Some mornings we start our days with steel cut oats topped with fruit, almond milk, some nuts, and a little butter and brown sugar for good measure. Each ingredient adds to the whole, but can stand alone on its own. Even the butter. It’s delicious and we both love it. Tom however, chooses to ruin his by stirring it all up together into something I call “glop”. I love oatmeal. I hate glop. It is hard to distinguish one flavor from the other, and it’s not much to look at either.
Stick with me here, but a bowl of glop is a lot like how we can handle interpersonal challenges, especially in our long term relationships. We stir everything up together until it is almost impossible to tell one situation or issue from other ones.
Stirring everything together sounds something like this: You always… You never… This is just like when you… All the ingredients of the current issue get glopped together with a bunch of other ones, until every bite tastes the same, and it is nearly impossible to tell this from that.
Not stirring everything together sounds like this:This morning when you___ I felt… When you didn’t follow through on your commitment, this is how it impacted me. I want to talk to you about something that happened recently. Each issue or situation stands on its own.
Learning to take our issues one at a time and separate one from the other is one of the ways we grow up into the people we are meant to be (a lifelong process). It’s hard work. It means we have to take things as they come, deal with them as they come, and stay in the conversation about them. Some conversations are a one-and-done deal. Others come around again, and again, and again, each time an opportunity to show up more fully and with more personal accountability and ownership for our part of the bargain. And there is always a part of the bargain that is ours.
In my unhealthier moments, I can take a current issue, conflict, or challenging situation, and stir it up with a whole bunch of other ones from the past. Or take one thing and make it about everything. But as I choose to stop, sift through the emotions and particulars of the situation, I am learning to separate this from that, and bring this to the conversation, and leave that out.
Take it from me. It tastes really good.