Behind the 100% factor

Dialogue by Kit No Comments »

My dear Kat,

I want to make two points about the 100% factor — the principle of allowing each other total freedom, and how liberating that is.

The first is that I suspect people mishear it as 100% commitment.  Yes, that’s important too, but you can be 100% committed and a terrible nag.  We are talking about something very different.

Secondly, we’re not saying people should tolerate anything and everything, acting like a doormat and letting their partner walk all over them.  Instead, it is only possible in a partnership that has core agreements in place.  I think they vary from couple to couple, but examples would be trust, honesty, monogamy and fiscal responsibility.  When these are in place, nothing else is necessary.  You can give your partner the space to do and be whatever they please.

Peculiarly, these agreements were never made explicit between us until we sat down to write our wedding vows.  That must have been because our beliefs were communicated through our actions.

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The Secret of a Peaceful Relationship

Dialogue by Kit No Comments »

My Dear Kat,

The secret of a peaceful relationship is choosing to be in a peaceful relationship. This is how we are, and I am so grateful for it. We’ve talked much about this, and how it happens.  This is an attempt to pull it all together, or at least provide a starting framework.

No attacking
Each of these bullet points could be (and often has been!)  a complete post; I just wanted to get them all together in one place.

  • not attacking the other person
  • not blaming the other person
  • having no expectations
  • making no demands
  • not expecting the other person to be or do anything in particular
  • celebrating the other person’s differences rather than criticising them

No defending

  • not taking the other person’s words as an attack
  • not reacting defensively to the other person’s words or state

Speaking the truth

  • You have to say what is going on when it reaches your consciousness. Obviously some timing is involved; halfway through the board meeting isn’t an appropriate occasion, but concealment doesn’t work for two reasons: it inhibits you from speaking, and the other picks up on it. As an example, your intuition during the weeks before I proposed.
  • Another way to say this is “No secrets”. Many people think that white lies are acceptable, even within a relationship. I am very doubtful that they can exist and have no effect.

Listening with full attention
Even when the truth is being spoken, it has to be heard. There is a technique called active listening that involves paraphrasing the speaker’s words or emotions. I don’t do anything quite so formal, but instead, listen with full attention and treat it as a monologue. If I treat it as a dialogue, I lose attention as I compose a response. This is a distinct and conscious act, and (I think) the same experience as being present.

Trusting the other
For all of this to take place, you have to believe in the essential goodness of the other; you have to trust that there is no monster lurking in there ready to spring out. But if you believe that the majority of people are basically kind-hearted and well-intentioned, then this is your de facto position.  (This gets into my political belief that conservatives believe that evil lives in the heart of man, and liberals believe in the intrinsic goodness of people. So how do conservatives ever have a relationship? Maybe they divide the world into trusted and non-trusted.)

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Dialogue by Kit No Comments »

Dear Kat,

I loved our conversation the other night about criticism.

I read recently how damaging criticism is — that we need 5 compliments to offset a single criticism. But any criticism is an attempt to change the other person, to say that they are not perfect, that you don’t accept certain shapes or sounds or behaviors. The other person may compromise, attack in return, withdraw, or brush it off, but whatever the response, the action is pernicious; it makes one guarded, it eats at the soul. Every criticism of another is a denial of who they are, and a non-acceptance of the same. I’ve broken up with a number of people feeling that I had lost myself; I no longer knew who I was or what I wanted.

This has an effect on the critic, too. They are yearning after something, they cannot live in the world as it is, they cannot accept their partner as is, they want more better, different. In short, they are captured by the past, and cannot be present.


I know you much prefer positive conversations, so let me talk about the opposite. With you, there is nothing like that. I feel so at liberty to be myself, and this co-exists with a companionship that is so free and easy. There is a peculiar paradox here: by being still, by not struggling for what we think we want, we get closer and closer. It is as if we are naturally drawn to one another, yet any action causes a movement away from the center. The more still we are, the more we partake in a harmonious flow through life.


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