A relationship can be an amazing way to grow both psychologically and spiritually. Living intimately with another person provides a rich opportunity to identify the ways you need to change and evolve. When you learn and practice acceptance you are the one who benefits the most.
Happiness is an inside job
When we believe that someone else needs to change for us to be happy, we are destined to stay miserable. There will always be circumstances and problems and other people’s behaviors that continually get in the way of our pleasure unless like Sydney, a 38 year old web designer from Auburn, you change your viewpoint. Sydney had high control needs which came from a chaotic childhood. She felt there was a right and wrong way for everything and she irritated many people but especially her husband Ted with her constant requirements. Like the princess who could still feel a pea under 17 mattresses, Sydney was grouchy and complaining everyday about something.
Acceptance is ultimately freeing
Sydney read A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and recognized her problem as an inability to accept things and people the way they were. It’s now an everyday practice for her to recognize what is outside her control or not her problem to solve and to let it go. She resists the urge to advise people, point out mistakes, and redo what they’ve done. When she feels irritated or angry or agitated she knows something is happening that her former self would have needed to correct. Telling herself, “this isn’t my problem to solve”, “I don’t need this to change to be happy”, or “I can be peaceful and relaxed no matter what he/she says or does” helps her to let go. She learned that she can’t control people but she can control how they affect her.
Relationships thrive with acceptance
When she got off Ted’s case Sydney was more able to see his positive traits since the ones she had previously labeled negative were not in the foreground. He was less tense around her, no longer walking on eggshells, and more able to be himself. They laugh often and enjoy their time together in a way they had not before. She discovered that she has more energy too when she isn’t focused on all that is wrong.
Read the author’s book for more ways to practice acceptance
Soft addictions are those habits that use up a lot of time and are not satisfying. Web surfing, video games, endless phoning and texting, shopping when you don’t need anything, TV, and repetitive movies are not as lethal as hard addictions like drugs but they numb you out just the same. They replace activities that would be truly nurturing. They deplete your energy and sabotage your goals.
Soft addictions make ruts more cozy
When your job, relationship or your personal life is at a dead end mindless activities distract you. Faye, a 40 year old apartment manager from Antelope knew her live-in boyfriend Will was not a keeper but she couldn’t handle the idea of being alone. He was often gone on business and she didn’t trust what he was up to when he was out of town. Self doubts kept her from doing the things she wanted to do like going back to school and playing tennis. She was afraid not to be available for his calls and texts and so she watched a lot of TV and web surfed to fill in when he was gone..
Change takes a risk
Fear is the big stumbling block to making our lives better. Tanya, a nursing assistant from Sacramento, heard the little voice inside that wanted more for herself. She needed to get in shape, find a better job, and start dating again. Only 27 years old she came home from work exhausted and spent the evenings and weekends talking to her mother and sister, watching old movies and eating junk food.
Where to begin
Beginning is hard when you have soft addictions that pull you in and use up your time. There’s always the tomorrow that never comes. Faye began by imagining the life she wanted for herself. She investigated classes that would improve her job prospects. She had her tennis racquet restrung and went out to an evening practice session at the local park. One small effort often has a ripple effect and other changes follow more easily. Tanya decided that she would look online and try dating even if she wasn’t in shape. It improved her mood to begin meeting guys and then she found the motivation to make better food choices and walk in the evenings.
It takes courage to recognize habits that derail your life. Read the author’s book for more ideas about how to put your life on track.
Maybe you or someone you know can’t leave an abusive relationship and when the louse walks out on her she’s like in heroin withdrawal, begging shamelessly to be taken back, unable to eat or sleep, stalking him on facebook. This is very confusing to normal people who aren’t addicted to pain.
The clue is in childhood
Mattie, a cocktail waitress from Elk Grove, is attracted to partners who are like her dad was growing up. He was handsome with a fiery controlling temperament who drank too much and terrorized her family. As a child abuse and love were intertwined and Mattie took away a deeply imbedded almost unconscious belief that pain is a normal part of close relationships. Now she is with David who is sarcastic and verbally abusive to her, but she can’t give up the hope that he will change and love her as she wasn’t as a child. She assumes the aching from his rejection and meanness is what she must endure to be in love with him.
Adrenaline is like a drug
Abusive relationships can be exciting and exhilarating Dawn discovered when she went to a group at the Women’s Center in Placerville. Name calling, anger, put-downs, as well as threats of physical attack create an adrenaline rush as the body prepares to defend itself. Then later there was the making up phase with heightened pleasure and sexuality when Vic would apologize, buy her flowers and promise to treat her better. She found the rollercoaster of emotions like a drug that kept her constantly off balance. Ordinary stable guys by contrast she described as somewhat boring.
Look inside for what’s missing
Women, like Dawn and Mattie, who are attracted to men who they describe as strong and charismatic are often looking to a man to provide something that’s missing in them. They usually have low self esteem and feel better that they are wanted by seemingly powerful men. Working on yourself and finding your own self support, and going to therapy and groups to get help makes you less vulnerable to believing that this kind of relationship is good for you. It takes some work to find your own empowerment and learn to live without this kind of drug.
Read the author’s book for more ideas for working through your childhood issues and getting strong.
Some of us need a man to ground us, to form around, to define ourselves by, to give us self esteem, purpose, and social acceptance. If you have always had overlapping relationships—a pair and a spare—so never to be without a guy, maybe it’s time to look at yourself.
Separate and free is a healthy thing
Learning to sustain yourself without a relationship demonstrates character and helps you learn internal self support which is important for a healthy person. When not in a relationship you can spend more time with family and friends, seek out activities that are important to you, and find out how to nurture and care for yourself. Tiffany, a student from Granite Bay, was devastated when her boyfriend Dirk decided to call it quits. Normally she would have scrambled to find some fill-ins—an ex she was still friends with, or someone her girlfriends fixed her up with. She felt lost without a boyfriend, even one who wasn’t good relationship material.
You are more than a guy pleaser
When you are in a relationship there is the strong tendency to shape yourself to fit your current beau’s needs and expectations. Making him happy and being what he wants starts to define you. Elise, a computer programmer from Folsom, at first felt that Quinn was really into her. He had strong preferences about how she dressed and complained about some of her friends. Soon she felt that she didn’t know herself, that she was all about pleasing Quinn, that she had lost the ability to decide things on her own and to stand up for herself.
Develop your own self support
Tiffany decided to take some time off from a relationship and work on her self esteem, learn to please herself and do things that she was interested in like a school hiking group and an art class. Her girlfriends provided some support and she found that without always planning her time around a guy she felt stronger and better about herself. She also realized how much she had looked to Dirk for a lot of decision making.
Emotional dependence can be a trap
If you are always dependent on others, especially a boyfriend, to love, nurture, and support you, and you feel empty and lost without that, you may need to grow up and mature your sense of self. Read the author’s book about some ways to do this.
Searching for a soul mate or trying to keep the one you think is destined to be with you may be a recipe for suffering and pain. The idea that there is someone out there who will connect perfectly with your deep essence or that the guy you’re with now may actually be the one makes a better movie than real life.
You may be a victim of our culture
Our culture reflects our preoccupation with finding the right person. Even as a toddler you learned from Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella that everything is perfect when the prince and the maiden find each other. Fate brings them together and they fulfill their destiny. No work is required. This is why when Ashley, an x-ray tech from Rocklin started to have problems in her relationship with Seth she began to think that he couldn’t possibly be her soul mate, that she needed to dump him and go find the prince. The truth is that there is no perfect person. There are many partners who could make for good relationships and they will all take work.
Like attracts like
You will attract a partner with the same degree of health that you have. If you haven’t done much work on yourself, grew up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional family, and have a lot of emotional issues of your own, you will probably fall instantly in love with a guy who is just as messed up as you are. Then believing he’s your soul mate and holding on when red flags are waving all over the place is something you probably have already done.
The payoff in getting strong
We get an education and prepare ourselves for a career but somehow in our romantic delusion we want a relationship to materialize spontaneously preferably to our favorite song. Ashley began to recognize that there is no substitute for growing a healthy mature self who can relate with an equally healthy guy. She realized that Seth may be that guy but they will have to talk about their needs and values and negotiate their relationship to see if it can be what they want. There are many books and online resources that will help you learn about yourself and get healthier including the author’s book. Hoping and waiting for a relationship made in heaven is just wanting to be Julia Roberts.