Relationship Deal Breakers Through an Integral Lens

by Sheila on August 6, 2010

Often clients want to explore their current relationships in coaching – how they are in the relationship and how their partner shows up.  This is actually a common topic for coaching.

More recently, clients have been bringing the topic of “Finding that Right Person” to the coaching arena.  I recently began working with two women with this topic.

We are looking at their current way of being in relationship and their possible new ways of being.  What is always interesting is that it never is really about the “other” person as much as it is about them and who they are and what they are bringing.  One has to be “quality” in order to attract quality.  Perhaps quality is the wrong word.  One has to be healthy to attract healthy.  Better still – one has to show up authentically as themselves to attract this in another.  That’s what we all really want – just to be us and still be loved for being us!   That old “unconditional” thing  does not often exist as we see all of the time with the so-called deal breakers!

What we always find within our current way of being (CWOB) in relationship is that we have many wonderful capacities and yet we also see how we limit ourselves.  In considering our new way of being (NWOB), we want to transcend and include what is good and available to us in our current way.  This allows us to honor where we are and also see what is not yet available to us in our ways.

Just a note here: This post is a bit long; however, if you are interested in seeing a practical application of integral coaching to a real life situation, hang in with me!

It seems as if the new approach in our modern culture is to make a list of “deal breakers” both good and not so good.  For example, I recently saw a woman on a TV program describing the things/traits/doings she required of the man she wanted to be in relationship with.  This was not just a list of “perfect or ideal,” rather this was her deal breaker list.  I was astounded. The was the list of this 41-yr old woman:

Included were things like the usuals:  smart, funny, nice looking, responsible, etc.  But others were:

  • he must get along and talk with everyone in his family
  • he must not use a straw (I kinda get this one…lol!),
  • he must adore her but not ever be mushy (women do like to be adored, but in the most masculine way!)
  • he has to make a lot of money unless he was doing something truly great for the world (like teaching)
  • he must be handy, but actually pay to have things done around the house
  • he must never have been married and have a damn good reason why not
  • he can’t have kids
  • he must love his mom, but not be too close to her
  • he must love animals but not have any
  • he must be socially competent (not sure what this means)

This list went on and on with about 30 items  and included many more unusual things that I can’t even remember or I blocked out!

While watching this and thinking about my two clients, I decided to come up with my own list since I’ve never done this and limit it a bit to what I consider true deal breakers for me (values/morals/ethics).  I immediately saw the judgment in me arising.  Of course, mine would be valid and insightful.

Instead of just creating this somewhat arbitary list, I wanted to look at it through an integral lens.  In the AQAL integral theory model, one is encouraged to view all perspectives available – all quadrants, all lines (of development), all levels (of consciousness), and all types (personality type).

For this exercise, looking at the 4 quadrants seems like plenty to tackle.  So, I’ll provide my list and then plot it on a 4 quadrant chart to see what I might learn.  I was kind of looking forward to this exercise.

The list:

  • Integrity
  • Compassionate/loving/kind
  • Funny – in my sense of humor kind of way (he must see the brilliance of Ricky Gervais – which might be my only litmus test!)  We make each other laugh – regularly
  • Introspective – Self Examination – He has to be reflective of himself/his actions
  • Fight for Us – the Relationship
  • Delight in delighting –  instead of the adoring part (come on we all really do want this), he has to delight in delighting me – and I have to delight in delighting him.

A brief explanation of the following matrix.  In the simplest sense,  according to integral theory, there are at least four irreducible perspectives (subjective, intersubjective, objective, and interobjective) that must be consulted when attempting to fully understand any issue or aspect of reality.

Thus, the quadrants express the simple recognition that everything can be viewed from two fundamental distinctions: 1) an inside and an outside perspective (what you feel and what you do)  and 2) from a singular and plural perspective (You and You and Your Partner together in relationship).

To help illustrate this:  imagine trying to understand how “successful” relationships operate – what are the components.  You would want draw on psychological insights and cultural beliefs (the insides of individuals and groups) as well as behavioral observations and organizational dynamics (the outsides of individuals and groups) to fully appreciate what is involved in being in a “good” relationship.

I’m interested in seeing where my list falls within the quadrants to learn what perspectives I do see and/or experience and what I might be missing.

Or a matrix specific to relationships/sexuality:

I already know that I basically live from the UL quandrant of the individual interior and secondary would be the LL quandrant of the collective interior.  I spend much time being and a little less doing!  One might see immediately how this might get me into some trouble occassionally.

So plotting my deal breakers, I find that:

Integrity would actually straddle the UL and UR.  One must walk the talk, so they say. Integrity actually lies in this intersection.

Compassionate/loving/kind would definitely fall in the UL as part of his being. I put this here because I think more initially in terms of essense instead of the “act” of doing.  Often one’s presence alone without action is compassinate, loving-kindness.   However, it is obvious that this would also move into the UR of action/behavior.  And finally it would also reside in the LL of the collective interior.

Funny seems to land in all 4 quadrants.  He would be funny in his essense (UL).  He would connect with me and my specific type of humor (LL).  He would actually do silly/crazy things (UR).  And, if he’s lovin Ricky like me, he would get the humor in the collective exterior with respect to community/tribe systems and structures.  Maybe this one is pushing it a bit!

Introspective falls squarely in the UL.  This is fairly significant for me since, again, this is where I live, as I mentioned.

Fighting for Us primarily lands in the LL as in We (against the world) and the LR of how we operate  together in the world as a couple within the physical environment and cultural structures and expectations.

Delighting feels to be primarily in the LL and then resulting in action in the UR.  He will value this interaction with me and act on it regularly.

What does all of this tell me?  It feels as if I’ve got the bases covered, so to speak. However, a question might be:  Am I looking for someone more like me or someone to balance me a bit more in quadrants where I am less skilled.  I orient from the UL with LL being secondary.  At first glance, I see that any coaching topic I might be working, I need to leverage these areas to build competencies in the the other 2 – especially since they are both on the exterior.  It is no surprise to me that I live more from this internal perspective and it does, in fact, limit me at times.

The question is not about whether finding some just like me or someone to balance me is right or wrong.  The coaching process simply and elegantly allows  me to explore this.

  • Do I want or need someone who orients more from the LR, for instance.  Would this be important and meaningful for me?
  • How would it serve us as a couple?  Is this important?
  • How (if at all) would we individually and together as a couple serve the world – whether this be simply our family or extending out into the broader community?

How does this approach to finding that “Mr. or Miss Right” sound?  This integral coaching model is elegant and powerful and you will experience meaningful results.

I will look forward to your comments and thoughts.  Please feel free to post them here on the blog or drop me an email.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: