Relationships "Yours, Mine, Theirs" Making them GREAT!
If you’ve ever given any thought to the challenges and complexities of relationships and why some couples do well and many don't,----?
If you’ve ever given any thought to the challenges and complexities of relationships and why some couples do well and many don’t, the answers are quite elusive. If you have found that your relationship seems to break down, lose its vitality and joy, becomes lots of work with little return¬—you are a member of the disillusionment in relationships club. If you find you’re great at starting¬¬ a relationship but don’t have success at sustaining it, you are on the side of the 50/50 split in our country of those relationships that don’t make it. What I’ve come to learn is it’s not relationships that fail; it’s the people in the relationships that fail. And it’s not necessarily a failure where fault can be assigned or blame can be placed.
I’ve worked with many unhappy couples as well as individuals coming out of dissatisfying relationships where the partners want to vilify each other. I am dumbfounded at how often I hear individuals speak negatively about their partners (you know…the person they thought was going to be their best friend, their lover, their confidant and person by their side for the remainder of their days on earth). What often astonishes me is the lack of any ownership or awareness by the one doing the vilifying of their own shortcomings and flaws that are contributing to the deterioration of the relationship. Conversely, I have worked with men and women both, who totally blame themselves for the problems in the relationship. What’s so telling is their partners are quick to validate that reality. I have never seen in my experience the absence of contributing factors to the problems occurring from both sides.
With that said, there are often overt behaviors by one of the partners that trump and override the deeper dysfunctional dynamics embedded in the relationship. Consequently, so long as one of the partners is displaying overt, outlandish behaviors such as raging, affairs, drinking excessively, etc., and then they can be labeled the “identified patient/problem” in the relationship; also referred to as the scapegoat. Scape goat?! You may ask… Allow me to clarify. Without the arresting of the obvious destructive behaviors, the couple is unable to look at the underlying core patterns, themes, and issues that are essential to address. In other words, the true issues are ‘hidden’ or disguised by the more obvious issues.
The underlying and often concealed components are infused with judgment, passive-aggressive hostility, criticism, arrogance, and deep disappointment. These mask the true issue…which is yearning for connection and longing for closeness and respect. The disintegration of integrity and compassion within the relationship has broken many hopes and dreams for those who have entered into a life-long commitment. How sad it is to enter into a relationship with images and ideas that slowly deteriorate over time; where disillusionment sets in and the ideas of a future with meaning and purpose is replaced with despair and disappointment.
There are far too many couples who don’t have adequate understanding of what it takes to sustain and maintain a relationship over the long haul. Some learn as they go along, but far too many end up divorcing or breaking up. The sad thing is that when one looks beneath the presenting issues and observes the pain and emotion underneath, it is usually not the case that the couple has stopped loving or caring for each other as much as it is an inability to live from a place of neutrality and detachment that then translates into the ability to accept, forgive, and understand one another.
If you are currently in a relationship that feels less than gratifying—where you feel more like roommates than partners—there is hope. Or, if you are looking for or desiring that next relationship, the one where things will work, it will be helpful to be armed with principles and skills that will improve your ability to communicate and connect. I have found that what instills hope and confidence back into a relationship, or keeps it alive throughout the journey, is a combination of being able to talk and listen respectfully, as well as forgive one another for being who each of you are. This produces an acceptance that allows for your partner to be the person they are vs. the person you idealized when you first met in the romantic honeymoon phase and now think they should be.
Isn’t it a hoot how your partner can display the same attitude or behavior 100’s of times and you’re shocked, angry, disappointed, and dismayed each time, as if it was the first time you ever heard or witnessed that attitude or behavior. It’s very, very helpful to understand that we have no power to change our partners. Working on improving ourselves is a full time proposition. After all, we all “enjoy” character flaws that we possess, and are confounded at how they keep re-materializing in our own lives. Guess what? We are powerless to even change some aspects of ourselves!
Just take 5 minutes to think about an attitude, belief or behavior about yourself that you object to and how it keeps reappearing. And that’s with the insight that you’d like to be rid of it. By doing this quick 5 minute exercise you’ll also get a glimpse into your False Self. Now think about your partner and an attitude, belief or behavior that they possess that they’d like to be rid of (or at least you would like to see disappear). If you can empathize with how hard, if not impossible it is to change that characteristic within yourself, and to equal measure appreciate that it’s the same for your partner, you’ll be off to a good start in bringing to the relationship an indispensable trait called empathy that will immensely help the longevity of the relationship (by the way, are you noticing the commonality of these traits to those of good friendship?).
Obviously, relationships have a better chance at sustaining when both partners are asserting efforts to improve closeness, connection, and respect. However, that is not always the case, and I will discuss further into the book some ideas and approaches you can attempt, even when you’re the only one willing to work on the relationship.
As a Professional and Personal Development Specialist, I have the opportunity day after day to practice the principle of neutrality. Basically, neutrality is the practice of refraining from judgment or deciding who’s right or wrong, who’s good or bad and most importantly letting go of any preconceived notions of how things should turn out. Living in a state of neutrality frees us from the need to control or try to push our own agendas. We often believe we have to control outcomes and neutrality allows us to let go of results thus giving space to stay present in the moment. Outcomes seem to have a way of taking care of themselves. I have learned that when couples practice this state of neutrality there is no ego investment and the false self doesn’t get to pick sides or favorites.
When I teach this principle of neutrality to clients learning the THANKS ® program I invite them to imagine they are on “Higher Ground” as they embark on a respected journey together. I ask them to let go of everything they believe and suspend old ideas for the moment to explore new possibilities together using learned neutrality techniques. The only requirement is that the couple/individual explores this new idea with open mindedness and willingness. If you don’t like the results, I will gladly refund your misery. If you do like the results however, you’ll discover a whole new world opens up that frees you of the trappings your false self perpetuates. I heard a long time ago that if we keep doing the same thing over and over again we keep getting the same result. So, if you’re better at getting in relationships than sustaining them over the long haul, it behooves you to try something new and different. I have found the principle of neutrality within the THANKS program I teach – Trustworthiness, Honesty, Amends, Neutrality, Kindness and Surrender to be a cornerstone to new found freedom.
Neutrality creates a freedom that once experienced, you become hungry for more. There is something very paradoxical as we surrender to a neutral state of being. The more you are able to relinquish your old ideas and beliefs that are embedded in the false self the more you experience connection to not only your partner but in equal measure to a place of unbridled joy, love, and peace within yourself. The paradox is that it is in the act of surrender of the false self that we are victorious. The false self is quite invested in being right or holding onto agendas that demand things work out “my way”. The truth is that the more the false self attempts to hold on and take control, the evidence quickly reveals that the dysfunctional patterning getting played out relationally will manifest in unsatisfying outcomes, distancing, more fighting, and eventually separation and divorce. Again, I remind you that the ploy of the False Self is to divide and conquer.