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Rules Of Engagement: The Bread & Jam Of Relationships

Dr. Arlene G. Krieger
May 11, 2008
The old saying regarding "But It's My Bread and Butter" has been around for eternity. Perhaps this is simply another soon to become ancient jewel, its prolific meaning to be covered in cobwebs, lost to the English language forever. However, in relationship therapy, the mainstay of dynamics of relationship, sex, intimacy and money, remain forever constant, so this old cliche' becomes even more appropriate than of days gone by.

I personally prefer to liken the dynamics and personal interactions among lovers and couples as that of the numerous possibilities and options of one's personal preferences. Much the same as something as simple as the choices one makes with "the mixing of "butter and jam." The basic adage remains the same, its simply the nuances of interaction that change.

For example, as I was standing in my kitchen buttering a piece of toast, I placed my knife into the butter, and then ever so carefully into the jar of jam, being certain not to leave any butter in the jam jar. I laughed at myself afterwards... thinking, who cares....its my jam jar and I can do what I want with it! Does it really matter if there are bread crumbs abound in my fifteen-dollar jar of French jam? Well, it depends on who is asking?

Such simple dynamics are an analogy for similar "rules of engagement" in relationships. Whether one is arguing over, money, sex, love, lust, libido, the list goes on and on....the issue at hand always boils down to the right to personal choice and not wanting to be coerced by another's will, even if it is our significant other.

Hence we are talking of one's right to choice, to not be owned, nor second to another, to have the right to speak your truth in relationship without being edited or condemned by your partner. This doesn't mean that one or the other of you is absolutely correct, and that it should ultimately come to one wrong or right, or being the loser or winner.

So the concept arises of a couple building a healthy relationship based on trust and respect. If Dick wants to dip his butter knife in the Jam, then Jane has a right to an opinion. However, if Jane is opposed to the idea, it is that stance of saying NO..to your partner...where one is put in the place of being in "the wrong." Aha!!!!! So why then must it come to blows...indignant emotions, feelings being hurt? Why must the other be wrong, and must you feel kick them if they are, or communicate and find a solution to the conflict or difference?

Compromise and acceptance of the other's belief system and perspective of the world is a delicate but necessary process, that most often leads to the throes of imbalance and unhappiness in relationship if not practiced on a daily if not hourly basis. It is work.

Finally, there are some basics in relationship that can be changed, other behaviors are those that you'll have to decide whether or not you can live with. Choose your battles prudently, for as the old saying goes...."You may win the battle, but you will lose the war."
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