Playing relationships with a straight bat
This old English cricket expression essentially means to behave honestly and decently in our everyday lives. Through my work as a counsellor helping people with relationship difficulties both individually and in couples, it occurred to me that this expression of good English sportsmanship holds a lot of value in how we successfully conduct and manage all our relationships.
To enter into a close relationship with another is emotionally risky. The bottom line is we could get hurt. However, another bottom line is that human beings need closeness with others to feel happy, psychologically healthy and fulfilled. What a dilemma?
So at what point when we make a new friend or lover do we start playing it with a straight bat and sharing what we really and truly think, want to do and feel with or towards the other. When do we risk the strange look that says “what?” “Err…I don’t think so” or the rolled eyes that can leave us feel rejected and hurt after we have shared ourselves fully.
There is no simple answer for that but one thing is for sure. Healthy and happy relationships for us are with people who don’t do that to us. When we play it with a straight bat and the other person gives us a felt sense of being met emotionally, cognitively and perhaps spiritually, we feel a sense of connection and closeness making us feel happy and fulfilled. This bodes well for a deeper relationship.
Although it may hurt to be totally unseen by another who you want to get you, better to know this sooner rather than later. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you or them. You just aren’t for each other. We tend to over analyse and make this complicated. However, as our friendly Meerkats would put it – Simples!
When we are playing our own needs with a straight bat in relationships it can be easy to lose sight of the impact we are having on the other person. They have the same dilemma as us in that they need closeness but know they could get hurt. They may not be ready or in a position to accept our invitation into closeness and this needs to be respected.
When we feel hurt by another it is easy to react by hurting back. We in effect drive our tank onto the other person’s lawn and start firing. We may choose a specific target or fire randomly and create mass destruction. The fact is we will in all likelihood need to face this person at a future date and explain and justify our actions. An uncomfortable conversation perhaps?
So playing relationships with a straight bat not only involves honesty, it involves respect for the other person and a way of communicating that does not hurt or shame but is decent and respectful. Avoid the uncomfortable conversation or “Be a good sport” if you prefer to see it that way.
Getting closer... and what the fairy tales don’t tell us!
So what does it take for two people to play relationships with a straight bat with each other? Both people need to honestly share each other’s thoughts and feelings as well as hear the others for a psychological meeting to take place and allow closeness to happen. It also means sharing what we really love and value about the other person and behaving in a way that backs it up. In the world of relationships, love is behaviour. Just words don’t count much.
We all like fairy tales but there is a catch. They seduce us into fantasies about perfect relationships where people live in perpetual love, bliss and happiness where the birds never stop tweeting. Reality is that even though we can visit this place together at times we can’t stay there all the time.
Sometimes we need to work at it a bit. Playing it with a straight bat means checking it out? We need to ask for clarification and not pretend we understand when we don’t. We need to ask ourselves if we are buying what the other person is really selling or are they, in fact, trying to sell us something else!
We may not always be emotionally met and this may leave us feeling hurt and rejected. Perhaps the timing is simply wrong and we need to be patient. Sometimes we make mistakes and hurt each other and need to say sorry. It's OK to not get it right all the time. Forgive yourself and the other person for making mistakes and hurting you sometimes and play fair. Chances are it wasn’t their intention.
We need to feel safe enough to explore these turbulent moments and for the other person to share the rocky road with us. Cricket has its rules and so do relationships. We need to write our own rules of engagement together and play fair and stick to them. Ultimately we need to enjoy relaxing in the calm waters and learn to swim through the waves. We can grow together and deepen our relationship, get closer and be happier and more fulfilled. What we need is the courage to take and trust the journey.