Last month’s article in our continuing focus on strengthening law enforcement relationships introduced the concept of “We vs I” (made kind of obvious by its title, “The Concept of WE versus I”). Learning to shift our focus from a self-directed perspective (What do I need, what do I want, what do I like?) to one more “we-focused” (What do WE need, what do WE want, what do WE like?) makes sense intellectually, but actually making the shift proves difficult for many couples no matter how well-intentioned. What makes sense (hopefully) in the abstract stretches our abilities when it comes time to develop real-life practices that mean we have to sacrifice even a little of our autonomy.
But finding the proper balance to know what parts of our individuality need preserving (for the good of both in the couple) and where sacrifices must be made (also for the good of both of you) is hard. It requires open and honest communication between partners, the courage to assert needs and ask for concessions, and the willingness to ultimately make your self-interest secondary. Some of you reading this just tensed up and felt a flash of anger at the very suggestion! If you did, breathe deeply and keep reading; learning to embrace putting the focus on WE might be particularly important to you if you are in – or hope to get into – a lasting relationship.
Last month we introduced the concept and its four core principles:
- Being more than just partners – BECOMING ONE
- Forsaking all others
- Denial of the self
- Fighting fair
This month we begin to look at putting these into practice by giving some very concrete examples of each and how we have put them into practice in our own lives. We will look at each principle in turn, giving each its due and fleshing it to bring some concrete practices to rather abstract principles, starting with the first principle.
First, a brief word about cops and their egos…
At first glance, this might raise eyebrows - or even blood pressure a bit - because of the negative connotation the word ego can hold for some. To be suggested we are egotistical, either individually or as a group makes us defensive; it should not, though.
A strong ego – a strong sense of self and confidence in your abilities and role – is crucial to be a successful cop. You are expected to make important decisions, under stressful and fluid conditions, every day you are on the job. You are entrusted with powers few can handle or even want, and expected to exercise them decisively and within strict constitutional bounds. In some cases these decisions may even involve the heaviest of responsibilities – the judicious taking of a human life. Of course cops have strong egos! They NEED them.
But ego unchecked and lacking restraint or humility is a dangerous thing. Whether on-duty or off, allowing egos to grow out of proportion threatens your judgment and ability to consider the possibility of a better way or a more sound opinion. MY way becomes THE way, to the exclusion of any alternative (think about it... you probably know someone at work right now who this describes; maybe a particularly self-obsessed colleague or boss, or a subordinate who no amount of reason is going to shake from a misdirected sense of “my way or the highway”). You know the effects of this person at work and on the street, and how they turn off or infuriate others? Imagine being that person at home, trying to create a partnership.
Being more than just partners – BECOMING ONE
Last month we described this principle as “being not simply partners, and not simply lovers, but truly each other’s best friend.” This is really central to putting the focus on the WE; if you lack a best friendship with your partner – no matter how much you may love each other – you will return your focus to your own self-interest.