Telling Yourself the Truth
Your only real hope of fixing your situation, of improving your ability to start, maintain, and keep good relationships, is first to acknowledge that your current relationship just doesn’t work. That’s the crucial first step. You may feel it’s okay here, it’s fine there, occasionally great to good. Maybe you feel like your situation is in the shit. Either way you need to throw out the old and create the new.
Unfortunately, many of us are like that person who has a slight leak in their tire. Instead of getting it repaired or replaced, like a functional human being, they stop by the gas station every morning on their way to work, put some more air in the tire, and say it’s working. In reality, it’s “working” just enough to get you to work, silently leaking air with every rotation, every mile. The air is seeping out into the ether, little by little by little. Tomorrow morning or the next or the next, you’ll go through the same silly little ritual of refilling that tire, “fixing” it for another day.
All the while, it could easily be solved, finally taken care of, but you can’t even get to that point until you finally admit that what you have, what you’re doing, just ain’t it. Even if you’re making it work, there has to be better than that, surely?
As Kierkegaard once said, “People settle for a level of despair they can tolerate and call it happiness.”
You Can’t Always Believe What You Believe
Contrary to popular myth, you are not guided by your view, you are imprisoned by it. And your view is the one thing you’ll fight tooth and nail for, even when it’s bullshit and destroying your finances, your health, your family, career, or, in this case, your relationship.
You see, at some level it just has to be our way because the alternative would require us to let go of something, some idea or notion that we have held on to for so long, life without it seems unimaginable. This book might then seem like an assault on some of those items for you. And that’s okay. But
your addiction to being right about what you believe can be the biggest wrecking ball to what you want, whether you see it or not.
When it comes to relationships, you’d rather have your view over having love.
Taking On the Self
When we start a new relationship, we become so besotted by the future, of our having finally found “the one” (person, situation, or answer), we indulge that rush of emotional hopefulness and plunge right in.
This initial phase is the time when we have gone through the internal arguments about whether we want to be in a relationship versus staying single. Is this person the one for you? Check. You’ve pondered how this relationship will affect the rest of our life, both positively (definitely) and negatively (somewhat). Check. You’ve cobbled together a wispy plan in your mind’s eye about money and passions and where you’ll live, and it’s all picture perfect. Check, check, check, check, CHECK!
And it’s all laid out before you except for the elephant in the room. You.
And that’s step one to managing yourself: being aware. Being completely aware of all the things you typically do that cause problems in your relationships and continually seeing the new ways that those traits present themselves. You see, most people rarely go beyond the point of explanation when it comes to themselves. The ability to consistently recognize your personal theme music, particularly when it seems like it’s someone else’s tune you’re being irritated by.
Can You Feel It?
Back in the day, you relied upon what your partner said, just like now, but here’s the kicker . . . so did they. The importance of what they said to you was just as significant (maybe even more so) to them as it was to whichever ears their words fell upon. The gravity of words was final. Now, of course, it wasn’t all rosy and perfect back then either, but nonetheless the dynamic was decidedly different from the one we wrestle with nowadays. Don’t mistake what I’m saying here as some kind of homage to the “good old days” because there were no “good old days.” We’ve improved dramatically in so many ways and the world is now a much safer, more prosperous, and healthier place than, say, three hundred years ago, but we can certainly look back to those times to mine for the kind of gems that could empower us in dealing with the complications of a modern life.
One of those gems is our relationship to what we say. In the average person’s life that relationship is generally downright pathetic because we have lost touch with the power of language.
Weak words, weak you. Period.
On the other hand, can you even imagine a life where you did what you said and what you said was big enough to inspire you?
It’s important to be aware of how often feelings are driving your actions, and to stop letting them do so. The power of your words and your promises, to yourself and your partner, is what really matters here. Live by that and you’ll see your relationship transformed.
All In or Nothing at All
You want change? Change. Commit to your values, to changing your actions, changing your relationship to love and forgiveness, accepting others for who they are. Get committed and buckle in for the ride. If you’re not willing to do that—and I mean ALL of it—you’re wasting everybody’s time, including mine, so put the fucking book down, get a lawyer, and prepare for single life because you’re done but you’re not willing to own it and take the consequences of where you are. Sure, there are people who stumble into that seemingly perfect pairing and end up in a relationship with someone who just seems to fit them perfectly. But that’s not the norm. It’s the exception that proves the rule. If you really want to be powerful in relationships, you have to be powerful in managing yourself. Because that’s the only thing you truly have control of.
So commit to your values. Commit to your vows. Commit to your relationships. It’s that simple.
The Deal Breakers
It might take time for people to warm up to the idea of moving in with each other, getting married, having kids, and those kinds of things. But if you’re waiting on someone to agree to the idea of not cheating on you, to love you enough to be monogamous when you value monogamy, then you’re wasting your time. This isn’t a romantic comedy; it’s real life.
That being said, this isn’t about attacking your partner or throwing them under the bus. Instead, you’re mapping out the territory for both your sakes.
By declaring your deal breakers to yourself and your partner, you are declaring the place or places where you will be taking stock of those commitments you made and whether you are open to continuing with them. For those of you who have been bursting to find your “get out of jail” card, this is it, but of course, unlike Monopoly, this release will not come without cost.
You’re making it real, both for them and for yourself. And that’s ultimately what all of the things are about: making it real.
It’s important for us all to think through and communicate deal breakers with our partners. When we allow our values to guide how we manage our deal breakers, we maintain our sense of self and composure and, no matter how tempting and no matter the result, it gives us a place where we can stay clear of the deluge of drama and upset.
Love the Struggle
Whatever you are committed to, BE THAT PERSON. Don’t apologize for it, dilute it, or bend it in any way. In other words, be the fullest expression of all you are committed to in this union today and today and today and today until you either run out of todays or you are no longer willing to honor that commitment any longer. Both take courage and yes, you guessed it, commitment.
Relationships are about creation, creation, creation. There’s nothing else. All of life is relationships, and the quality of those relationships dictates the quality of your life. You are in charge of your own triggers. You can free yourself from your hooks and empower yourself to create a great relationship.
You are the architect, the magician, the wonder of what it is to be alive, and you have the limitless ability to shift yourself and life itself. You bring yourself to the idea of “us” instead of the ordinary and everyday game that everyone else is playing, the game of “me.”
You can’t be in an “us” if your first concern is “me,” but similarly it doesn’t work if you only make it about “them” either. You have to be the champion for this union. Us.