Keeping Problems Where They Belong: How To Work On Your Relationship On Your Own

I’m not going to make myself popular with this one. I’ll just dump it here and then explain why it is true.

Everyone is responsible for their own emotional response.

Imagine a situation in which you had a seriously negative emotion, because of what someone did or say to you. For example a conflict between you and your other half. Take it in, try to fully remember it and then read on.

First, let’s separate a few terms, so we’re all talking about the same things. I’m mainly talking about cause and about responsibility. A cause is anything that produces a result. A responsibility is something one has a burden of dealing with. Obviously, these are very different concepts, but we often confuse them in our relationships.

Let’s take an example. You accidentally drop a vase and it shatters upon impact. Your spouse calls you an idiot and accuses you of always breaking things. You get infuriated! They get infuriated! Fight!

Hit the gong!

So, you’re infuriated. Why the hell did they call you an idiot? You actually never drop stuff, it’s a fabricated lie! Last week, your spouse got tomato sauce all over your clothes and now they complain about you dropping a vase! Why do they try to make your life miserable? Now you feel awful and it’s their fault.

But that’s not entirely true

Let’s face it. At this moment, there are two events that caused the fight: you breaking the vase and your spouse calling you an idiot. But who is responsible for the way you are feeling and the fact that you want to make them understand your point of view?

You are!

You may not have caused how you are feeling, as in: the event producing your emotion may not have been in your hands. But it is your burden to deal with. As chief executive officer of your own mind, ultimately everything happening in there is your responsibility. Whether you caused the mess or not. Always you. You’re the boss. At least you should be.

This means you actively need to choose how you want to feel and how you want to respond.

Let’s turn it around and see what happens in many situations. Maybe even in most situations.Most people would make the other person responsible for their emotions. They caused it right? Now they can fix it! They need to apologize! They need to fix my pride and my bruised ego! The fixing is in their hands. The fixing is their responsibility.

The fixing is in their power

And as we place the responsibility of the fixing and the power of the fixing in their hands, we suddenly lose control. We freely hand over the control and say “You must fix, otherwise I will be staying mad” and POOF: We’re a victim. A victim of our own emotions, in the hands of someone else to fix.

It’s easy to be a victim

It takes quite some self-discipline to not be a victim. But realizing that your own emotional response is entirely your own can already be a solid first step in owning your emotions. Ultimately, if you always own your emotions, you’ll never get owned again. The real trick is seeing through that emotional blur, being able to rise above it and clearly seeing what is happening between you.

This goes much further than incidents

Very often, placing responsibility of your emotions at your other half is structural. I read so many stories on Reddit that resemble something of the following: “I don’t want my boyfriend to respond to any of his female friends instagram pictures”, or “I’ve told my girlfriend I don’t like her to go out alone when other guys are present, am I wrong?”. The underlying emotions here belong to the ones posting these messages.

But they’re not owning their own emotions

Instead, they refer the responsibility to their girlfriend/boyfriend. Easy peasy. Make it their problem to deal with. Make rules about how to interact with the other sex and then you can even get mad when they don’t follow these rules! And there will be a fight again, where both people are right. Indeed, one did not follow the agreed rules. But the other did not respect the others’ autonomy in the first place and has jealousy issues.

This is one of the main reasons why relationships get complicated

So should these people let their other half just go ahead? Well, yes! Of course it’s good to share how it makes you feel if they go out with others. That’s fine. But the decision of what to do with it should be theirs. The real issue: your own fear is yours to deal with. It’s your responsibility.

And that’s incredibly difficult

Making this shift really isn’t easy at all. Especially if you’re used to getting away with being a victim your entire life. It’s easier than being responsible, but it also leaves you powerless to deal with it healthily. But it starts with recognizing that all your emotions belong to you and that you own them. Not just today, but every day, until you die.

But what about extreme cases? What about when someone gets almost beaten to death and is severely traumatized?

It is true in these cases too. We’ll use the word victim differently here though. Here is a situation in which we ‘officially’ have a victim and a perpetrator. Here the victim cannot play the part of not being a victim. The cause of the trauma here is the behavior of the perpetrator. The victim experiences an overwhelming rollercoaster of emotions. But they are still their responsibility to deal with. They are still the ultimate boss of what happens in their mind, so they are still responsible of finding a way of dealing with it. The alternative is handing over ownership to the perpetrator, giving them even more power over the victim. The trauma can be better dealt with, if the victim chooses to be responsible for the emotions they are experiencing. It’s not fair that they have to. But the events have already happened and there is no better alternative

This can be hard to accept. That is why this is not a popular opinion.

But I think it’s the healthiest one.

If you feel like you’re in a situation where responsibilities of emotions are blurred, but you don’t know where to begin or what the underlying emotions are, send us an email. Maybe we can help make that first step and provide some insight in the emotions that play a role.

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