Trait Five – Keepers know how to stay even.
Keepers have an internal resiliency and don’t get out of control. You can always count on them to stay centered, especially when they are challenged.
They can take in criticism with the same gracious evenness as compliments. They seem to have internal advocates who catch them when they fall and support them when their confidence is low, and want to do that for others whenever they can.
They use challenges as opportunities to know themselves better and to learn more about their partner’s fears and insecurities. They feel grateful that they can find their footing more easily than others, but they don’t give up continuously learning how to do it better.
They don’t overly react when their partners are unstable. They can be caring but won’t take more challenge than they feel they deserve.
She: (angry and blaming; on output) “It’s been three weeks since you’ve even looked at me. You take care of everyone else in the world but I’m your lowest priority. I wait and wait so I won’t bug you and seem needy, but I’m getting really tired of feeling so damned unimportant. Can’t you see how much I’m hurting?”
Keeper: “Hey, what’s going on? Where is this all coming from? We were great this morning and I haven’t seen you all day.”
She: (heating up) “You’re on that God damn phone all day. You’re sweet to every waitress that serves us, even if they aren’t doing a good job. You won’t tell your mother to leave us alone on the weekends. You don’t remember the things I tell you that is important to me.”
Keeper: “It feels like you’re really on output. I’m willing to listen and to take blame where it’s due, but there seems to be a lot more going on here than you’re talking about. Slow down and try to tell me where this all started.”
She (quieting down and starting to cry): “I don’t know. I just missed you today after we made love. I guess I needed more of us and you disappeared, like always.”
Keeper: (takes her hand but stays centered) “I’m really sorry you’re feeling so bad, honey. I did leave a little soon. I didn’t want you to feel sad. I really thought we were okay. I wish you’d told me you needed more. I can’t take responsibility for the things I don’t know but I’ll sure try to change the things that I can. Talk to me about what can I do for you now that might help?”
She: (Feeling hopeful) “Just listening to me really makes a difference, especially when you are so honest. It would really help if we could plan some longer time together soon.”
Keeper: “Let’s do it.”
Trait Six – Keepers do not allow guilt to influence their decisions.
When people feel embarrassed, shameful, or guilty, they feel like they haven’t measured up. Small children learn from their caretakers when they are being good or bad.
Even though those criteria may be arbitrary, they are absorbed and form the basis for guilt in adulthood.
Only through greater understanding do adults realize that guilt was used to control their choices when they were young, and begin to set their own standards for personal integrity.
Keepers do not control others by using guilt tactics, nor do they succumb to obligatory obedience if others use guilt to control them. Their views of themselves mostly depend on their own integrity, not upon what others expect of them. They care about making others happy but do not act from fear of loss when they cannot.
He: “You can’t seem to get this straight. I told you for the fiftieth time that you can’t open your mouth in front of my friends if you don’t have anything worthwhile to say. Your dad says the same thing about you when you were a kid. You always were out of line and continuously said things that made people uncomfortable. You should be able to keep that under control by now. What do I have to do, send you to your room?”
Keeper: (checking inward first to make sure she was okay) “You’re talking to me now as if I was that child and trying to use guilt to get me to do what you want. I’m okay with who I am. No one at that table seemed uncomfortable but you, so maybe it’s your own stuff. Bringing in my dad’s childhood stories is hitting below the belt. I don’t appreciate it.”
He: “Okay, okay. Maybe I’m being a little hard on you. I’m really being critical and I shouldn’t be. Maybe it is about me. You’re so damn comfortable telling complete strangers everything about your life, and I’m really uneasy if it includes me. I probably wouldn’t be comfortable even when it doesn’t have anything to do with me. We never talked about this kind of stuff when I was a kid.”