You’re the best.
No, you’re the best.
No, we’re the best.
This is a little game Helen and I have come to play on a regular basis over the past 27 years. I’m not sure how it got started but it has come to represent the symbiotic relationship of our shared lives together. At first glance the series of statements may seem like some sort of declaration of superiority. In a way they are but that is unintentional. More accurately, the statements are the recognition of a phenomenon.
We almost always recite the statements in their entirety. One of us will tell the other “You’re the best.” The other will respond “No, you’re the best.” We’ll then say together “No, we’re the best.” It wasn’t until we started gaining experience as a couple that we began to clearly appreciate the true meaning of this series of phrases. As our life together has progressed we found ourselves facing challenges and realities of our individual and collective experiences. Our family, careers, hopes and dreams all dynamically evolved with the passage of time. Some of this evolution was welcomed, some not. Some was intentional, some not. Some was inevitable and welcomed, some not.
What became clear over time was our individual and collective strengths and weaknesses. The talents and interests we share brought us together. That was the easy part. Accepting our respective and collective weaknesses was more of a challenge. When we first got married, only one of us knew how to cook. That was fine, I like to cook and Helen was open to learning how to cook. It was in finding how we complement each other that has proven to be the most rewarding challenge. We now share the cooking pretty evenly, with both of us having our own specialties. We don’t spend a great deal of time in restaurants but we do eat awfully well.
The challenge comes in acknowledging our weaknesses. I have often found it much easier to identify the weaknesses in others than to acknowledge my own faults. I find it especially easy to find fault in others when my own shortcomings are in the spotlight. With age and experience I have come to realize this is nothing more than a game I play to avoid facing my own demons. Often this gets tangled up with acknowledging expectations. Great tension can build between Helen and I when neither of us has the skill or motivation to attend to an issue we both recognize as important. Marriage is one of the most efficient ways to reveal gender stereotypes.
Through the course of our marriage we have come to learn our own strengths and weaknesses as individuals and as a couple. Gaining an appreciation of our gifts and shortcomings has led us to connection with our community. We have found ourselves engaged with others in nearly all phases and facets of our lives to compliment our strengths, or substitute for our weaknesses.
Over the years we have engaged in all sorts of activities with all sorts of people. When I reflect back on the activities that have been the most meaningful they invariably have two common elements: 1) have led us past our comfort zones, and 2) have involved strangers who have grown into long-term friends. As time goes on we find ourselves more open to accepting both our own frailties and those of others. It is amazing how simple it is to lend a hand to others, express gratitude to a stranger, or to graciously accept a kind gesture.
In the 1950’s the psychoanalytic theory called Transactional Analysis was developed by Eric Berne. Thomas Harris popularized the theory in his 1969 book “I’m OK you’re OK.” The title of the book refers to an ideal state of mutual acceptance of one another. Occasionally, it’s necessary to recognize: I’m not OK, you’re not OK, but that’s OK. Sometimes the greatest opportunity for growth comes from revealing a moment of communal suffering. We’ve done that too.
Applying the lessons:
- We’ve seen enough of each other’s strengths and weaknesses that we don’t have much to hide anymore.
- Experience has shown us the benefits of knowing when to ask for help.
- We’ve seen enough of the challenges others face to know we’re very fortunate.
- We’d like to think we extend a hand to others freely.
- We try to be intentional in going beyond our comfort zone socially. Its amazing how welcoming people are and what can be learned from being a minority in a large group.
- When we are someplace new we seek recommendations from local people on where they go and what they find interesting in the area. We’ve rarely been disappointed.
- Berne, Eric. 1964. Games people play: The psychology of human relationships.
- Harris, A., Thomas. 1969. “I’m Ok, You’re Ok.” Harper and Row.
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Copyright 2017, Dan Lococo. All rights reserved.