Updated: Feb 10
If you have ever been in a long term relationship, like marriage, you have probably discovered that you are an idiot. And if you can admit that then you might just make it.
Thats right, you might just make it because you can recognize that you have a problem, not just your partner. You always have a part to play in building and destroying the relationship. Some of you reading this may not understand this just yet, which sucks because there is a chance you will always play the victim, and will keep cycling through one relationship after the next. Don't get me wrong, it is pretty great to be a victim because you can pass off responsibilities, and you can posture as if you are better than others feeding your over inflated ego while simultaneously masking your insecurities. Maybe the best part is, you are able to manipulate people to feel sorry for you while captivating the conversations with how terrible your life has been, thus instigating the listeners savor mentality - which is very effective for drawing in new relationships, but not great for keeping them.
You see, any good relationship is built from a solid foundation, but any good builder makes mistakes then makes it right, and without exception all builders will make mistakes. The wise will understand this, but those still protecting their ego will not, and they will likely continue to project emotional responsibility onto others (Gaslighting?), which ultimately makes them powerless. However, if you can look within and take responsibility you won't have to remain powerless over your emotions or your relationships.
A good way to start to look with in is to heed the wisdom of those that came before you, and to identify your role in problems you have. One way I like to draw in wisdom is from the biblical writings, and whether you are a believer in God or not wisdom is wisdom, and it is prudent to draw inspiration from it wherever we can. Like this paraphrased passage from Matthew 7:24-27 - A wise man hears the word of God and builds his foundation on solid rock and a fool rejects the word and builds his house on sand to be easily destroyed by the passing storms. In other words when we, reject wisdom, and personal responsibility, we are easily destroyed, as are our most precious relationships. If our goal is to keep the things we want the most, like your relationships, then heed this wisdom - You must own your part and stop blaming others!
I admit, this call to become responsible for your own experiences may seem a bit counter culture these days. So much of our media (in its many forms) seems to promote, even in the elite sense, that some other is at fault and they should be shamed and guilted in to their repentance. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that one shouldn't stand for their beliefs, I am simply suggesting that we would do well to not buy into the cultural model for change - It simply does not work! If you think I am wrong consider if you used these blaming tactics with a spouse? You wouldn't be married long. Or what about with a child? You would crush them, and eventually they would reject you and possibly themselves which is worse. This is not good!
If you are with me so far, and have some interest in taking power back in your life, then consider the following:
Do I want to be right or have a relationship?
This is a good question to start with as it will force you to stop the argument and consider what matters most. If it is your pride than the relationship will not last. If it's the relationship then start practicing "active listening skills" (YouTube it if you're not sure what it is). Take turns in sharing your side of the story, practice letting the other go first. Remember, this doesn't mean that you agree with anything, you are simply giving space for understanding and respect. Given time and practice this is likely to be reciprocated because you are changing your patterns and building trust - let the them worry about their own patterns.
Is this a cure all? Of course not. Could I expand on points? Of course. But how do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time. Yes, this is a weird old adage, but the truth is you are not able to change all relationship problems all at once. So, start with the what works, the basics, and you are likely to become less of an idiot. I wish you well, and no matter how many times you fail, reflect, learn and try it again.
Author: Eddie Eccker, MS, LMFT