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.

The Secrets of How To Rescue Your Relationship or Marriage

The amount of things you can do to try to make your relationship better is staggering. There are so many things you can do! But how do you know which ones will work? Since you’re here, you’ve probably already tried many things. But apparently, these didn’t work well enough, or maybe even not at all. They may even have made it worse!

So what can you do?

At the moment, you are probably having huge fights over the smallest of things or maybe you even stopped fighting overall, just evading any and all conflict. The general atmosphere is grim and there seems to be a general sense of perceived respectlessness on both sides. It’s time to turn it around!

But before we tell you the secrets of making your relationship last, please know, that there are also relationships that are too abusive to be saved. Your own safety has priority. If you are not safe, please start working on a solution to become safe as soon as possible. I’m talking mainly about physical abuse here. Emotional abuse is a very tricky subject, as it can be very subjective in when it actually becomes abusive. Also when (undiagnosed/untreated) psychological disorders come into play, this can greatly complicate things.

Also note that behavioural patterns within a relationship can become very twisted, to the point that it may seem the persons in it have become almost insane! But only when dealing with each other. And they know this, because they only behave that way in their private environment. Not with other people around.

Recognizable?

It’s these behaviourable patterns that need attention. The way these come into existence is so gradual, that you hardly notice what they’re growing into, until it’s too late. It’s not weird either. None of us were trained in ‘how to relationship’.

We’re just winging it.

So how do you relationship? You learn by experience, but experiencing already screws it up half the time? That can’t be good! Some of the most valuable things we have, we go by just improvising. Marriage, friendships, raising children, we’re just winging all this. The secrets in this article should give you some proper guidelines, so you at least have a solid concept of what you are doing and why.

So what is it you need to do, in order to make sure your relationship will last?

The Secrets

1. ‘We’ is the Third Person in Your Relationship

This may sound weird, but the relationship itself has a unique pattern of interactions, habits, routines and other dynamics. Think of it: you may act one way to everybody, except your partner and vice versa. You’re treating each other totally different compared to anyone else. And often not in a good way. But somehow, you’re still fighting about you and me. But you and me are not being you and me within the relationship which is we. We is something else.

Sounds weird and true at the same time, right?

One very practical thing you can immediately start with, is stop talking and fighting about you and me. Start talking about we. It immediately shifts the conversation from something which may be interpreted as hostile, to something you both are part of. Silly us. “You started this fight!” becomes “We’ve started this fight!”. You should start respecting me for once!” becomes “We should start showing each other more respect”.

Do you see how this immediately changes the tone?

It immediately helps in de-escalating a fight. It also makes it a lot easier to talk about your interactions. Nobody is blamed and it creates an atmosphere of working on something together. Because don’t forget, outside your relationship, you may both be acting completely different as from within. It is we that somehow defines your behaviour. It is we which needs work. Not you or your partner.

So if you nor your partner needs to be worked on, you both should be able to be yourself, right?

Right!

If you want to know more about using ‘We’ to better your relationship, have a look here.

2. Allow Yourself and Your Partner to be Yourselves

It is time to relax again. How long have you been feeling stressed about your relation? You’re not pleasant company when you’re stressed. And the same goes for your partner. And when you’re both stressed, only small things need to happen to cause an explosion.

But how can you relax amidst all this tension?

The answer to this is of course very elaborate, but you need to start somewhere. One thing is sure: in the current situation, you cannot change the way your partner behaves.

You can only change the way you behave.

You can start by giving up on trying to steer your partners behaviour by pointing out that behaviour. It will only make it worse. Instead, accept your partner for who they are. Fully accept. No buts. All quirks, annoyances, irresponsibilities, naggings, nasty habits, annoying routines, everything. Accept them. You will not be able to change them now.

Let them be who they are.

How would this be relaxing to you? It will only increase your stress right? Wrong! It will relieve you of the job of being in control. Being in control is hard work and stressful. Especially if the one you’re trying to control doesn’t want to be controlled. And most people really don’t want to be controlled. They will resist, with everything they’ve got.

Just let it go

You will gift them the freedom to be who they are. This will not only be relaxing for you (once you get used to it), but it will be even more relaxing to your partner! And if they get more relaxed, they will lose the need for control as well. They can be free and so can you. You can smile.

This will go a long way in learning to trust each other again.

But you’re not there yet. There are more things you can do to start building on we.

3. Own Your Emotions

Building on we starts with you. We humans are emotional beings. We get so overwhelmed by emotions, that we can hardly control how we feel and even how we behave. We do weird things when we get emotional and we get emotional all the time. But who is responsible for these emotions?

You are!

Always, you are responsible for your own emotions. You’re probably often not the cause of your emotions, but you’re always responsible for them. This is not a popular opinion at all, so let me explain you why realizing this is so incredibly important:

If you are not responsible for your emotions, you cannot control them. You will give the control to someone else!

So if your partner pissed you off and you’ve got steam coming from your ears, is your partner responsible for that? And if they say sorry and you feel much better, are they responsible for that? No! You own your emotions. You decide how you want to react. You decide how you want to feel. If you feel angry, own it. This is your emotion! You cannot be a victim of your own emotions if you’re the boss of them. The point is: do not give someone else control over your emotions. Especially when they are the direct cause.

So if your partner tells you to shut up and that makes you angry, they are causing your anger and you are responsible for it.

You will no longer be a victim of your own emotions.

4. Assume Good Intentions

Your partner is not evil. Neither are you. You both probably have good intentions. Whenever your partner does something that makes you angry or sad, just start to assume they mean well. They are probably just looking after themselves or reacting based on the assumption you don’t have good intentions. Someone has to start the positive cycle to get out of the vicious downward cycle.

It might as well be you.

It also takes away the need for control I wrote about above: if you assume bad intentions, you can’t just let it happen. You have to correct it somehow, to prevent it from happening again. If you assume good intentions, even if you feel they did something wrong, you can just let it go. And they can relax a bit as well.

5. Listen and Understand

This is one of the most important communication skills there is. And I’d like to take it a lot further. How many times have you tried to get your point across, only for it to fall on deaf ears? Time and time again, right? Chances are, your partner feels exactly the same. You’re both just trying to get the other to understand how you feel.

And you’re both failing!

It’s up to you to make the first step. Start listening. No counterarguments, no but’s. No questions disguised as counterarguments, nothing of all that. Just questions for elaboration to make sure you fully understand your partners thoughts and feelings. And when you do finally understand, you stop the conversation. Do not try to bring your own point across at this point. Only when they ask for it.

This sounds unfair right? Why should only your partner be heard?

Because at this point, fixing your relationship is more important to you than getting your point across at this moment. Your time to explain will come. You’re going for the long term plan here. You’re creating a safe environment, in which you both can express what you’re thinking and feeling. You’re doing this.

Be proud of it!

So they’ve told their story. You’ve listened. You bit your lip and managed to let your urge to get your own point of view across. This is all very hard! You need to swallow your pride and take in all that blame and verbal abuse without defending yourself. It may feel very denegrating. This leads to the next secret.

6. Learn to Set Aside Your Ego

Your ego is that voice in your head that constantly says “Yes, but ME“. Your partner is trying to manipulate you, obviously, and you fear that if you let it slide it may teach them it is effective, right? And it makes you feel so small. And if you feel small you want to feel bigger! And all your attempts to feel bigger make your partner feel smaller. It’s a tug of war of your ego’s!

What is more important? Your ego or your marriage?

Decide. You decided your marriage, right? This was not a suggestive question at all -wink-. What happens if you forfeit a tug of war and say you’ll just stop? You lose the fight. That’s fine. You can’t win each fight. And if you can’t win any of them, might as well forfeit this one as well. You can rise above the battle of the ego’s.

Any idea how big that makes you?

But it’s not big at the cost of your partner. You build confidence on your own foundation. That’s a good foundation! Be aware though, you may even feel the need to apologize for your bit of the fight, without expecting an apology back. It’ll put a serious dent in your ego though. But considering you’re working the long term plan, it may just be worth it. In any case, you’re showing your partner how it’s done.

7. Educate by Example

At various points above, I’ve stated that you can be the only one doing all of the above, of the two of you. Of course it helps if you are both actively following these principles, but you can start immediately doing it alone. Your partner will notice a change in your behaviour. Maybe not exactly what and not even right away, but partners tend to imitate each other. Even if there is hostility.

The more your partner likes your responses, the more they will unconsciously imitate you.

It will take a while. But as stated above, just let them be themselves. It will come naturally. There’s also no way to force this. But in general, you’re already doing some things tghat make you much more likable and this will relax you both. You’ll switch around to a positive cycle!