Make no mistake your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. All those negotiations and arguments and secrets, the compromises, George Clooney famously said in the movie Up in the Air.
Clooney used a backpack as a brilliant metaphor for our lives in this epic movie, concluding our relationships weigh us down far greater than all our possessions if you were to stuff both into a backpack and strap it on to your shoulders. This movie clip resonates on so many levels, essentially because relationships are so incredibly complex, especially with loved ones as we can easily get tangled up in an interconnected web. We are all multi-dimensional and capable of so many different moods, emotions and viewpoints on life and how we handle stress, manage adversity and create our opinions ultimately define who we are. There are so many layers and dimensions to discover for each of us in our journey through life. It’s like peeling back the leaves of an artichoke to get to the heart (and soul!) of each of us.
Therefore, it should be no surprise that meaningful relationships can, and typically are, complicated. Essentially, it’s a convergence of two complex people searching to find common ground by navigating through numerous land mines. Chemistry serves as a lubricant but, at the end of the day, a foundation of common ground, trust and respect has to exist for a successful relationship to thrive. These ingredients are certainly necessary to share with a significant other but also apply to friends, siblings, parents, colleagues, etc.
But even two very compatible people may find themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum on one or several key areas that can jeopardize the overall relationship. This may sound unlikely, but the reality is it’s actually the norm rather than the exception. Consider all the key components of a solid foundation that we have to agree on: religion, politics(!), health, family, choice of friends, wellness, lifestyle, etc. Even lesser, seemingly trivial, interests can be deal breakers such as music, movies, travel, diet, etc. The reality is there are numerous layers and dimensions to our life and it may be near impossible to align perfectly with someone else.
So, what to do? For starters, look in the mirror and know who you are and what you stand for: Know thyself. Self-awareness can go a long ways towards assessing your belief system. Are you opinionated with fixed views or are you open with a growth mindset? You may have to drill down into each key area and ask yourself that question and judge your flexibility. Be aware of issues that could ultimately drive a wedge into an otherwise healthy partnership. Evaluating negotiable differences versus hard lining deal breakers is a process we all go through with deeper relationships.
If there are two disparate views on a key issue that is important to one or both of you, it can destroy an otherwise great relationship. So, find a way to agree to disagree and focus on all the common ground that created your rich relationship(s) in an effort to not ruin something special. Embrace the great qualities that make you unique and don’t feel you need to compromise. Rather than shoot for absolute terms of 100% compatibility which is totally unrealistic, target 80% and respect each others differences on the remaining 20%. After all, 80% of a rich relationship is better than 100% of no relationship.
We each carry our own ‘backpack of relationships’ squarely on our shoulders, but how we deal with them determines whether they are a heavy burden in our daily lives. Lighten your load by proactively managing your relations. Life is a lot more fun – and lighter – when you’re not carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.