Asleep At the Wheel?
We often don’t give our relationship any intentional thought until it demands our attention, usually from some conflict or unrest. If we do much contemplation at all, it’s over what is going wrong. More specifically our thoughts drift towards what THEY did wrong or could do better.
Reflection is a grossly underutilized relationship tool. Yes, resisting our emotional triggers is difficult. Especially with the layers of stress people are managing today. Letting go of reaction and turning to reflection doesn’t come naturally for most. Habitualizing reflection is even more rare.
Over time, most couples fall into the default trap of getting tired, worn down, feeling unappreciated, resorting to complaining, blaming, or withdrawing until one day poof – they don’t remember why they’re together anymore.
But not you! You’re here reading this, looking, considering, reflecting to aim for your most awesome relationship possible.
It’s ironic that the word “reflect” means both “to throw back, without absorbing it”, while ALSO meaning “to think deeply or carefully about”.
In this case it means to look back at the last three months of your relationship, think deeply about it, absorb the lessons from that time and declare your next steps on the path to evolving love.
“Self-reflection entail asking yourself questions about your values, assessing your strengths and failures, thinking about your perceptions and interactions with others, and imagining where you want to take your life in the future.” – Robert L. Rosen
In our commitment to aim for awesome in relationship, (rather than getting drained by dissecting the dramas instead), my husband and I choose an intentional forward focus to intimacy.
A big part of this forward-focused approach is embracing the quarterly Proactive Period.
Four times a year we take a month to look back on love so we can leap forward.
In the first week of the Proactive Period, we CELEBRATE that we set goals for our relationship in the first place. In the second week, we REST, knowing that burnout is real and doing nothing can be incredibly valuable. The final week is all about taking AIM at your next round of inspiring and aligning relationship goals.
THIS week, we REFLECT.
This week of reflection is all about looking back at the last three months to consider how your relationship did, how you did, and how you want it to go in the future.
Looking Back to Leap Forward
I’m all for a forward focus in life and love. Driving looking at the rear view mirror is dangerous and bound to cause problems.
Still, if we look back with the purpose of leaping forward it can be wildly empowering and effective path towards a playful, peaceful, passionate relationship.
“If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.” – Steven Covey
The Costs of Skipping Contemplation
A teacher once told me, “Experience is expensive. Just be sure you get what you paid for.”
If you’re going to grow in your relationship and your life then you must learn from your experiences. Otherwise, you’re doomed to keep repeating them, chasing your tail or hitting your head against the wall, getting frustrated by doing the same things and expecting different results.
“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey
If you fail to reflect, you’re doomed to blindly drift into the relationship default, full of conflicts, unintended consequences and a stagnant relationship. If you skip reflection, you’re living with the disadvantage of a huge blind spot.
If you want it to get better, consider how it went!
Tendency Focus On Others
It can be uncomfortable to look at ourselves – to say the least. Still, it is the most useful place to look. We can’t change anyone. Only ourselves.
It’s all too easy to point the finger, project our pain and blame on our beloved in times of conflict. The real work (and opportunity), is to look at ourselves and how we can evolve.
Just as we often use our mouth too much and our ears not enough, we’re also often too quick to pass judgment and too slow to self-reflect.
Look at YOU, not them. Be an example and model. You’re the only person you can change anyway.
The Rewards of Leaning Into Reflection
Having a practice of reflection builds muscle in slowing down your reactions so you can RESPOND instead. In a reaction, there is little choice or intention. When you instead slow down, reflect and respond, then you’ve considered a variety of factors all that all increase your chances of success and happiness.
“Honest self-reflection opens your mind to reprogramming, change success and freedom.” – Vikas Runwal
Reflection also improves AWARENESS of yourself, any patterns in your relationship or of any values or desires you hold dear.
Intentional consideration adds PERSPECTIVE so you can see not just your experience, but take a look at the circumstances from many vantage points. The more you can see, the better informed your experience is.
Taking time to meditate on your relationship elicits deeper LEARNING so that you might discover new pathways together or even new parts of yourself.
Reflection is FREEING as it can help you unhook from triggers and being emotionally hooked or stuck.
“Honest self-understanding liberates us from our stuck emotions.” – C Terry Warner
By committing to challenge your own reactions and assumptions you also build TRUST in your relationship because your beloved knows you care enough to look closely at what you’re contributing to the relationship and how it can be better.
The Proof Is In the Performance
A 2014 Harvard study showed that thinking after completing tasks is “no idle pursuit”. They demonstrated how reflection can “powerfully enhance the learning process”.
Not only can reflection help, its value is “more than the accumulation of additional experience”. Don’t keep doing the same things over and over again. Think about what happened and how you could do it better.
Reflection resulted in higher levels of performance. You can stack the “performance outcome” cards in your favor if you “deliberately focus on learning from experience accumulated in the past.”
Don’t keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Consider what happened and how you can do it better.
Avoid Analysis Paralysis
Now yes, reflection is a good thing. It’s a great thing. AND too much of a great thing isn’t so good.
Don’t get stuck in reflection, navel gazing or looking over your shoulder. Analysis paralysis is a real thing. And it will stop you from moving forward.
Pause and reflect just long enough to complete the past and inform your future.
Don’t get trapped into a fixing frenzy where you get stuck dissecting dramas or problem pathologizing.
Experience Into Insight
The key to relationship evolution is to take your experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly and turn them into insights and inspiration for the future through meaningful consideration.
“Reflective thinking turns experience into insight.” John C. Maxwell
In relationships, we all have those moments that are so intense we might think “WTF?!”, still, most of us want to grow wiser and do better next time. Doing better comes from wisdom. Wisdom comes from consideration.
Transmute your experiences into insights. Turn your insights into inspiring goals. Break down your goals into actions and then make those empowering actions into everyday habits.
3 Step Path to Success
When you’re triggered and in reaction, things tend to move fast, escalate and even explode.
When that happens to you, just remember this three-step process to pull you out of any triggered reactions.
- Pause – Take a breath. Take ten. Bonus: Set aside specific habitual times to take a step back, let go of striving or blindly moving forward for a moment.
- Ponder – Seek perspective, identify any of your patterns, consider what worked, what could work even better, consult your values, listen for your inner wisdom.
- Proceed – Select specific next steps to move forward, declare new action to adjust, and then take it.
Possibilities for PAUSING
To get the creative reflection juices going, here’s a list of possible reflection activities to explore.
- Meditate / Sit still
- Talk to others / Seek council
Prompts to PONDER
Test out these prompts to kickstart your relationship reflection exploration. See where they take you. Follow your intuition for what needs more attention.
- Examine what you’re grateful for or proud of.
- Consider what worries you or any regrets you might be carrying.
- Analyze how you can do better next time.
- Appraise anything that needs to be in communication about.
- Review what’s next for you in Keeping the Fights Clean and the Sex Dirty.
- Name what you’re hopeful for or eager to experience together.
- Ask what you yearn for most deeply.
Pathways to PROCEED
There are many paths up the mountain as they say. What’s important is that you do SOMETHING. Anything is better than nothing.
So pick YOUR pathway. Just pick something!
- Set a goal
- Make a declaration
- Schedule reminders
- Post visual prompts
- Invent a game to play
- Have a weekly check-in
- Habituate your goals
Investing in intimacy with intentional ACTION is a heroic act of love. And it just makes your relationship and life better too.
What’s the point of all the pondering if you never put it into future action?
Fine Tune for Fabulous
It is all too easy to fall into the common yet gross trap of dissecting your relationship dramas.
Don’t let your relationship succumb to the death by a thousand paper cuts. Resist the temptation to complain, blame, or even fix. Usually, things escalate or even blow up.
Don’t be satisfied to just move on. Insist on moving forward by looking closely at what you can do to create a happy, healthy, and hot relationship.
Every complaint is a break in your connection. Every reflection is an opportunity for improving intimacy. Choose wisely.
Fine-tune your relationship for being fabulous. Reflect on your relationship by PAUSING, PONDERING & PROCEEDING. Empower yourself and your relationship to evolve ongoingly through intentional and habitual reflection.
Let us know how it goes and how we can support YOU in having the relationship of your dreams.
Your Partners in a P3 Relationship,