Relational Compensation…A Painful Balance

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So…what happens when you put a cold mama and a hot junior tribe member in a Honda?

Nope, this is not the beginning of some corny joke.

It’s life in my household. A coupla times in the last coupla weeks, I found myself in a situation where I am running around doing errands, in and out of the car in the fresh (read: COLD) spring air.

All that in and out when it is snowing and raining and blowing crisp (read: freezing) air about means that I get chilled (read: frozen!)

And then I pick up a junior tribe member (JTM), fresh from running around in a gym for 2 hours. He’s roasting…radiating heat (read:not-fresh-sneaker smell).The underside of his hair is damp, his face is flushed, and he’s warm…really warm…uncomfortably so, really.

Picture the two of us in the same vehicle, inches away from the other.I’m driving, I’ve been in the vehicle, and I’ve already adjusted the air temperature on the drive over…fairly warm and moderate rate of fan.It’s got the potential to get me comfortably, and likely thaw my toes…with time.

We haven’t got time. JTM feels the car heat amping up his own already steaming body.So…as we talk about the gym and the errands, without saying anything, he opens his window a few inches…letting the fresh (read: cold) air wash over his glowing brow, beginning to cool him.

This cold air blasts not just the over-heated (him) but the under heated (me).It gets colder…we’re still talking about the latest antics of the athletes during the drills and enjoying the day…and my hand quite naturally, without conscious thought, closes in on the dial to turn up the heat and the fan rate to warm the air.

The car does not have dual controls for each side…what the air temperature is on the driver’s side is also the air blowing through the vents on the passenger side. What happens…you guessed it…the window opens further…just a few more inches.

Within minutes, without any discussion, there has been a silent, elaborate temperature dance…with the end result being that the car is blasting hot air at full blast while simultaneously being wind whipped with frigid air through the passenger side window which is now completely open.

Relationships can involve an elaborate dance of extreme responses that may benefit from counselling to break ugly patterns and dysfunctional cycles which can be processed at Bergen and Associates Counseling

Sorta hilarious once we noticed…but not comfortable for either of us.

Each one compensating for the adjustments of the other, with the internal weather conditions getting gradually more and more extreme…and while each of us was adjusting in an attempt to improve conditions…let’s just say…well…our efforts were individually and collectively unsuccessful.

Relational compensation expressed in a vivid thermo-experience.

Counterbalancing another’s actions by equal and opposite reactions is a solution of sorts…but it is an awkward and difficult-to-sustain strategy.Rather like two people standing precariously in a canoe…when one leans one way, the other leans in the opposite direction and the other responds…until both are barely hanging on.The canoe stays balanced…but at a huge price.

  • Like parents…when A is so lenient to the child, B feels the need to be stricter, and so A becomes more lenient to compensate, and so B reacts with further rigidity…and so on, and so on.
  • Like partners….A feels the other is passive and so yells at other with a bit of an edge to “poke” B to respond.B can sense the escalation, and doesn’t like where this is going, so takes a deep breath, and further retreats to avoid a blowout.A sees the withdrawal and so feels even more responsible for making something happen, and so goes after B with a stronger reaction.B senses further escalation and so…well, you know the drill by now.

So…in the middle of this silent crazy dance JTM and I were having, we suddenly looked at each other and laughed.

I made the first move…and told him I’d turn the heat down, if he would roll up the window.

I knew it wasn’t going to be as warm as I wanted it, and I think he knew it wasn’t going to be as cold (read: freezing) as he wanted it, but we both knew that if we tolerated something somewhere in the middle, we’d both enjoy the ride a whole lot more than these swirling waves of hot and freezing gales that had been blowing simultaneously around the vehicle. It may not have been my perfect temperature, but I had a satisfaction in knowing that some of my discomfort contributed to his ability to tolerate the ride better.

Look for the patterns in your relationships…notice what the other does and how you might balance that off…and then make choices about how to both be more comfortable.

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