification and self-indulgence.
So if both your savings and your relationship are in crisis, how can you tell if the latter is worth saving? We offer a checklist, courtesy of the noted couples counselor and author, David Richo. Richo’s way is the Buddhist ‘middle way’ between poles of excessive self-concern and Depression-era self-sacrifice. A triple-threat, as they say in Hollywood, Richo is a one-time Catholic priest, who earned a Phd. in psychology — and then went Buddhist. A Jungian psycho-therapist, Richo is also the author of 13 books, including his breakthrough, How to Be an Adult in Relationships.
He may be the world’s most insightful observer of how relationships work, or don’t. And whether you should stay, or go. Here is a schema we made up to show the difference between a realized teacher like Richo and mass-media schlock-jocks like Dr. Phil:
DR. PHIL: I am here to help you fix the story of what happened to you, bolster your personality (ego), and push you to get what you want.
DAVID RICHO: Entrenchment in ego is the biggest obstacle to intimacy. I am here to help you become more conscious of your conditioning, and how it is keeping you stuck in repetitive patterns.
OPRAH/DR. PHIL: Have some self-respect, get some spine, and kick him to the curb . . . (just like Oprah did to that one, who wrote A Million Little Pieces).
DAVID RICHO: If the purpose of relationships is to show us where our (inner) work lies, there’s actually no blame to spread around. You’d say, ‘Thank you for showing me what my work is.’
OPRAH/DR. PHIL: What are the things you want in a man to be happy? Tell us (translation: my ratings/audience) your (ego’s) needs.
DAVID RICHO: If you rush into a relationship because of attraction and chemistry, it’s probably best to run the other way unless you can say: “Oh, here is a chance to do my work, and the other person agrees that they’ll do theirs.” But if you think of the relationship simply as, ‘we’re going to satisfy each other,’ the unconscious will present it’s “bill”.
So what things does Richo recommend we ask ourselves to discern whether a relationship is worth working on, or leaving?
The therapist has distilled the following five “
A’s” from his Buddhist devotion, scholarly research and clinical observation. How many of these five “A’s” does your relationships have?
And two more, for good measure:
Agreement (as in, a relationship isn’t a high-concept thing; it’s essentially the sum of a series of kept agreements)
Authentic presence (as in Martin Buber’s “I am thou”)
If your relationship has enough of Richo’s A’s, he prescribes three basic steps for working out any issue — whether it’s about depressed stocks, a failing career, or a depressed soul.
- Address the problem. Name it. Articulate an issue in the relationship, without blame: “I am unhappy with how much you drink.”
- Articulate how it makes you feel, and relate it to something in your past. Report the feelings that go with the problem (processing). Acknowledge how the feeling is fueled by your past. How do you know if it’s connected? If you’re experiencing it intensely, and taking it seriously, it’s connected.
- Make an agreement with your intimate partner about how to change it.
This is the essence of how to be an adult in a relationship, a loaded term at first glance. But Richo’s definition of an adult isn’t judgemental. In fact, it’s invitingly inclusive: An adult is simply someone who has expanded his or her potential for fulfillment.
NEXT: What Does “For Richer, For Poorer” Mean During a Recession?
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