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January 9, 2024

It’s Not our Job to Change Anyone: How we Give Up our Power in Relationships.

 

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I caught myself judging him yesterday.

On a subject that’s a pattern between us.

When I’m in the trigger, I feel so self-righteous, so justified in my anger, frustration, indignation.

Gratefully, I do not stay in the trigger for long now. And yesterday I was able to see what was happening with new clarity.

I saw that I was judging him in a way that had me feel superior. I also saw that the theme for my superiority was one where I myself experienced a lot of shame in the past.

I immediately saw that the same voice who judges my husband is the inner supremacist who’s been judging me, too. Via internal mechanism, I was projecting my own pain and shame on my partner.

The inner judge is attached to how things “should be” or “should have been by now.” It is fed by man-made ideas that life should be following an upwardly moving straight line from point A (birth) to point B (death), with specific age-and-gender-appropriate milestones along the way, and no unexpected plot twists.

Well, life does not flow according to the old-paradigm-influenced strict ideas about what is right and what is wrong, or how a “real man” should behave, and what it means to be a “good woman.”

In fact, none of our lives look like that uninterrupted upward-soaring graph of happily ever after. But believing that it should is what leaves many of us in suffering.

I know, because I spent much of my life trying to bridge the contrast between what my life should have been and the actual reality. It just left me feeling more depleted, inadequate, depressed.

We keep wanting to “correct” our experience of life by exerting control over people in relationships with us. We want them to change so we could feel better about ourselves.

This is where we become stuck: no one has the power to affect our inner state, only we can.

Observing relationships of hundreds of clients, as well as my own antics in my 30-plus-year  marriage, I see that the flavor of our relating experience is determined by the inner grid of conditioning, wounding, and expectations that we superimpose on the outside. Our partners are just a mirror to our inner terrain.

When we blame or judge our partner we give up our power and hold ourselves hostage.

Our happiness becomes dependent upon our partner’s desire or ability to change. Since none of us have any control over another human’s capacity or readiness for change, we get stuck in our unhappiness.

When I catch myself blaming or judging my husband for something he did or did not do, or for his “bad” habits, or for his gloomy mood, I just get stuck in my own disempowerment, outsourcing my happiness to something over which I have no control.

I even used to make his inability to change mean something about his capacity to love me. “If he/she really loved me, he/she would change by now,” is a sentiment I hear often in my coaching conversations. I used to feel that way, too.

When I learned to decipher my feelings and take back responsibility for my triggers and reactions—viewing them as unconscious reenactment of childhood wounding—I could actually address my wounds and sources of pain, freeing my husband from that impossible task.

Coming out of codependent relationships, we are learning where the other person ends and we begin. This requires rewiring much of our habitual relating behavior.

When I am not stuck in reaction to what my partner’s mood or behavior may mean about me, I become more compassionate with him and his humanity.

When I take care of myself, I feel more satisfied. I can then bring this satisfaction rather than frustration into my relationship. My experience of my husband and our relationship is dictated by my own inner state.

When I lean out and take responsibility for the role I play in the current unsatisfactory dynamic, I own my power to change how I show up. My relationship adjusts in response to the changes I initiate.

It’s quite incredible to see how much power to affect my relationship I actually have.

When we learn to understand our inner mechanisms, to honor our needs and to respect our inner world, it becomes natural to respect the sovereignty of others and their unique experience of life.

It is not our job to change other adults. Just like it is not our job to tell them what to feel or judge their habits or their mood. They are allowed their experience.

In fact, trying to fix or change other people is a sign of disrespect, even oppression. It is revealing of how we relate to ourselves: when we dehumanize another, we are used to dehumanizing ourselves.

Moreover, by trying to control emotions or behavior of other adults we take on a huge energetic burden, which then keeps us and them stuck in disempowerment.

Notice how our urge to fix other people has a lot more to do with trying to make ourselves feel better, than what the other person is actually going through.

My realizations sometimes produce cognitive dissonance. It’s as if everything that I thought I knew about relationships, love, and life is exposed as untrue on a daily basis.

Now is the time to dismantle generations of internalized oppression which we are projecting out, to shed the outdated programming, to learn to release shame and guilt, and liberate ourselves from the cult of familial, cultural, and societal imprint. It hasn’t served us and keeps pushing our collective to the brink of disaster.

Looking for well-being on the outside, demanding a sense of safety and worth by controlling another leads to wars: internationally, nationally, in our neighborhoods, in our own homes. True safety to be who we are is in coming to wholeness within, learning to come to peace with our own inner judge, critic, and oppressor, bringing to harmony the sacred union within.

The key is in turning the gaze from outside to within. And then living from the inside out, leading from compassion, an open heart, and good will. That is self-leadership: I cannot control the outside, but I know how I want to show up to it.

When I contemplate my relationships from the perspective of the bird’s eye view, my heart fills with warmth and compassion— for my human partner and for my regular human self.

 

Safe to Be Me is a program where you learn how to decipher your own feelings, address your reactions, and stop outsourcing your happiness to forces outside of your control. If you change your awareness, you can change your relationship. Own your role and own your power. Contact me  for a free introductory conversation.

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