She: (coming in the door from work) “Hi, honey. Where’s the mail? Did your sister reply to our dinner invitation? Did you remember to pick up my prescription? I’ve got to finish this damn presentation tonight. When am I going to do this? I’m so stressed out.”
Keeper: (smiling and even) “Slow down, sweetheart. You’re spinning.”
She: “Wow, I really am, aren’t I? I think I swallowed a whole lot of crap today and I’m taking it out on you. I get so rattled when I have too much on my plate. Thank God you don’t get pulled in. You’re my rock.”
Keeper: (smiling) “I’m sure I get rattled on occasion, too. I just hate to see you so upset, especially by people who shouldn’t matter that much. We can go over your laundry list and figure this out together.”
She: “I’m so grateful you don’t get pulled in to my stuff. It’s such a relief.”
Trait Three – Keepers don’t patronize. They find a way to stay interested or they graciously bow out.
Keepers know that boredom can undermine the best of relationships. Because they can hold on to their own sense of excitement, their first response to an uninteresting situation is to try to make it more meaningful by using their own resources.
They know that staying bored will probably make them boring as well, and they don’t want others to have to ensure that. Their goal is to find meaning or joy in whatever they are doing.
They’re the first to admit that they don’t respond as well to people who aren’t willing to change their situation. They eagerly look for any way to make connections more positive and don’t give up easily.
If eventually, there is nothing more they can do, they won’t patronize another person by pretending that they are interested when they no longer are.
Keeper: “I’ve been asking you a lot of questions and you seem quiet. I hope I’m not being inappropriate.”
She: “That’s sweet of you to ask. I’m not much of a talker.”
Keeper: “I’m interested in knowing you better. Tell me something about yourself you’d like me to know.”
She: (shrugs) “Well, I’m a pretty ordinary person. Not much that’s that interesting.” (Silence.)
Keeper: (Know he’s going to have to put out more effort, but still willing to try.) “Well, what do you like most about your work? You’re a dental hygienist, right? It must be nice to make people feel better about themselves. What kind of people do you usually see?”
She: “I guess it’s an okay job. The people are usually nice.”
Keeper: “Have you ever thought about doing any other kind of work in your life? Maybe something that would be more meaningful?”
She: “I’ve never really thought about it.”
Keeper: (realizing this isn’t working very well, but wants to get through dinner without making her feel bad) “Well, what would you like to order? I really like the halibut here. Do you like halibut?”
She: (peering at the menu and seemingly unaffected) “I need some time to decide.”
Keeper: “Take our time. I’d like you to get something you really enjoy.”
Trait Four – Keepers see humor as a sacred part of relationships.
Laughter is one of the best antidotes for anxiety, sorrow, loneliness, or frustration. People who find the humor in life is more resilient to disappointments. They don’t laugh inappropriately or use humor to mock, but they do maintain the perspective that keeps them aware.
Keepers don’t use laughter to cover when they’re feeling uncomfortable. They have learned the value of timing and a compassionate heart and can process sorrow and joy with the same gentle appreciation for life.
They readily enjoy others who can make them laugh, and help them hold on to their sense of perspective when times are hard. They have a keen sense of perspective and don’t use humor to lighten up situations that need to stay serious.
He: “Man, people are sometimes so stupid. Every time I tried to tell my boss what we needed to do to save the deal, I get undermined. He’s just like my old boss. I know he’ll pretend he didn’t hear me and then steal the idea. What the hell am I supposed to do, just shut up and get used again? If this job didn’t pay so well, I’d be out of there. Doesn’t anyone have integrity anymore?”
Keeper: (touching his face tenderly) “I understand, but I hate to see you this heavy and down. I know you work hard, but you’re letting this guy steal your soul. Remember when we used to make fun of hard situations? We could put anything in perspective, just because we knew how to laugh about things together.”
He (reflecting): “How did I get this angry, honey? I don’t want to go around feeling this way. Maybe too many disappointments in people. I don’t know what to do.”
Keeper: (Caressing him) “Well, you could get me pregnant.”
He: (laughing) “Now, that suggestion definitely changes the equation.”