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Step Five. Moving Toward Commonality.
It is a bit of a toss-up whether it was this step or the first one that is the hardest. This step involved being with disgust and feeling uncompromising.

For us it may have been easier than it may be for others. We’ve been together for a number of years and know that we share much in common. Without this length of relationship it may be necessary to deal with very basic commonalities – things like: that we all feel, even if we don’t feel the same about the same things; that we both have strong values, even though they are different; that we both want to get through this.

At this stage it was possible to have a sense of both me and you: not just focusing on the other person, and not needing to focus on myself, but a sense that both of us are in this. This meant us recognising that we had a relationship – we may want to leave it soon, but at the moment we are relating to each other. It meant having a sense of the other person as well as myself.

Step Six. Finding your bottom line
Moving toward commonality also meant a sense of our difference(s). At this stage there was clarity about what we could and couldn’t do if we were to remain true to ourselves.

Neither of us is interested in asking our partner to deny their integrity. So, this was make or break time for the relationship. This means knowing what it is to be true to myself, knowing that I can’t live with some things and be true to who I am.

This means confronting the feelings about ending the relationship. If you love each other as much as we do, then this is painful. It means facing anxiety perhaps, probably sadness and anger as well.

Step Seven. Stating the bottom line
This can be very uncomfortable but has to be done. The fact is I can’t live with [whatever it is]. For us this meant being very specific and behavioural: “I can’t stay in this relationship if you do [this]”.

We discovered a demand that the other person be other than who they are, and we managed to move past this. The requirement wasn’t for the other person to be other than who they are. If this is what is needed then I think the relationship will have to end.

Step Eight. Change of behaviour – yours, theirs or both
At this stage there is an agreement about behaving in accord with the bottom lines. For us, and we are both quite heady, this was utterly specific and concrete.

The importance of our relationship meant a need to be entirely clear. This meant both people knowing what was wanted and what they would be doing.

This can lead to different behaviour in other ways too. This process can lead to many discoveries about ourself and the other person. This may lead to us behaving differently in unexpected ways. So there may be lots of new behaviour in addition to the bottom lines agreed.

If the agreed change in behaviour is by one person, rather than both, it will be important that the person agreeing to change does not resent this. They will need to know that they value the relationship enough to behave in the new way.

This has been our process. It worked for us and we have a new depth of relationship now that this issue is not cluttering up our relationship. Having gone through this together our relationship is stronger for it. I can’t guarantee that this will be the outcome – it may turn out that differences are irreconcilable. What I can say, is that the differences aren’t always irreconcilable. They weren’t for us.

If you liked this post you might also like:
Intimacy how to Get More of It
Part One of this series
Part Two of this series

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