The watchword of Sly & The Family Stone, a multiethnic band from the late sixties, was about being accepted for yourself. Their everyday people were skinny, rich, fat, drummers, bankers, long hairs, short hairs, white, green, blue, and black.
You get the picture.
“Everyday People” songwriters Sylvester Steward and Todd Thomas didn’t say anything about married people in the 1968 chart topper, but I’m sure they would’ve had marriage been a groovy topic in the ‘60s.
Well it is now.
The bulge in divorce numbers for baby boomers – Sly’s audience – says they lived free-wheeling but didn’t get the message, even after some 50 years and multiple marriages later. Applied to relationship, acknowledging that sometimes I’m right and I can be wrong is a powerful message that seems to have gone unheard by too many boomers.
Is anything of substance, even it it’s simple and pure, ever made from only one ingredient? Ivory Soap’s got a list of ‘em; water’s got two hydrogen molecules for every one of oxygen; and it takes two to tango.
It isn’t true that all you need is love.
If it was, comparing divorce rates to a hitter’s baseball average would speak well for divorce, and no one’s doing that. Improving the odds of success really does take practice and work.
Relationships are formed when two unique partners blend their individual perceptions. Choosing to live together means that each couple needs to identify what’s good for the relationship even when that might not work individually. Everyday people are different from each other, so forming a unique blend takes practice and work.
I spend lots of time with couples dismantling the notion that if one partner believes in the truth of what is said, video evidence would bear it out. Couples are stopped cold when I ask what it means that each of them would pass a lie detector test even though each would swear something different happened. Eyewitness testimony is notoriosly flawed.
It’s not about what one or the other perceives, at least not initially. Rather, a reprioritization is needed that puts the relationship first. A spirit of togetherness, of a mutually satisfactory result, of shared vulnerability and its mirror image, trust, have to be in place before either partner can find the individual buttons that were pushed.
Look at it this way: Proving one or the other of you right is still a solitary experience since the perception of reality is individual. Moreover, it’s an experience that leaves one of you “the loser” – bereft, angry, maybe embarrassed and often defensive. Focusing on differences keeps us apart.
Like I said, nothing of substance is gained from only one ingredient.
“I am no better and neither are you
We are the same, whatever we do
You love me, you hate me, you know me and then
You can’t figure out the bag I’m in.”
Sly Stone’s everyday people are in relationships whose qualities span time, where each partner’s patina rubs off on the other. The point, after all, is to be able to seek comfort in togetherness; we forget that each of us is responsible for replenishing it.
Had Sly really been thinking, he would’ve included disabled and invisibly disabled partners, too. Stuff that minority into the bag I’m in.
It’s a mystery to me that everyday people keep choosing to live together despite not having learned to be better at it.
Guess I’m not goin’ out of business any time soon.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach working especially with the invisibly disabled. A Sixties Survivor, she finds that the decade’s messages apply perfectly to couples work – learning to live in peace and love. Discover more about Kathe Skinner and the Couples Communication Workshops taught by Kathe & her husband, David, at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com and be sure to visit Kathe’s other blogs at ilikebeingsickanddisabled.com
Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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