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The Harmony Equation
by Pat Catalano

These days it seems like everyone has a trick for "understanding" the words and actions of men and women dancing the relationship tango. "A man's true feelings are revealed through his actions." "A woman's true feelings are revealed through her words." And so on and so on. Whether true or false, statements like these are misleading and can result in herculean "translation" efforts that end in creative rationalization, selective hearing and total blindness towards blazing signals of incompatibility -- like your own unhappiness.

Whether or not men are from Mars and women are from Venus, we ALL have to live on planet Earth. Wouldn't it be easier if there were one simple equation that could be used by a man or a woman to examine any relationship honestly without the need for rationalization? A way to distinguish between a good relationship and one that is in jeopardy? Before you find yourself mired in mixed signals once again, try "The Harmony Equation."

The Harmony Equation states: What a person says, and what a person does, and how this person makes you feel should all be in harmony.

The Harmony Equation may sound a little mystical, but actually it's just plain common sense. The underlying premise here is that being in harmony goes beyond trying to translate a person's words and actions. You should just have to examine the facts. You shouldn't have to force words, actions or feelings to make sense with rationalizations and you shouldn't have to "interpret" any hidden meanings.

Getting to know and understand another person can be wonderful, but not when the impetus for knowledge stems from confusion and anxiety. When confusion and anxiety reign, every word gets over-analyzed. Bad things are explained away. A kind word is treasured and amplified into visions of lifelong vows. Hidden meanings are seen behind every hello and goodbye. The questions "Does he/she like me?" and "Should I stay with him/her?" arise with alarming regularity. A tremendous amount of energy is put into trying to fix your relationship or trying to convince your closest friends that you're truly happy. On the other hand, when you're truly in harmony with someone, you have the room to get to know each other without going through all the intense guessing games that are sometimes mistaken for the agonies of love.

Stop working so hard for a moment. Ask yourself whether or not your relationship is in harmony. It requires only a yes or no answer. There is no room for rationalization here. For example, if a man is interested, he will not just say he will call, he will actually call. The result (if you like him) will be that you are happy. His words, his actions and your feelings are all working together at this point. If you weren't interested, then your feelings upon his call would not be happy and would not be in harmony with his words and actions. If he should say he was going to call, and then didn't, you would naturally feel sad. His words would not be in harmony with his actions and your feelings. In either unharmonious scenario, the relationship is showing the signs of stress that make for a high maintenance and exhausting partnership.

The Harmony Equation works for men as well. If the woman you are with says she is not happy about your behavior -- but doesn't act upset or angry when the behavior occurs again -- something is wrong. You may feel fine, but her words and actions are out of sync, leading to further "we need to talk" moments and the male cry of "I don't know what you want!"

Understanding a person is not about understanding just their actions or their words. It's paying attention to both, as well as to your own feelings when you're with that person or thinking about them. Sometimes it's impossible to put your finger on what's wrong - the words and the actions seem nice, and yet the result is not happy or comfortable. You may feel something is wrong even though your partner denies it ("it's your imagination," "you're not being understanding," "you're confused," "you're wrong.") Dissonance can be very destructive within yourself, as well as within a relationship. If you're struggling to make things seem right when they're not, your sense of reality can become distorted. Your own identity could get lost in the struggle to force a relationship into being something it's not. That's why it's important to trust your own feelings and add them into the equation. Your feelings could verify things as disparate as your partner having an affair to not being in love to just not belonging together.

A good relationship is in harmony most of the time although, of course, no one is completely harmonious all of the time. But with the help of the Harmony Equation, you can spot the first sign of trouble and nip it in the bud. And now that you know how to recognize a good relationship, you can minimize your time in bad ones and make beautiful, harmonious music with the person of your dreams.

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by Edward M. Hallowell
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"A rambling, chatty and ultimately comforting explanation of how interpersonal connections can improve mental and physical health. Psychiatrist Hallowell, a lecturer at Harvard Medical School, draws freely on his personal and professional experiences to frame and support his case." -- Kirkus Reviews

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