The One Way Street

There is an old expression that many people use to describe the nature of relationship.  It goes something like ”Relationship is a two way street”.  Another popular variation of this expression is the ever useful adage: “It takes two to tango”. 


What I find interesting about these expressions is the context surrounding their usage.  It seems to me that most often, people use these expressions to articulate their resignation around being related to in a powerful way.  That is to say, when we feel that our attempts to communicate, to be known and understood, and to be related to in a way that really honors who we are, have become unsuccessful in a specific relationship, we tend to throw our hands up in resignation and proclaim that after all, relationship is a two way street…I’ve done my part…the rest is up to someone else.   


Every one of us can relate to the frustration of feeling judged and assessed by others who we believe don’t or can’t really understand our point of view.  The closer we are in relationship to these people, the more frustrating and disappointing it can be.  Eventually, when we’ve tried over and over again to get our point across or to convince someone of our point of view, this disappointment gives way to resignation.  No relationship can thrive when resignation is lurking in the background.  Relationships can only survive in this state and they often don’t.  In relationships where resignation has taken over or begun to dominate our interactions, we begin to feel more and more misunderstood, more and more distant, and more and more resigned.


Why?  Because relationship is a function of connectedness.  Here’s where things get a bit complicated.  The people we love and who love us in return share with us an experience of connectedness on a very deep level.  The deeper the level of connectedness, the greater the potential for the relationship to thrive.  In relationship, the experience of connectedness comes from mutual awareness and recognition of each other as beings of vast and unlimited possibility.  Human Being, free from the constraints of judgment, self-inflicted or otherwise, is essentially an expression of vast and unlimited possibility.  I may be going out on a limb in saying so, but I believe this point is very important to understand.  This quality of unlimited possibility is not just something that all human beings possess, it’s actually who we are.  It’s why we learn.  It’s why we grow…why we are driven, and why we have the capacity to suprise each other. 


This quality, when mutually recognized, is what connects people and creates relationship.  When we meet someone who recognizes this quality within us, we feel as if they truly know who we are, regardless of how long they’ve known us.  The people we have the best relationships with are the people who know us in this way.  They honor us and make us feel like vastly more capable, more powerful beings.  There is no greater way to honor someone than to recognize the vast and unlimited possibility of who they are.    


This is starting to get a bit esoteric, so let’s get back to practical wisdom.  When we become resigned in relationships, we justify our resignation with expressions like “relationship is a two way street”.  When in fact, it’s our own resignation that breaks up our connectedness with others.  Over time, resignation dissolves connectedness between people, which in turn creates more resignation, and so forth into the abyss.  


For those of us interested in cultivating powerful relationships with the people we love, we have to be willing to see that our resignation hurts us, and hurts others.  We have to accept responsibility for ourselves as beings of vast and unlimited possibility, who can create relationship simply by recognizing in others that which we ourselves are made of.  We have to start seeing relationship as a one way street.


Viewing relationship as a one way street allows us to shed our resignation and take sole authorship of our relationships with others.  No, it’s not easy.  No, it doesn’t mean condoning, accepting, or feigning agreement with the judgments and assessments that others levy upon us.  No, it doesn’t mean bottling up your frustration and disappointment and letting others get away with murder.  Walking the one way street means creating or inventing yourself as the author of your relationships, instead of creating or inventing yourself as a helpless victim of someone else’s perspective or behavior.  It has more to do with how you see yourself than with how you think others see you.  The funny thing is, when you start to see yourself differently, you appear differently to others.  That’s life on the one way street.


Consider the following suggestions for walking the one way street:

  • Don’t take it personally.  People make judgments based on the information they see.  Instead of taking offense or blaming others for judging you, look to see how you inadvertently perpetuate their judgments.  What signals do you give off, what do you say or do, what ways of being do you have that reinforce their perspective?
  • Find common ground.  Often times, what other people want for us is exactly what we want for ourselves, but if we feel like we’re being attacked, we won’t admit that they’re right.  Acknowledge common ground when you find it.  Make it clear that you hear what the other person is saying and that you both want the same thing.
  • Tend to your relationship with yourself.  Many of the things that others appear to judge and criticize us for are the same things we dislike about ourselves.  Shifting your own relationship to these “growing edges” shifts how others perceive them as well.    


Note: If you would like additional advice on how to apply the “One Way Street” perspective in your life, contact Doctor Dot-Connector for online coaching.