Take a Deep B.R.E.A.T.H.
By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Mark Sahady, 9th Reconnaissance Wing wing chaplain
/ Published October 24, 2012
BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Life can be overwhelming. When it becomes so, the most common sense advice is to breathe deeply and simplify your life. Recently, I had the opportunity to address a group of our community helping agency representatives to discuss the issues of persons becoming overwhelmed in their relationships. There were many things discussed, however, after having counseled persons in their relationships for the past 31 years, I saw patterns developing in the discussion. This brought me to reflection of how to state the resolution simply. Here is my simplified version of how relationships can be healthy by using the acronym B.R.E.A.T.H.
B stands for Balancing You, Me and We. We all intuitively know we have to find balance within all the activities of our lives. However, when scheduling our lives we forget that we have to consider our partner's many activities so together we can also set aside time for the relationship's activities. We have to think of the relationship as a third partner who needs time to be nourished by both partners - that is the "We." Many schedule a regular "date night" each week and/or a "time away" each month. Scheduling these "relationship activities" is just as important to the long term relationship as is scheduling the requirements of the other activities of daily lives. This is important to bring the relationship to the forefront of our lives' attention and focus, as opposed to the relationship always being on the "back burner" in order to "deal with the realities of life."
R stands for Real Talk. People talk all the time. However, often no one really hears what they really mean. The marriage counselors Michael and Gary Smalley have coined another acronym for the proper way to communicate. It is L.U.V. = Listen, Understand and Validate. For Listen: the speaker makes sure the listener gives the type of attention needed before speaking. If the situation at that moment can't provide the type of attention needed, then an agreement is made of when and where it can. For Understand: the listener now has to figure out the meaning behind what is being said and then tell that meaning back to the speaker. This is the most important part of Real Talk. More often than not we get stuck on the words spoken and don't seek to understand the meaning behind it. Finally, for Validate: the original speaker gets to decide whether the listener really understood the meaning of what was said or not. If not, then the original speaker tries to say the same communication in a different way to get the meaning understood. If the listener did really understand, then the original speaker says: "You got it?" or something similar. Now the roles switch and the original listener becomes the new speaker and can either respond to the validated understanding of the original communication or move on to another topic.
E stands for Engaged Together Time. Often together time is scheduled, but it involves being in the same room never talking to each other, like watching some form of entertainment. Entertainment is great, but if there is not communication happening before, during or after it, then it is not enhancing the relationship and may even be creating distance between the couple. Together time needs to have the couple engage each other in sharing thoughts, dreams, or plans. Some say this only happens when you are "eye to eye." Although "eye to eye" communication is very important for some things, engaged together time can be activities performed "side by side" as long as there is discussion or sharing about the activity or thoughts that occur because of the activity.
A stands for Accept Change as a part of your relationship commitment. We all change over time. Often we assume if we change, the other person must change in a way that matches up with our own changes. It doesn't work that way. Each person changes in their own way. These changes can enhance the relationship if we are willing to direct the changes into developing the relationship. The changes we experience need to be accepted as part of an intentionally invested relationship commitment. Many times we enter a relationship committed to ourselves - to our own needs and desires. As long as we get what we want we stay in the relationship. This might work for a while, but we all change. If the commitment is only to ourselves, when our needs or desires change, we change the person involved in the relationship. Committing to a long term relationship means continuously and intentionally investing your life with another who creates a place for both to grow and change so the relationship can also grow through change. This type of relationship doesn't end when desires change, it grows and deepens. The changes need to be incorporated as positives into the relationship and this is a choice. The book "The Marriage Garden" by Goddard and Marshall says: "People can choose how they will handle the allure of alternatives. People can choose the priority they will place on their relationships. People can choose to nurture a positive, long-term vision for their relationship."
T stands for Trust Games. When we enter a relationship, we assume the other person either thinks like us or understands us enough to act in a way we expect. When they don't act in a way we expect, our trust of that person is shaken or even lost. Trust is the hardest thing to regain once lost and we end up playing all kinds of trust games or tests to regain trust. The assumption of trust in the beginning was the mistake. Trust is definitely earned and must be maintained. Trust is not a test of the other person. Trust is an inclusion of the other person and this is the only part that is "given." You've heard the phrase, "You must give trust in order to have it." This means the other person must be included in your life in a way that allows the other person to be different from you in both thinking and actions. You must share what's going on in your life to the other person like they were a blank calendar or journal tracking your thoughts and actions. In the beginning, everything needs to be shared. Later in the relationship, only those thoughts and actions different from the norm need to be shared. Inclusion also means before you act, the ramifications to the other person must be considered and validated by the other person. Trust is not a won or lost game, but a continuum of including or being included in the other person's life.
H stands for Honor as an individual and a couple. This encompasses your belief system of what is honorable. Honor comes from either a personally developed philosophy of life and/or a belief in God and the specific ways of life required by that belief. For any relationship to survive and thrive, the individuals must be honorable within themselves. Think about it, why would you want to be in any relationship with someone not honorable to you? Secondly, the relationship itself must be honored and kept honorable. Again, why would you want to be in a relationship that tears you down, instead of building you up as a couple? This does not mean that you fix the other person or expect the other person to fix you. No, that is your own responsibility in becoming honorable. It does mean two honorable persons create an environment of honoring each other as individuals, the relationship as a whole and anyone else encountered.
Although there is a lot of meaning behind the acronym described above, maybe understanding it will help to simplify life by taking a deep B.R.E.A.T.H.