|1) Your book is called, ‘Turning ME to WE: The Art of Partnering with Mindfulness’. What do you mean by Turning ME to WE?
I look at the different styles of relationships. They fall into three different styles. Me style is dependent, codependent, narcissistic, self-focused. There is a lack of empathy or seeing the other person’s needs. I style is independent, competitive, and self-protective. Although the person in this relationship style has the capacity for empathy, he or she makes a conscious decision to not use it. The We style is interdependent, connecting and collaborative. This is the most mutually satisfying style of relating. You can think of these styles as developmental moving from Me through I into a We style of relating. These different aspects of how you do relationships are like an internal map we each carry within us. Your map of relationship is derived from your observations about what your families did in relationship. It incorporates your cultural beliefs and sociao-economic background as well as your personal experiences in relationship. Even your temperament can affect your preferred style of relating. Everyone begins relating in a Me style. The work of adolescence and early adulthood is to develop into the I style of relating; however some people get stuck in either the Me-style or I-style of relating. If you get stuck in the ‘me’ style or ‘i’ style, then you have limits in how you can connect. This is what most couples experience as deficiency or unhappiness in relationship.
2) Can you tell us about the main areas where couples tend to disagree?
I developed an acronym for the five things that create conflict for couples and keep them caught in a ‘me’ or ‘I’ style of relating: MAAPS. It stands for Money, Achievement, Attachment, Power, Structure. You can think about these as insecurity drivers. They drive the core desires or needs of the relationship. These are issues within each individual. You can take the test in the book. Together these have a driving force in all relationships.
As an example, many people in a ‘me’ relationship have a big fear of not being loved. As we feel more secure, we don’t have to be driven by these insecurity drivers. Rather than stepping into a fight, I advise couples to get underneath of what’s going on. I call this the Verbal Akido, like the martial art that deflect energy away from attack. Be mindful in communication. Deflect that tone and negative energy. The three most important qualities in creating healthy ‘we’ relationship are boundaries, empathy, and inner security.
You can develop these through compassionate, communication. When you find yourself in an argument, ask a question with a focus on understanding and connecting instead of getting defensive. For example, ‘What did you hear me say?’ ‘You seem really upset. Did I do something that triggered or upset you?’ If you focus on what you want, you’ll stay connected. If you focus on what you fear, you’ll be defensive.
3) Can you talk a bit more about the differences between the ‘me’, ‘I’, and ‘we’ relationships?
Me: Picture two circles; two halves make one whole. ( ) There are no boundaries, and people get overrun easily. They have difficulty saying no. As they develop their comfort in saying no, they can move into ‘I’ and then ‘we’.
I: Picture two whole circles walking side by side. 00 Each person is wholly independent and there is no overlap. They have rigid boundaries and difficulty saying yes.
We: Picture two overlapping circles.o0o, like a venn diagram, the overlapping circles create an inner circle. This is the interdependent relationship. These are two people who mutually support each other and flexibly support the couple as an entity.
Generally speaking, the person we call to us in a relationship is in the same space we are. So first, you need to recognize your part in the relationship. Make changes personally. Invite your partner to join you. If he or she is not willing or able to change, you need to move on with compassion and understanding.
If you’d like to learn what to do in an argument and how to have a truly healthy, loving, lasting relationship, tune in to the full podcast or download it here.
You can also watch this YouTube video illustrating MAAPS and how it helps with relationships.