Understanding Relationships

What I’m about to share with you didn’t come easy. It is a result of a commitment to understanding the balance in life. That means understanding how our human perception and ideas affect us, namely how they cause us to create our own pain. I’ve come to an understanding of how relationships work that I want to share with you.

I’ve offered the idea that it is just a matter of making a choice of what to do with the relationship. It’s not about the stories of blame, shame, guilt, and victimization. It’s not about what they did or didn’t do. It’s only about our choice of what to do with the relationship. As long as we’re willing to own that choice while dropping the story, we’re free to release any relationship we no longer want to be in. Let’s be clear. There is nothing wrong with this as a way of managing yourself within the experience. It works.

What I want to offer you now though is the next level of that. This is the place where we no longer need to leave the relationship. The choice is not to stay or go. The choice is only about our perception of what’s happening and what we choose to do with that within ourselves.

There is a story of self-defense that most people tell which frequently puts us at odds with other people. The story of self-defense says that if people don’t treat me the way I think I deserve to be treated, then I no longer have to be in the relationship. I’m supposed to end the relationship as a means of defending myself.

This makes us argue with how we feel about those people because often these scenarios occur with people we actually care about. We don’t want to let go of the relationship but we don’t like how the other person is treating us. Now what?

Where this usually goes is down the path of trying to make the other person change. We confront the other person. We ask them to change. We tell them we don’t like their behavior. We argue with them. We demand change. We defend ourselves vehemently and get very mad when seemingly nothing changes.

Here’s the hard truth – we don’t really allow other people to be in pain when they project it at us in some kind of way. We don’t like other people’s pain when they throw it around. We label people that throw their pain around as toxic. It’s just another reason to defend ourselves. While not liking their behavior is completely fair, it’s also not realistic to expect them to change that overnight. It creates a tug of war for us. We’re asking them to take responsibility for their own pain in a way they aren’t prepared to do yet and then get mad when they inevitably don’t do it.

If they apologize for their behavior, the need for self-defense makes us think that an apology is an offer of change. It’s not. It’s just a recognition of poor behavior. What is the point of an apology if you’re not willing to change your behavior? To admit awareness the behavior was bad or wrong in some way. That’s it. Asking them to change as part of it is actually another means of self-defense that comes with an unrealistic expectation of change.

Then we stubbornly argue that they shouldn’t apologize if they aren’t willing to change. But then what happens? We get mad because they don’t apologize and we end up telling a different story as we wait for an apology that never comes.

We’re bound and determined to create our own pain because we barricade both doors and then get mad when we don’t have a way out.

What are we actually defending?

Our perception of how we think we deserve to be treated by other people. We’re defending our value or worth.

Your value or worth is not changeable. You were born valuable and worthy and you have stayed that way.

Your value and worth do not go up and down based on your life experiences or how people treat you.

You don’t need to defend your value or worth because they aren’t changeable.

What is changeable is your perception of yourself and that’s more than likely what you’re defending. Remember that thing that says that how people see us is none of our business? When people filter their perception of you through their own pain, it messes with their perception of you. Stop defending yourself from other people’s broken glasses. Just accept that they can’t see you clearly through the pain and leave it there.

Your story about your value or worth makes you defend yourself from other people’s pain, particularly when that pain makes them treat you poorly.

This is what makes you think you need to leave the relationship. You demand change. They don’t or can’t. Now you have to leave a relationship you still want to be in. But you don’t leave. You keep demanding change. You fight. You argue. You defend yourself. You get mad because the relationship is not what you want and it makes you feel helpless and trapped. You don’t want to leave and you can’t make them change.

Now what?

Acceptance of their pain and what you have control over and don’t have control over.

Acceptance of their pain means compassion. You know what it’s like to be in pain. You know what it’s like to throw that sh!t everywhere. You’ve done it. Find compassion based on your limited understanding of the other person’s experience. You’ve been there done that, remember? That’s where compassion comes from.

Accept the relationship as it is. This is where the other person is. It’s making you uncomfortable. Okay. Why are you uncomfortable? The problem is not with them. The problem is within you. Why are they able to trigger you? What’s your pain about? No, it’s not about them. Drop the stories of blame, shame, guilt, and victimization. Why are you triggered? Heal and release that so that you can find acceptance.

You’re not in control of them. You can’t make them change or do anything differently. They are where they are, doing what they are doing. Let go of the need to fight for control.

Now wait. Accept that things will progress and move forward. Accept that the person will have to work through it on their own in their own time. Let them be.

You don’t have to leave. You don’t have to threaten to leave. You don’t have to defend yourself. You don’t have to argue. Just accept and find compassion.

Just wait. Stand by. Be supportive. Care. Be compassionate. Let them figure it out in their own time without you being mad and blasting your own pain all over the place.

That is managing yourself within the experience of the relationship without changing the relationship.

There is one other story we tell in relationships. It’s the one about feeling safe.

The safety I’m referring to here isn’t physical safety, it’s emotional safety. It’s the feeling of being able to share your pain with another person.

This is a common conversation in society right now. What do we need to feel safe with other people?

Do you want the really hard truth? Nothing except your own self-awareness.

Why do we feel unsafe to share our painful experiences or deep dark secrets with people? We’re afraid we will trigger them and we’ll have to defend ourselves or our pain. We’re afraid they won’t understand. Essentially that’s code for “they won’t respond the way I need or want them to”.

Yes, we can choose who we talk to carefully. That’s one way of managing it. If you have a big enough circle or a group of close friends, this probably works quite well. If you don’t have that, then you end up in a sort of isolation. “I' have no one to talk to.”

How do we manage that?

Well, there are a couple of ways. The first is getting okay with isolation by learning how to take care of and manage yourself within yourself. Not all of us need external support from others. Some of us are just wired that way but it’s definitely something that can be learned through healing as well. Isolation on its own doesn’t have to be a pain response. Can it be? Sure. It just doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of spiritual masters that live in caves and choose isolation. It’s not a pain response. It’s the way of life they’ve chosen.

The second way is to get more comfortable with the people that are already around you. How do you do that? By understanding why you don’t feel safe. What’s the trigger within you? It’s not about what’s wrong with them. It’s about you and what makes you feel unsafe. Whatever makes you feel unsafe is the thing that needs to be worked through. As you work through that you’ll become more open to sharing and you won’t feel alone in the proverbial crowded room.

If I’m honest with you, figuring out the trigger is how you would teach yourself to be okay in isolation. What is the fear around being alone? How do I learn to take care of myself on my own? Why am I so dependent on the external world?

Again, none of this is done from a place of pain or self-defense. We simply make choices and then figure out how to make the choice work without the pain and trigger behind it. This is why I often say things like, “It’s not a question of whether I’ll do it or not. It’s only a matter of how long it takes me to get there”.

Once I make a choice to do something, it doesn’t matter what it is, I have to heal any pain that may come up around it so that I can move forward with it. That can be anything from the very simple like joining a new class to the very complicated like figuring out how to end your 25-year marriage and everything in between. Figure out what the goal is and then figure out how to work toward it without the pain.

Whether we’re dropping the need to defend ourselves or figuring out how to feel safe sharing or dealing with our pain, it all requires the same journey. Figure out how to free yourself up to go on the journey. What’s got you stuck? What’s the pain? What’s the self-defense mechanism? What’s the trigger? What’s the problem? Find it, heal it, get okay with it, and let it go. Rinse and repeat until cycles break and things change. That’s it.

Relationships are a balancing act, but if we make the goal to release the need to defend ourselves, we can solve a lot of problems before they even get started.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Love to all.



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