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 1: We hear what we want to hear early on in a relationship, rather than what is actually said.
Surprisingly, people are often remarkably honest early on about what they think the problem will be in the relationship. They 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, we tend not to listen. In retrospect, we vaguely and painfully remember the “I told you so.”
Practice: Listen to what is actually said and watch for how someone behaves. Believe them when they tell you what they want and don’t want, and remember actions speak louder than words.
Illusion 2: We think that if the other person really loves us, they will change for us (even when they’ve told us they won’t).
While people may alter their behavior for another, if it isn’t truly 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 3: 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, we become victims of what they do and don’t do. Then, even if the other changes what we requested of them, we suddenly discover that we have an unending list of required changes because happiness is not generated from an external source.
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 4: We think if we just alter ourselves (dress differently, eat differently, make love differently) the other will love us.
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 5: 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 relationship and a happy family, or that the other will put us above all else, but 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, “You can’t solve a problem from the same state of mind that created it,” and this is equally true in relationships. When we take responsibility rather than blaming, and operate from reality rather than fantasy, rather than continuing in unsatisfying illusions, we are able create powerful, loving, lasting relationships.