MY PART IN THIS RELATIONSHIP
(“What do I bring to my relationship?”)
As mentioned in a previous exercise, it takes two to bring a relationship to the present state of affairs. It is easy to blame my partner for what is “wrong” and to expect my partner to “change” so that the relationship can be “better.” If anything is to really change in the relationship it will be up to me to evaluate my part and transform the negativity into something positive. If nothing else changes but my own part, then the relationship would certainly be different. I cannot continue to play “you first” and wait for my partner to “change” so that things can be better. If I am grumbling inside and telling myself, “I’m always doing all the changing” I can be glad that it is in my hands to transform the quality of our relationship. Otherwise, I can only play the victim.
If my partner is doing something destructive to him or herself and bringing that destructive behavior into the relationship, I must realize that I cannot live my life trying to “fix” him or her. I must take care of myself. This does not mean that I have to “put up” with negative behavior. I can point out what I observe, I can communicate the effect, I can take a stand for myself but I am not living in an illusion that this will guarantee that my partner will do anything different. Nevertheless, it is often valuable to bring things up if I am bothered as long as I am not coming from attack. I can own it as my problem and seek to do something for myself. When I come from simple awareness I can realize my choices and trust that my concerns have been heard.
The next few exercises are tools to help you evaluate your own behavior and beliefs, which you hold that affect your relationship.
My “Shoulds” and “Musts”
(“How do I control things?”)
Many of the problems in my relationship are not because of the negative events that occur. Instead problems can often be redefined as the “beliefs” that I hold about certain events. It is not the event itself or my partner’s behavior that is necessarily the problem but rather how I see the event or behavior. The way I see (perceive) an event, situation or behavior depends on the beliefs I hold. If the event does not “fit” my beliefs, then I have “good reason” to be upset. When I can examine my beliefs that simply don’t work then I become in charge of the problem and therefore the solution.
Many so-called problems can be easily “solved” simply by letting go that something “must” be a certain way. This does not mean that I wouldn’t “like” or “prefer” or “desire” or even expect that something occur but this does not mean that I “must” get upset if it is not that way. When I can give up trying to change the relationship into my image of how the relationship “should”, or “must” be then I can allow the relationship to be what it is. Allowing the relationship to be “what it is” creates an environment for it to change and grow by itself. I don’t have to control it; I don’t have to try and make it into something that it is not.
“Shoulds” are statements of belief and “musts” are the demands that the beliefs be made real. We say, in effect, “This is the way it ‘should’ be and I demand that it “must” be this way.” You have tried and tried to make certain “shoulds” real and you have been unsuccessful in your attempts. The way that you can tell if a “should” or a “must” is operating in your life is to notice the things that you complain about most. Below are some common irrational beliefs that generate certain “shoulds” and “musts”. Simply check the ones you can relate to and then elaborate honestly in your journal how you see this “belief” operating in your relationship. Notice that many upsets are a result of reality not fitting into our “shoulds” or “musts”.