Rules of Engagement


The old adage of something or another being one’s “Bread and Butter” has been around for a long time. Perhaps this is simply another soon to become ancient jewel, its prolific meaning to be covered in cobwebs, lost to the English language forever. However, in relationship therapy, the mainstay of dynamics of relationship, sex, intimacy and money, remain forever constant, and this old cliche’ more apropos nowadays than ever!

I personally prefer to liken the dynamics and personal interactions among lovers and couples as that of the numerous possibilities and options of one’s personal preferences. Much the same as something as simple as the choices one makes with “the mixing of “butter and jam.” The basic adage remains the same, its simply the nuances of interaction that change.

For example, as I was standing in my kitchen buttering a piece of toast, I placed my knife into the butter, and then ever so carefully into the jar of jam, being certain not to leave any butter in the jam jar. I laughed at myself afterwards… thinking, who cares….its my jam jar and I can do what I want with it! Does it really matter if there are bread crumbs abound in my fifteen-dollar jar of French jam? Well, it depends on who is asking?

These dynamics are truly the same for the “rules of engagement” in relationships. Whether one is arguing over, money, sex, love, lust, libido, the list goes on and on….the issue at hand always boils down to, the right to personal choice and not wanting to be subjugated to another’s decisive process.

So then, we are speaking here, of talking about a person’s right to choice, to not be owned, nor second to another, to have the right to speak your truth in relationship without being edited or condemned by your partner. This doesn’t mean that one or the other of you is absolutely correct, and that it should ultimately come to one of you being right and the other being wrong.

Instead, I am talking about the concept of a couple building a healthy relationship based on trust and respect. If Dick wants to dip his butter knife in the Jam, then Jane has a right to an opinion.

However, if Jane is opposed to the idea, it is that stance of saying your partner…where one is put in the place of being in “the wrong.” Aha!!!!! So why then must it come to blows…indignant emotions, feelings being hurt? Why must the other be wrong, if you feel you are right?

It is this delicate process of compromise and acceptance of the other’s belief system and perspective of the world, that most often leads to the throes of imbalance and unhappiness in relationship.

In summary, there are some basics in relationship that can be changed, other behaviors are those that you’ll have to decide whether or not you can live with. Choose your battles carefully, for as the old adage goes….”You may win the battle, but you will lose the war.”

Happy peanut butter and jam hunting!

In love and light, Dr. Arlene Krieger