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But I want him to do it!
Why should I put in all the effort?!
I’m sick and tired of coaching my husband!
I want him to initiate!
~ from conversations with women
That used to be me, too.
When our wounded inner child drives our adult relationships, we get stuck in “me versus you” dynamic.
It’s actually a reenactment of an inherited relationship pattern.
Several years ago, I found myself in the same predicament. The same one I had observed my mother in: trapped in her marriage, trapped in her life.
My mother was unhappy and blamed my father for it. Her list of grievances was long.
I always promised myself that I would not repeat her story. And yet, several decades into my marriage I found myself in exactly the same place: unhappy and blaming my husband for it.
My husband is very different from my father. But, whatever I had observed in my childhood home is what I brought into my own. I did not know then to what extent we recreate the relationship dynamic we know. No matter how different my husband may be from my father, when I felt unhappy, I blamed him for it.
Just like my parents, I did not know that our feelings and our well-being are our own responsibility. I have observed my parents trapped in the misery of their own disempowerment, impotently expecting the other to make the first move toward change. Stuck in inherited relationship dynamics, guilt, self-sacrifice, and lack of agency, my mother focused on my father’s character flaws as the reason for her unhappiness.
Our culture programs us to think that joy and fulfillment come from things outside of ourselves. The right partner will make me feel loved. The right job will solve my security worries. The right address will make me feel like I belong. When the relief we long for does not come, we run toward something else, or feel trapped in what is.
No one talks about the baggage we bring into our life and to what extent that shapes our reality. The thoughts we think, the expectations we have for our partners and ourselves, the beliefs we carry about life and people in it form the attitude that colors our choices and behavior. Most importantly, no one teaches us that the health of our relationships with others is founded on the health of our relationship with ourselves.
Many people I talk to about relationships come with a long list of grievances and even diagnoses of pathology and personality disorders of their partners, parents, bosses. I understand—this is the culture I come from, too. But I can tell you now, you are wasting your time.
The more time, mental space, and energy you spend on dissecting others, making them into the villains that keep you trapped and unhappy in your life, the less time you are spending on finding the actual solutions to your situation. Becoming a conscious observer of your own processes will help you understand how you are cocreating your life and your relationships.
Trying to get our needs met by someone over whom we ultimately have no control sets us up for reliving our childhood dynamics: we feel helpless and powerless, just like the children we were when our core needs were not met by our own unconscious and not-present parents and caregivers.
Except we are adults now. Neither powerless nor helpless. Perfectly capable of meeting our own needs and showing up to our relationships from the place of sovereignty and self-responsibility.
This is where I meet a lot of resistance. Practically every woman I work with tells me she feels guilty to prioritize herself and does not want to come across as selfish.
So here is where I play devil’s advocate: what discomfort would you rather feel?
Taking care of your needs and potentially facing judgment or displeasure of others? Or continue with not having your needs met, feeling trapped in disempowerment, poisoning yourself with your own anger and resentment?
Only you can answer that question. And there is no judgment either way, because now you know that you are the one choosing your life and there is no one to blame.
I can tell you that taking the matter of my well-being into my own hands has transformed my life and every one of my relationships. When I understood that, as an adult, I am responsible for fulfilling my own needs, I was able to shift my attitude within my relationships and life in general.
Life shifted around me in response.
What we often do not understand is that our fear, frustration, anger, hostility, our withdrawal of love and affection are expressions of the inner child within. Our emotional immaturity colors our views, influences our behavior, and sets the tone for how our partners respond to us. When we show up for our relationships from these inner child trends we provoke our partner’s inner child. Our immature parts appeal to, enhance, and get responses from the immature parts of our partners.
When we show up to our relationships displaying a more emotionally mature behavior—able to manage our emotional reactions, feelings, and expectations—we’ll be setting up a different dynamic. The mature parts of ourselves will appeal to, and bring out more mature parts in our partners, as they respond to the tone we set.
In my experience this works like clockwork. But we cannot wait for them to do it first. We have to step into being the sovereign leader in our own lives.
When I shifted my attitude to that of self-responsible adult and started to take care of my own needs, I freed my husband from the pressure of that responsibility. Whatever came from him became an unexpected and welcome gift.
I no longer keep track of who does what. When I lived in that “me versus you” dynamic, it always felt like I was doing too much and others not enough. When I stopped keeping tabs, I was able to notice how much my husband actually does for us. Since I no longer hold him responsible as the deliverer of my bliss—that is my responsibility—anything he feels inspired to give he gives freely. I notice and appreciate. I can express a wish or make a suggestion, but not a demand. This inspires him to initiate more as well as more frequently.
Each of us are responsible for our physical and mental well-being, we contribute toward common goals and our family life according to our capacity and ability in the moment.
Self-responsibility has helped me focus on why I do what I do. I’ve freed myself from obligations (the have to’s), and live instead from my desires (the want to’s).
I call it enlightened self-interest: I cook for my family because I want to. I learn to communicate nonviolently with my husband, because it increases my level of well-being when we understand each other. I clean up after my children have cleaned up, because I like a clean kitchen in the morning.
I can do that because when I feel tired I let myself rest. And when I don’t feel like cooking or cleaning, I don’t. I don’t hold anyone responsible for giving me permission, nor do I need them to notice my sacrifice.
My life is no longer “them versus me.”
Everything I do, I do for me, out of my own enlightened self-interest.
I do, because I love.
I do, because I choose to.
What do you choose?
~ Learn how to build fulfilling relationships while prioritizing your relationship with yourself. Contact me for a free introductory conversation.