Sadly no wine is involved in this post, but it is an interesting question posed by a relationship psychologist I listened to in a recent podcast: ‘You 2.0: When did marriage become so hard?’ (from NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast).
Let me explain.
In this podcast the psychologist shared a quote from the movie ‘Sideways.’’ In this quote the actor is talking about why he loves Pinot Noir – because the grape used in Pinot Noir requires very special conditions and a lot of care and attention to grow versus a Merlot grape which is much more resilient and needs less TLC, but is more common. The psychologist then suggested that many of us are aiming for ‘Pinot’ relationships with ‘Merlot’ skills and efforts.
In other words, we want to have a relationship where we are best friends with our partners, lovers, intellectual equals, adventure buddies, etc. But, we spend very little time identifying and developing the skills and behaviors necessary to support these expectations.
A ‘Pinot’ relationship is not better than a ‘Merlot’ relationship, but if you have ‘Pinot’ expectations, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the skills and behaviors that are needed to support this type of relationship.
I see this mismatch between relationship expectations and partner skill sets time and time again in my private practice. I have such deep respect for individuals and couples who become aware of and address the missing skills required to support and nurture their relationships.
But let’s face it, it’s scary taking an honest look at ourselves, it’s vulnerable and easy to feel ashamed and embarrassed rather than curious. And society seems to give us the message that we should just somehow…magically… have all the necessary skills to be a great partner and to build a healthy relationship. Talk about pressure!
Very few people would put on a pair of skis and just expect, because they have legs, they should know how to ski well! Just because we are, by nature, relational beings, does not mean we automatically have all the skills and knowledge to create sustainable, healthy relationships.
So whether you want a ‘Pinot’ or ‘Merlot’ relationship, committing to learning the skills and behaviours associated with thriving relationships is essential.
So what are these skills and behaviors?
There are many, many great books and articles covering these topics. Here are just a few titles:
- The Relationship Cure – John Gottman
- Hold Me Tight – Sue Johnson
- The 10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married – Guy Grenier
As a starting point though, the single most impactful skill you can focus on is communication. Having the courage to take a good look at your communication strengths and growth areas is the biggest gift you can give to yourself and any current or future relationships and partners.
Interested in learning more?
Reading about something is one thing, but putting it into action is where change and growth happen.
To that end I’ve created a free workbook to help you put one powerful communication skill into practice.
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