A committed relationship stays committed and happy with attitude. Yes, even more important than sex, it takes attitude. What in the world is attitude? Well, in regard to government, newspaper editorials call it political will. But what is attitude in a committed same-gender relationship? Psychologists say that attitudes are the most distinctive and indispensable concept in human relations. That idea applies to political affiliation and employee-employer relationships as well as to how things work out in a “love relationship.” In the simplest term, attitude is manifested in the way a person shows favor or disfavor toward a person, place or thing. “I never did like this house…” betrays an underlying attitude toward a “thing” that always affects one’s contentment with regard to that “thing.” Now think how much more an attitude toward a person affects one’s relationship with that person. Here we are talking about a person who is one’s “partner,” “lover,” ‘significant other,” “mahal,” or any such preferred term. The problem is: we are human and sometimes attitude takes strange twists and turns without our being conscious of it. Consider: the relationship started out with all the wonderful earmarks of love and romance, in a seventh heaven of poetic idealism. Dates were great. But living-in we began to see beyond the “dressing up” and going out fun. He/she does things we never do in our family, wrong behaviors my dad would never allow. “I shower three times a day. Horrors! He/she hates to shower.” And slowly the romantic attitude is eroded. OMG chips away at the very foundation of the relationship before we realize we have changed our attitude. If both of us are perfect, this will never happen. We will live “happily ever after.” If you and your partner don’t quite measure up to “perfect,” you may want to examine some options. First, admitting that probably neither of you is perfect, then the question is: how strong is the love? Then, what do I want to do about it? Get out of there? Or find ways to handle it in accordance with the depths of my true love. Those answers are very basicly influenced by attitude. So, you see, before we can improve our relationship through love, companionship, sexual satisfaction, etc., we need to take a look at what we want to do about our attitude. How strong is my love for this person? What imperfection can I deal with in accordance with my love? One client came to realize that even if he loved his partner immensely, he was not able to be his therapist. His partner needed professional help and was unwilling to get it. The same was true for more than one who needed help to get off drugs. This calls for a realistic decision. But what can I do about my attitude toward the day to day irritations? Sometimes it’s bigger than a day to day irritation. What if one partner breaks their agreement about “no sex with anybody else”? Believe it or not, this is where attitude comes in. When will I be unbending? When will my love triumph over my unforgiving attitude? There is no one answer to miraculously cure every situation. The one consistent answer is: cure the attitude. I must fix my attitude in order to stay in a relationship. Wrong, inappropriate is to think, feel, have the attitude that I MUST always stick it out no matter how miserable I am, how miserable we are. We cannot have a year’s therapy in one article here. But “angry all the tine” calls for change. One option is a change of attitude toward what I am angry about. Another option is the best one of all. My attitude is: I am in this relationship because of love. My love impels me to do everything I can to make my partner happy. “What can I do to make my mahal happy?” When both have this basic attitude and act on it, that’s the best solution. A happy fulfilling relationship can result from two adults exercising adult behavior, adult attitudes. If one of us is parent in the relationship and the other is child, we have a set up for a dysfunctional adult relationship. Likewise if both are child in the relationship, or both are parent. Attitudes generate scripts. Often they are verbal scripts, but they can be behavioral scripts as well. “You always do that.” “You do the same stupid thing over and over.” Or, behaviorally, I walk in the door every time looking for something to be angry about. And my attitudinal script is to BE angry. To make a long story short, in our relationship, and in life, we need to monitor, control, and direct our attitudes rather than passively allowing them to mess up our life. In other words, I am in control of my attitudes. I can decide what attitude I want to have. For a mundane example, I have always belonged to this political party. My dad did; it’s the party our family belongs to. (That’s like an attitude) But as an adult, I become aware that I very much like what another party advocates. I can
control my attitude. I can make an adult decision. Which is my choice? It is the job, the role, the function of an adult to make adult decisions and form adult attitudes. Today we are talking about sorting things out to have a mature adult relationship and not let prior or unexamined attitudes mar the prospects. I can choose whether I want to be happy. I can choose whether I want my partner to be happy. I can choose whether I want to have a happy relationship. Is there anything I want to change my attitude about? Is there anything that is affecting the happiness of our relationship that I want to change? What? When? If I choose to change my attitude, what affect will it have on me? On my partner? On our relationship? Do I want to stay in the same old rut? For all of us, having an adult (mature) life can be so much better with reprograming dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors. I will make a conscious effort to maintain attitudes and scripts that will bring happiness to both of us. Richard Mickley, Ph.D. author of Sharing and Growing, how to enhance a committed same-gender relationship.