We’ve all done it. We have blamed our boyfriend, girlfriend, lover or spouse for our state of happiness, or perhaps more accurately, our unhappiness. We tend to look outside of ourselves for the cause of our problems, and thus, we seek outside of ourselves for solutions. The problem with this approach to relationship repair is that we render ourselves victims, thinking we are not capable of creating change in our lives. Ultimately, we hand our happiness over to someone else to manage.
The way most of us (unconsciously) operate in relationships is the result of one or more illusions. After a few turns around the dating, mating and relating block we come to realize that none of these approaches to relationships work, or at minimum, do not withstand the test of time. The invitation here is to develop a new practice.
Illusion Number One:
We hear what we want to hear early on in a relationship, rather than what is actually said.
While writing “Intellectual Foreplay: Questions for Lovers and Lovers-to-Be,” I closely monitored couple’s conversations early in a relationship. Surprisingly, people are often remarkably honest about what they think the problem in the relationship will be. One or the other will say something like, “I’m not ready for a monogamous relationship,” “Our religious backgrounds aren’t compatible” or “I don’t plan to ever get married or have children.” However, the other tends not to listen. In retrospect after all has gone astray, we vaguely and painfully remember the “I told you so.” We also realize that illusion number two was at work.
Practice: Listen to what is actually said and watch for how someone behaves. Believe them when they tell you what will go wrong and remember actions speak louder than words.
Illusion Number Two:
We think that if the other person really loves us, they will change for us (sometimes even when they have told us they won’t).
While people will alter their behavior for another, if it isn’t truly how they feel or what they want, they will likely return to their “default settings” at some point in the relationship. Change doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with love. Sometimes they don’t want to change and sometimes they can’t, at least not easily or without help. People only really change if they really want to change.
Practice: Either love them or leave them. If you can’t accept someone the way they are, they aren’t the person for you. (Or you aren’t the person for them!)
Illusion Number Three:
We think that if the other person would just…(fill in the blank), we would be happy.
When we expect someone else to change for us to be happy, we become victims of whether or not they change. And, since happiness is actually an inside job, we may find that this is a never-fulfilled “wish list”. Even if he or she changes what we requested of them, we suddenly discover that there is another change needed and another because happiness is not generated from an external source. We are responsible for our own happiness.
Practice: Be responsible for your own happiness. Find a new way to respond to what the other does, that brings about a better result.
Illusion Number Four:
We think if we just alter ourselves (dress differently, eat differently, make love differently) the other will love us.
As I point out in “The EROS Equation: A SOUL-ution for Relationships,“ If you put on a facade to get someone to love you, and they do, you still don’t feel loved—because you aren’t being the real you.” It is imperative that we are authentic in relationships, otherwise we create a slippery slope of low self-esteem and distrust—they of us and us of them.
Practice: Spend some time discovering who you really are, what you really want and learning to love yourself. Authentic love is the only love that works.
Illusion Number Five:
We fall in love with the fantasy of what we want a relationship to be rather than paying attention to what it actually is.
We often see our relationships through the lens of what we are hoping the relationship will become rather than the truth. We may hope for a romantic, monogamous, exchange, or marriage and a happy family, or that the other will put our relationship above all else, when in reality one or the other may not be lining up with this vision. When we take a real look at what is happening, it quite often doesn’t match our fantasy.
Practice: Notice if what you are wanting and what you are getting are actually the same thing. Then, either be sure you are creating what you want or accepting what you have. Alignment of these two is imperative for happiness.
Einstein said something like, “You can’t solve a problem from the same state of mind that created it,” and this is equally true in relationships. If we want our relationships to be REAL-ationships instead of something built on an illusion, we need a new practice. The “R” in The EROS Equation: A Soul-ution for Relationships stands for response-ability. When we take responsibility rather than blaming, we become powerful and creative. Then, rather than continuing in unsatisfying illusions, we are able to use those qualities to find SOUL-utions for creating powerful, loving, lasting relationships.