The well of goodwill
“What happened in your relationship?” It was a bold question for a second date and even bolder considering I didn’t wanted to spoil what was quickly becoming one of the best mornings of my life.“Well, it’s complicated,” Adam said. “The disintegration happened slowly, over time. There are any number of events I could point to but the best way to say it is the well of goodwill between us dried up and there was no filling it back up again.”
I let his words land as we continued our hand in hand walk around the lake. I thought about my own break-up and at what point our well had run dry. It too had happened over time, like Adam’s, almost imperceptibly. Almost.
“So how do we keep our goodwill well levels up?”, I questioned. “How does a couple make sure their relationship well stays full or at least, doesn’t run dry?”
“I’m not sure”, Adam answered. “Probably by being kind to each other, by not harboring resentment or letting things fester.”
I was already protective of my 5 day relationship with this man and was (mildly) panicked about how to protect our fledgling love from the fate of our previous relationships. And though I agreed with Adam’s thoughts on goodwill maintenance, I knew there had to be more to it.
Since that conversation 2 years ago I’ve thought a lot about the goodwill well of my relationship and how to keep it happy and flowing. General kindness and staying out of resentment are both important and here are a few other actions that Adam, me and my clients use to keep our goodwill wells at healthy levels.
Assume positive intent- It’s easy to take to heart actions we find offensive however when we assume positive intent of our partner, we’re reminded that she/he are not trying to intentionally hurt us or cause us pain which keeps us out of our threat response and open to finding understanding in the moment.
What if they’re doing the best they can?- When we believe our partner is doing the best he/she can, we no longer have to fix or change the way they’re acting. “They’re doing the best they can” allows for acceptance as we unhook from the anger fostered by thinking they can do better and with that acceptance, we find goodwill.
Device-free Dinner- There’s nothing more infuriating than a partner who’s more interested in checking in on Twitter than she/he is in checking in on the relationship. Device-free dinners allow for undivided attention, making everyone feel seen and loved.
Words of Appreciation- After years together many of us begin to take our partner for granted. We forget to appreciate him/her for the little things they do every day. (And instead focus on the shit they didn’t do.) The next time your partner empties the dishwasher, makes dinner or takes out the trash, look into their eyes and thank them. And for extra credit, randomly acknowledge something you seen in them. Perhaps you appreciate their easy going nature, how they parent or their indomitable spirit. It’ll surprise and delight them and add another bucket of love to your goodwill well.
Physical Touch- Like words of affirmation, touch quickly fills our goodwill well by making us feel acknowledged. We also know from extensive scientific research that touch is the foundation for human connection and bonding. The next time you walk passed your partner, give them a little touch on the arm, back or shoulder to let them know you love them and are happy they’re around. At this point I now touch Adam almost every time I pass him. Sometimes it’s playful. Sometimes it’s sexual. But most often my intention is to simply connect and remind him he’s loved and wanted.
Now maintaining our goodwill wells does not mean we never bring up difficult topics or address the disconnects in our relationship. What it means is that by replenishing our well daily, when we have tough conversations, there is plenty of goodwill to pull from. When we’ve been filling the well, each partner feels nourished by the relationship and so has greater capacity to hear each other and find solutions rather than showing up raw and frayed with little patience to draw upon.
Lastly, goodwill wells are not strictly consigned to couples. We share goodwill wells with our friends, our family, our co-workers and ourselves and it’s always a good exercise to consider how we’re feeling about and maintaining them.
And so, is there a goodwill well in your life that could use some attention?
Once you locate it, how do you want to fill it? Can you incorporate more words of affirmation, start assuming positive intent or maybe even start believing that everyone (them and you!) is doing the best they can?
If you can’t seem to find a goodwill well that needs attention, focus on the one you have with yourself. Filling your personal goodwill well looks like speaking kindly to yourself, journaling (get journaling inspiration here), assuming your words and actions are never meant to cause harm, offering loving touch to the parts of you that need it and enjoying dinners where you mindfully indulge in the sights, smells and tastes of your meal.
And you want to know something fascinating? When we begin to fill our own personal goodwill well it magically becomes easier to nourish the ones we have with others.
All my love and enjoy replenishing your well,
P.S. As I mentioned above, one way of keeping your personal goodwill well full is putting pen to paper and letting the words flow. Journaling not only fills the well but often morphs into the well itself, becoming the thing I can dip into to refuel and find myself again.
My free class Just F*cking Journal starts on 10/17 /2016 and I’d love to have you join. If you’ve been feeling a need to reconnect to your goodwill well, this is course to get you there. (It’ll also get you some clarity on the other goodwill wells in your life. Promise.) Click here to sign up and I’ll see you there.