In our last post, we talked about the importance of adding daily fillers to your individual reservoir in order to be emotionally healthy and happy. Likewise, our relationships also need resources in order to function well.
Any time that you have two people, you have a relationship reservoir, complete with drains and muddy sludge, that needs to be filled from the two individual reservoirs.
We Can’t Give What We Don’t Have
If you’re suck’n mud, you’re not going to have much to contribute to your relationships. We have a responsibility to the main people in our lives to take care of ourselves. Remember, we cannot give what we don’t have. If we are sucking mud, we don’t have anything to contribute to our relationships. In fact, our relationships are one of the reasons why we want to keep our own personal reservoirs filled. It doesn’t do any good to fill up if we don’t open the relationship valve. We live in a society where there’s a buzz around the need for self-care and to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself and to not let any body be in your life that is damaging. This is all really good and true, AND it’s not an end in and of itself. It’s important that we take good care of ourselves so that we can have fulfilling relationships, and in order to do that, we have to choose to open those valves.
Plan Relationship Fillers Proactively
In addition to my own personal fillers, I also try to proactively plan my relationship fillers out on a daily and weekly basis because when I don’t do those things, there are always plenty of things knocking on the door, vying for my attention.
When a relationships is not in a good place, we typically don’t want to be with the other person and don’t look forward to spending time with them. In those moments, it seems very counterintuitive to proactively fill the relationship reservoir. In reality, that’s almost always an indication of needing more resources in that relationship.
Instead of “I don’t like you right now. I don’t want to be with you,” think “I don’t like you right now. Let’s go get a coke.” Or run an errand together or play a game or have sex or do something to reconnect because you’re feeling distance. Conceptually, if you can get that that click in your brain and remember that if you’re doing things to create resources in your relationship, then you will remember why you like each other and that you do like each other— which is not how we normally think when we are suck’n mud. This paradigm shift will enable you to make the changes or do the things that you need to do to have a healthy relationship.
Diagnosing the Wrong Problem
A really important thing to think about when you are experiencing relationship drain is that frequently we diagnose the wrong problem. Frequently, when it seems we have a problem in our relationship, the problem is really that we are low on resources. When we are suck’n mud–when we’re depleted of our resources–everything hits the radar, and everything feels like a problem. This happens a lot with conflict resolution. If I come home at the end of the day, dead tired, hungry, and depleted of resources, I’m going to be much more likely to be upset at you or to be bothered by something that you do. It’s really easy to fight about that in those moments. However, whatever the content is of that fight may not be the problem at that given time. Accurately diagnosing depletion of resources is a huge piece of the puzzle in being able to effectively run our lives and our relationships. You can spend a lot of time solving a problem that really is about not having the resources.
How to Tell the Difference
If you feel like your spouse is just bugging you lately, it’s probably a resource problem. If you fill up and the resources are in good shape, and he’s still bugging you, then you can get into that, but it’s really important to first accurately diagnose what the problem is.
A really good question to assess that is “Is this going to bug me tomorrow? next week? next year?”
Typically that will help our brains be able to assess whether it’s a resource problem or a real problem. “Do I really care that the bed is not made or that you’re not listening to me in this moment, or do I care because I’m sucking mud and depleted of resources?” “If I weren’t depleted of resources, would I be having the same emotional reaction that I’m having to whatever the situation is?” If the answer to that is no, then it’s a resource problem. If the answer to that is yes, then it’s likely more than a resource problem. You still need resources so that you can address the problem, but many, many problems are taken care of just by having sufficient resources.
Fill Up the Reservoir
Spend some time with your spouse/partner and make a list of things that can be classified as relationship fillers (Date night, sex and nonsexual affection, texts, I love you, spending time, service, gifts–all the love languages)
Set a goal to do three individual fillers and three relationship fillers every day.
Try it for a week–what do you notice?