Unless you have been meditating in a cave this past month, undoubtedly you and your family have been exposed to the Tiger Woods avalanche. “Thirty mistresses, Elin without her wedding ring in public, Tiger’s retirement from professional golf, the Department of Child Services visiting their home”. The headlines have held our world captivated week after week. As a society, celebrities such as Tiger Woods serve a role for our collective unconscious. They are our modern mythological Roman gods, symbolically acting out all of our fantasies and desires, yet often the victim of their own fatal flaws. They are our biblical figures, living their lives often as fables, with morals at the end of the story that we can retell to future generations. These dramas serve a purpose for humanity and unite us through lively discussions where we can express our opinions, reinvent who we are in this moment, explore our values, and be distracted from our own pain.
Of course these public figures, who we have designated our role models, never volunteered to be the poster-children for mental health and squeaky clean morality. Yes, they have signed up to have every fragment of their lives scrutinized and dissected. Yes, it is the price of fame. Yes, we are held captivated and spellbound watching the train wrecks. Perhaps it soothes our own narcissistic wounds watching those deemed more “special” fall from grace. There is something satisfying in our populist times about watching the playing field even out for all. Even powerful, rich, celebrities with all of their money and fame have problems. Alas, we all suffer. No one lives a completely charmed life.
Even though the mass media tries to package and market the belief that superficial success equates with internal happiness and fulfilling relationships, it does not take a rocket scientist to know that the message is just plain wrong. With so many celebrities’ pubic scandals, many people question their own relationships. If a celebrity with all the power, money, fame, hired help and luxuries can not have a healthy relationship, how can the average person, stressed and struggling to make ends meet possibly succeed? The answer is that not everyone can or should stay together. Sometimes things are broken beyond repair, or some factors such as abuse or addictions come into play that make relationships dangerous and toxic. Yet, for most couples, there are good times and bad times.
There are four simple rules we can all follow to avoid our own relationship pitfalls, ride out the bad times, and learn the lessons from Tiger’s mistakes. Although all relationships will be challenged at some point, these rules are our best defense against infidelity. As with the 4 c’s used to calculate the value of a diamond, we must apply 4 c’s to our most precious commodity of all, our partners, to have a rock solid diamond relationship.
1. Commitment: Webster’s defines as, “A pledge, promise, or obligation.” Of course we live in a world of bigger, better and faster. Yet, whether you are married or monogamously involved, this is the foundation for your entire relationship. With two willing partners who want to stay together, mountains can move. Commitment is not about the good days. Notice Webster’s did not use the word love in the definition. Commitment is about deciding to turn around after you just walked out the door in the middle of a horrible argument. Commitment is about maturity, responsibility, and character. Commitment is about staying true to your word and not giving up when the going gets tough. Commitment is about living your life as a “we”, not an “I”. Recommit to your partner everyday by actively remembering how you saw your partner when you first fell in love and decide to focus on their qualities that you love, instead of what you hate.
2. Consideration: This is very similar to the golden rule. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Try to do things that will please your partner, without becoming a “Pleaser.” That means, be sensitive to their feelings, desires, idiosyncrasies, and take them into account when making decisions. Wash your dishes and pick up your socks if it bothers her. Buy his favorite snack on your way home. Think of little things you can do to make your partner happy. Fight fairly when you can. You can never take back certain words or experiences. Try to think and consider how your partner will feel and use the same common courtesy as you would for a close friend or colleague. This is one of the key points to keep the spark alive in a relationship. Putting in a little effort to show respect and concern for your partner’s feelings goes a long way.
3. Connection: This is the water and sunshine necessary to keep your relationship thriving. Like a garden, you must tend to your relationship everyday. It doesn’t have to take all night. But, decide to spend at least 15 minutes a day looking into your partner’s eyes, hearing about their day, and being affectionate. With all of the technology out there, even for those who travel for work, it is almost impossible not to connect with your partner. Connecting means lovingly concentrating in the present moment on your partner. Connection is the fuel for chemistry, passion, and romance. Sit outside on a warm night, or in front of a fire. Drink a glass of wine or a cup of tea. At the very least, watch a movie or TV show you both like and laugh together. Spend a few minutes consciously putting aside your stress, and be with the person you love.
4. Communication: Finally, you must weed your garden. This means speaking your truth. Don’t let resentments build up, unexpressed. Often people have a very difficult time knowing how to talk to each other calmly when they are upset. Communicating before a fight ensues is always advisable. Use the earthquake metaphor and allow for mini-tremors instead of waiting for the “Big One.” There will always be conflict in every relationship. Do not avoid it. When a partner does not feel safe to discuss his/her fears, desires, anger, or beliefs, he will often look for someone else he feels comfortable being himself around. One of the most important keys to communication is to try to take a breath and think about how your partner will hear what you are saying before you speak. Of course we will all blurt things out we don’t mean, get upset, have regrets, and make mistakes. Apologize, forgive and forget. If communication difficulties are an issue in your relationship, seek the help of a licensed therapist, or read one of the many books out there to improve your communication skills.
Tiger Woods and his wife, Elin, have lived our collective relationship nightmare in the public eye. We have projected our fears upon them, felt our own sense of betrayal and imagined ourselves in their shoes. Don’t let their public humiliation have occurred in vain. Following the 4 c’s of : commitment, consideration, connection, and communication is the moral of this tiger’s tale.
Alisa Ruby Bash, M.A., LMFT is a licensed marriage and family psychotherapist, with offices in Beverly Hills and Malibu, California. Alisa is an expert in relationships, and is regularly consulted in the media. She has contributed to the books, "The Complete Marriage Counselor: Relationship-saving Advice from America’s Top 50+ Couples Therapists", "The AARP Crash Course In Career Change" and has been interviewed on Los Angeles’ V100 radio (100.3) about singles issues. Alisa is happily married and lives with her wonderful husband in Southern California. www.alisarubybash.com