Is this relationship good for me?

should-i-leave-him-quiz

“I need help,” said the frazzled woman sitting across from me, wiping tears with the back of her hand. “I can’t decide if this relationship is good for me or not.”

As I handed her a box of Kleenex, I thought, “If I had a quarter for every time I’ve had this conversation, I wouldn’t be sitting in my office, having this conversation.” But, as usual, I asked her to enumerate both the positive and negative aspects of her relationship. And, as usual, she listed off all the things she liked and didn’t like about the way her boyfriend interacts with her.

When she had finished, she looked at me, waiting for a verdict.

“And what about you?” I asked her.

She seemed genuinely confused by the question.

“There are two people in this relationship,” I reminded her. “What have you done to change things for the better?”

She protested that she’d told him many times about the things she doesn’t like, but that he still hasn’t fixed them.

And there was the rub: she was focusing on things she had no power to change, i.e. his behavior, rather than focusing on things she could, and should be doing to work toward her relationship ideal.

Women in particular seem to be prone to this behavior, though it’s not gender-specific per se.

  • There is this sense that a relationship falls into our laps ready-made, and either it’s worthy of our time and energy or it isn’t.

This creates a feeling of powerlessness, as though we ourselves are incapable of affecting change and must therefore pester our partner to do so. And since people are not generally fond of criticism, particularly within romantic relationships, those petitions are, at best, simply ignored, and at worst labeled as “nagging” and used against us in a court of love.

  • The truth is that both partners are equally responsible for creating and maintaining the kind of relationship they want. And that begins with focus.

You see, focus determines reality. So the more you focus on what you think your partner is doing wrong, the more real that problem becomes. And the more energy you send toward worrying over whether or not that problem is a deal-breaker, the less energy you have to devote to creating the kind of relationship you actually want.

So, the first step is to decide what kind of relationship you want. Until you do that, you have nowhere to put your focus and no goal to work toward. So, envision your ideal relationship. Write it out on paper. Keep it somewhere prominent so you can remind yourself on a daily basis exactly what you are working toward creating.

Then, put your focus on taking positive action. That is, on doing whatever you can do to make your relationship more like that ideal you described.

Finally, when you find yourself in a negative interaction with your partner, try simply re-focusing your energy onto figuring out what you are both trying to accomplish.

Ask your partner, and yourself for that matter, “What do you want?” or, if you want to get more technical, “What is your desired outcome for this interaction?”

Once you’ve gotten an answer to that question, for both of you, give no focus to anything that does not work toward one or both of those goals.

To sum up:

  • Ask not if this relationship is good for you, but if you are good for this relationship.

 

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