The lie you've been fed about saving your relationship revealed
Posted July 14, 2016
I wish I had a dollar for every one of my clients that have been taught that the way to improve a difficult relationship is to step back, learn to love yourself and accept the other person. (I would be way rich by now!)
One woman’s story
I have seen this for years. One client worked on “self-care” and did not tell her husband the truth about her frustration with his porn addiction.
Instead, she joined a women's group, learned meditation, took piano lessons, made a few close friends and became totally “peaceful” by learning to accept his porn addiction.
She learned about “male nature.” She believed the lies that men are different than women and need to be aroused more and in different ways. She was falsely told that so many men look at porn, so it just must be a thing guys do.
So she never shared the depth of hurt his addiction and lack of libido in their relationship caused her.
Now, I am helping her through her divorce. Now, she's telling him about all the hurt and frustration. But it's too late. The built up resentment cracked her heart, and we can't stop the bleeding.
Why practicing self-love alone does not help you reconnect
Learning falsehoods about your partner's gender and using clever tactics or manipulation to calm things down is not becoming more aware or practicing self-love.
Of course, changing your perspective can affect your romantic partner. And, miraculous change can happen without being direct with your spouse.
But improving your relationship under these guises is indirect and not commonly successful. When one partner gets really good at self-love but the other makes no steps toward self-improvement, the couple winds up back in my office sometimes a year or two later.
To heal a broken relationship, you both need to face each other and learn to listen and understand one another. And, you have to be able to not only listen but also fully describe how you yourself feel.
The only way you can honestly end your own anger is if you believe you have communicated your feelings to your partner and your partner understands you and cares.
Anything short of this is an indirect, relationship bypass.
I do not mean, for a second, to minimize how powerful a transformed individual can be. Transforming your own heart and making peace with how imperfect your partner is by acknowledging him or her as a beautiful child of God is powerful.
But self-transformation alone is not enough.
What is the solution?
The importance of honest communication in relationships
You are human and resentment naturally builds. You are a person with an ego and with real needs. You will have far greater joy by connecting with another rather than by trying to keep your own inner-world of peacefulness through self-love only.
Yes, you can breathe, meditate, read books, look in the mirror and transform your mind. You can even accept your partner's defects of character.
But also get real and learn to truthfully tell your spouse what is bothering you.
This is the only way in, across and through. If you don't truthfully communicate with your partner, you will “peacefully,” “deeply,” “spiritually” and “calmly,” still hate your partner’s guts and the mere sight of them when they walk in the room.
If your words are offensive and abrasive when trying to tell the truth, that's OK. Learning how to communicate is possible even after “failed” attempts. Attempting to be honest, no matter how badly you feel it goes, is still a step in the right direction.
Examples of honest, effective communication
Learn how to speak truthfully with humility and vulnerability. Discover what the correct words are that you can say to disarm the other's defensiveness. This is key.
Using the following examples as inspiration for healthy communication.
"I'm scared to tell you that I'm hurting and frustrated, and I don't know where to begin."
"Would you listen to me if I tell you some things that I'm angry about? I suck at doing this — I know it and you know it, but I need to try."
"I know I was unfair and attacking towards you last time I said the truth. Will you listen if I try to do better this time?"
"I wish I knew how to accept things more. And I wish I knew how to not be sarcastic with you when I really want to have some fun. Would you help me in all this confusion?"
Of course there is something to be said about choosing your battles wisely. Telling your spouse every little thing that bothers you is not the way to go. But that's not the issue here. The issue is not talking about the big things that bother you. Don’t let your fear of being temporarily abandoned by your partner keep you silent.
Remember, becoming accepting and focusing only on self-care does not bring you closer to your partner. It may bring you closer to you, but not to your spouse.
At the end of the day, for you to feel safe emotionally, spiritually, sexually and even intellectually with your partner, you must know that you can be 100 percent honest with each other. Yes, you can and should share even what your partner does to annoy the crap out of you.
Derek Hart’s couples counseling practice is located 30 minutes north of San Francisco in Marin County, California. He offers private couples counseling to clients and group couples counseling sessions via in person or Skype. 415-444-6743