"What I want most is for you not to be angry at me all the time."

Those words were spoken by the husband of a client when she asked him what he wanted most from their apparently deteriorating relationship.

For many of us, the line between anger and frustration is a fine one indeed. It is even more so when we are on the receiving end, seeking to know the feelings behind what we hear a loved one say. My swift-thinking client was stunned at what her husband was experiencing. I was not. For some months I had listened to how quickly she spoke on our phone calls, and from what she had told me it was clear that she was frustrated that her husband thought and spoke more deliberately, and could not always keep up with her rapid-fire delivery. During our previous call I had suggested that she ask him what he wanted to have happen in their relationship. It was clear that both wanted to save it, but that both were frustrated – and uncertain how to go about fixing whatever was wrong.

If any one individual is above average in being smart, swift-thinking and successful, then the law of averages predicts that the person closest to that individual is probably less so. Therein lies a trap, and today I want to help all of us to avoid that trap – for we are all smart, swift-thinking and successful, are we not? And we can all fall into that trap – the trap of showing frustration when someone else thinks more slowly than we do, of irritation when they do not do things as we think they should be done. I remember a relative – swift-thinking above all – and the pain of everyone who listened as, every evening, she valiantly tried to help a slower-thinking son – not slow thinking, just slower than his mother – with his homework. Her frustration would boil over as what was overwhelmingly evident to her took its sweet time in becoming apparent to her son. That frustration would sometimes transform her from a loving, helpful mother into a raging virago. The more frustrated she became, the louder was her voice, and the more hesitant did her son become to give an answer that, he knew, might cause yet another angry explosion if it were wrong. So, in a self-feeding spiral, the more frustrated she became, the slower were his responses, and the slower were his responses, the more frustrated she became.

My clients are often just such successful and swift-thinking folks, and some of them have similar difficulties in their relationships. For them I am developing an alphabet of thoughts that aims to counter the focused and fast thinking that can easily undermine what was, originally, a loving and mutually nurturing relationship. In this initial article I will give you, literally, the A B Cs. They stand for acceptance, beware, and cherish.

Acceptance… such a difficult word! Can we accept that other people may work, think, behave differently from us without them or us being wrong? Can we accept that differences, like feelings, just ARE? It seems trite to turn to the flower bed, where some plants come to full flower in weeks while others take years, and yet the analogy works well.

Can we also accept that it is even more difficult for the slower thinker to speed up than for the faster thinker to slow down? So… who needs to adapt? Who needs to accept?
Beware… Beware the rolling incremental differences. We tend to work to our strengths. If one of a couple is just a little better or swifter at a task, rather than watch the other struggle the speedier will most frequently take on the chore, and so become even more competent at it. Starting with almost balanced task load and abilities, or, say, a 49/51 percent distribution, the swifter may take on 54 percent. It doesn't feel like much more, but the difference between the two has quadrupled, and will most probably continue to increase, rolling incrementally. Soon one will feel over-burdened, while the other feels increasingly incompetent and helpless at that task. Remember, two of the most powerful motivations for humans are to feel competent, and that we have mastery of something. Do we help others when we deny them both? Beware the rolling incremental differences!

Lastly, cherish! Cherish the remembrance of all that we loved when we first met the person! Cherish the differences that attracted us even though those differences may now grate sorely on our nerves. Cherish the person! It is most likely that person has not changed! It is our perception that has changed. Familiarity does indeed breed contempt if we allow ourselves to stop cherishing.

I cannot tell you that learning to accept, beware and cherish led my far distant client back to the love that the couple once shared, for that story is still unfolding, and relationships are complex, and rarely dependent on one issue alone. Nonetheless, I can tell you that it is a mantra that promises much. Accept, beware, and cherish. Perhaps you can create the rest of the alphabet for your own situation.

Author's Bio: 

Born and raised in England, Diana Gardner Robinson left school at sixteen and came to the United States in her twenties. She subsequently completed several graduate degrees in psychology and became a Certified Alcohol & Substance Abuse Counselor in New York State. While working in the addictions field she also took two years of training as a professional life coach and opened her coaching business in 1997. In addition to her coaching, she has been an addictions counselor and now teaches future addictions counselors. Her life experience has been wide, and this enables her to coach around issues of life balance and a wide range of stumbling blocks that, if we are not in balance, may trip us up or block our way. Visit her website for more information http://www.thebalancedcoach.com/