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Why Don't Relationships Work?

January 1, 1993

 

So much information, books and material has already been published on this topic that it begs the question what else or more can there be to write about without just re-hashing the same-ole, same-ole already out there.

 

I have reason to believe that certain fundamentals I am covering here have not yet been addressed. Like for example, the general accepted belief that you need to be prepared and willing to work on your relationship if you want it to work. Why should you need to work at it? Surely if you have to keep working at this it indicates that you really have a non-working relationship – period. If it was working, you would not have to work at making it work.

 

What I refer to by a relationship working naturally is one that you do not have to work at. It works because it is what you and your partner want, you enjoy and share a natural oneness, your respect and appreciate having each other in your lives, each adds and/or brings value into the life of the other.

 

This does not mean you do not have your differences. But such a relationship enables you to respectfully and openly discuss and agree on outcomes that serve you both without the need to compromise.

 

Some people believe and say that they find it fun to have a confrontation, a fight now and again. Especially if it ends in having sex. Really! What part of this do they really enjoy? The fight or the sex? If the fights were to end with no post-fight sex, which would they choose? Engaging in arguments with no sex, or, sex without arguments? Which would you opt for? 

 

The fundamental driving force for arguments and fighting is one's need to prove their rightness against another person. Being right makes a person feel in control and empowered. And sex is a tool often used for this by either partner. Even when a partner may act submissively, underlying that is their way of being in control, having the power over the other. In real terms, if both partners were to be unwavering in proving their respective position of rightness about their argument, the chances of this ending in an amicable and enjoyable sexual experience are pretty much zero - unless they used sex for other power play motives.

 

Partners, people, that have nothing to prove are unlikely to become embroiled in argumentative confrontations for the sake of being right. Their engagements would be more non-confrontational discussions aimed at resolving or achieving an objective that would benefit all concerned. To achieve this the participating parties (relationship partners) must have the willingness to be wrong about their points of rightness, beliefs, points of view and opinions. This willingness to be wrong does not equate to compromising. It is about appreciating and acknowledging the other party’s views openly and constructively without feeling wronged, being a failure, needing to defend and prove one’s rightness.

 

A common accepted belief is that compromise is an essential requirement for a successful relationship.  It shows one's willingness for giving and taking, is an act of caring and unselfishness. But actually, compromise is the opposite, it is the root source of our relationship problems - as I demonstrate in Compromise – The Payoffs and Reality.

 

In the initial period of a relationship, we experience excitement, anticipation, enjoyment, love, special occasions, sharing common interests, doing things together, a great sex life (well, maybe not everyone), feeling connected, and so on. It is a period when we cannot even begin to consider or contemplate that things might go wrong or that we might part – if we did we more than likely not make a permanent commitment such as marriage.

 

Much as we cannot conceive that things could go wrong, for many the “honeymoon” period comes to an end all to soon. No more special evenings, loving gestures, moments of intimacy, dinner together, remembering a birthday or anniversary, the “I love you” telephone calls. All start "fading" away. We are then no longer special, are taken for granted, no longer measure up to our partner’s expectations, we become referred to as so-and-so’s wife/husband/partner, we may even lose our sense of individuality. Some people stop and ask themselves, “what has happened; what has gone wrong; where did I go wrong; what should I have done differently?”

 

It is a situation that triggers our anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, and other such emotions and feelings leading to us blaming our partner for no longer caring and loving us. At this point we may want to move out, must leave. Then we consider the possible consequences. Out of fear or a sense of obligation, many people end up compromising and staying to try and work it out – or just unhappily stick it out.

 

For many, this leads to the relationship developing into a “battlefield” of emotional arguments and confrontations – a “war zone”. Two people co-existing under the same roof with nothing to share, little in common, void of intimacy, and perhaps at best, each being pleasant or accommodating of the other so as to minimise confrontation. Others just call it quits and separate.

 

Some statistics show that approximately thirty to fifty percent of first marriages end in divorce within the first three to four years. It is even suggested that if a marriage lasts longer than about six months, the partners can consider themselves lucky. No matter what we are told, want to believe or how we want to justify this, the bottom line is that we are clearly not doing a great job at making relationships work. So what could be the root source of the problem?

 

Many claim that our relationships cannot work perfectly because as humans we are imperfect. Isn’t that an encouraging and motivating thought with which to enter into a relationship. We actually set ourselves up to fail before even having a chance to succeed - and most people believe this to be our human reality. But what if the problems we experience may in fact have nothing at all to do with us being imperfect? What if the root cause is something more fundamental?

 

From the moment we are born, the environment we are born into gets to work on teaching us how we need to conform to its norms, standards and values – our family, culture, society – in order to be acceptable. None of these teachings are interested in our individuality, our uniqueness to allow us to be ourselves. The methods used to make us conform are punishment – in all the many forms we experience through our life. Out of this we learn and experience that not conforming results in rejection, non-acceptance and no love. This triggers and reinforces our feelings and belief of being not good enough – something we spend our life striving to overcome and eliminate.

 

As we have a natural need to be connected, to experience love and acceptance, to be part of, to have a sense of belonging, and to procreate, we are naturally driven to want to get into relationships – after all, by the very nature of our conception and birth we come into this world as a result of a relationship connection.

 

The feelings and belief we experience of being not good enough, results in us not being fully OK about ourselves, about who we are. To be OK we turn to things outside ourselves to make us feel good and happy. Like materialistic things for a better lifestyle, a partner with whom to have a relationship that can satisfy our emotional needs for acceptance, love, caring, companionship, sex, etc.

 

If you want to understand the root source for your relationships not working, take a moment to do the following two simple exercises. These should not take you longer than a few minutes. There are no tricks to this. The quicker you answer the questions the more real you are likely to be about them. As the saying goes, “shoot from the hip.” Avoid spending time to ponder over any “deep meaning” you think might be required. It is nothing like that. If you do that you are likely to miss the whole point of the exercise.

 

I recommend you do this exercise whether or not you are in a relationship – it may help you avoid getting into a problem relationship. Write your answers on a separate piece of paper – or type them on your computer if you want. Work the two questions in the sequence given – complete question 1 fully before moving to question 2. Aim to use single or maybe two worded answers like, love, happiness, good sex and so on. Keep in mind that what you are being asked to list here does not refer to material things like money, good home, career opportunity or anything of that nature. Got it?  Make your list as long as you need it to be for you.

 

 

Question 1.

 

List the most important and fundamental things YOU want to get (receive) from the relationship; what must it give you, what do you expect from it.

 

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Question 2.

 

List the most important and fundamental things YOU want to give in the relationship; what you want to give your partner.

 

 

When you have completed both, compare your answers to my lists here.

 

Do you see any similarities? Have you perhaps written some of the same things? Are there any elements in either of my lists that you do not have but which you feel are relevant and applicable? If you want, add them to your list.

 

Now compare the answers in list 1 with list 2. What do you notice? Do they contain much of the same thing? Are some perhaps even exactly the same – like for example love and caring, companionship?

 

What does this show and mean?

 

Question 1. What you are saying here is that you want a relationship so you can experience and receive from your partner all the things you have written in list 1 – love, happiness, joy, companionship, etc.

 

Question 2. What you are saying here is that you want to be in a relationship because you want to give and contribute to your partner and the relationship all of the things you have written in list 2 – love, happiness, joy, companionship, etc.

 

Back to question 1: Why do you want to receive and experience all these things from your partner and by being in a relationship? Because you do not feel and experience them within yourself. You want and need an intimate relationship with someone so you feel loved, needed, accepted, fulfilled, secure, trusted, and so on.

 

Looking at question 2, what you have listed here are what you want to give and contribute to your partner and the relationship. As these are very similar things, if not the same, that you are looking to receive from your partner and your relationship, ask yourself, "how can you give to a partner (list 2) what you are looking to receive because you feel and believe you do not have them within yourself (list 1)? It is clearly not possible.

 

By getting into a relationship from a point of non-OK’ness with yourself, you are dependent on your partner to make you feel good. What that means is that you are in the relationship to take - to fulfil your emotional needs and sense of self-deficiency. As your partner is likely to get into the relation­ship for the same fundamental reasons, you end up with a relationship in which both partners are taking from one another. And if both are taking neither are in a position of giving. If neither is giving, there is no resource for either partner do draw anything from. With neither being in a position to give, the relationship also becomes a means with nothing to give. When the relationship per se is empty, the only other source one can turn to for satisfying and fulfilling their expectations is their partner. And the tactics used for this go something like this:

 

  • be nice and loving toward them to get what you want

  • fuel their ego even when it is the last thing you want to do

  • give yourself to them for sex whilst you carry on having an affair on the side

  • play the poor victim to get them to do things for you

  • threaten to leave them unless they give you what you want; use this tactic also as a lever to measure how much they need you, or love and care about you

  • make them feel guilty for what they do not do for you—like not remembering your birthday or anniversary

  • make them dependent on you for everything—be in control

  • give them no freedom to do what they want without your con­sent

  • blame them for your unhappiness

  • make them subservient to you; dominate and control them

  • don’t acknowledge them for anything they achieve on their own

  • put them down about everything they do

  • tell them they are worthless

  • belittle them in public

 

As each partner gets in this power struggle and manipulation in order to win, the relationship turns into a war zone of damages where there are no winners, only casualties.

 

The fundamental driving force for these negative feelings, belief and destructive behaviour is your MOULD.

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