Beliefnet
Letting Go with Guy Finley

The magic, the power, and the true purpose of all our relationships in life: to help us and to help each other outgrow whatever stands in the way of perfecting our love for one another.

hand outstretched to woman facing away

If we want to help our partner change, we must change. There is no other way. And more: unless we’re exceptionally blessed, it’s unlikely our partner has the same wish that we do: to keep growing and exploring a love that, at the start, was filled with surprising changes, but that has lost some of that sparkle because one, or both of us has stopped changing.

All this is to say: odds favor you’re the one who will have to initiate the work needed to refresh your relationship. No problem. You’ll find everything you need to get started in the three special relationship exercises that follow. They are designed to work in a two-fold way.

Part one unfolds as you initiate the first action and receive the revelation that will help make changes in you. The second part of the exercise happens as your partner sees and experiences this change in you. When you no longer act toward them in the old way, they can’t help but see their own mechanical nature that only knows the “old way” to react to you.

In effect, your new actions help to reveal their old limitations so that – for a moment, anyway – and to whatever degree it occurs, your partner suddenly sees the need to change! If ever there was a real “win-win” situation, a way for two people to realize the highest possibilities a relationship can offer, this is it.

Exercise #1: Look within yourself before you “speak out”

Let’s say you’re with your partner and you see something in their character that “strikes a familiar nerve” in you. Maybe it’s impatience, an obvious pretense, or just the unpleasant tone in their voice when they say something unkind or otherwise painful to your ear. There are so many options here, but suffice it to say that it’s whatever “stone” they seem to put in your shoe in that moment.

You feel a sudden negative reaction come up in you, generally attended by an unspoken thought along the lines of “there they go again.” As a rule, the next thing that happens is you feel obligated to give this negative feeling a voice. After all, if you don’t point out their misstep how will they know they’ve stepped out of line, let alone how they’ve troubled you?

But you know from past experience that whatever you feel compelled to point out to your partner causes them to immediately oppose you, pushing your observation away at the same time. So that rather than taking your habitual place in this old pattern – you meet the moment with your new intention: you look within yourself before you “speak out.” And what do you see?

Call it what you will, there stands revealed some kind of pain; perhaps anger, an old resentment, a sense of disappointment. By whatever name, it’s negative. But you’re not…and here’s why: your new awareness of this unconscious nature is the same as your freedom from its compulsion to prove itself right.

Your conscious struggle to bear its pressure in you – to not let it push you to speak its pain – is the same as sparing your partner the brunt of its dark nature.

You are changed on the spot because now – thanks to the exercise of looking within before you speak out – you can now see, clearly, who you can no longer agree to be.

In the meantime, actually at the same time of your revelations, your partner is watching you. It may not seem so, but in the same moment of their misstep they could feel your negative reaction. Even if you think you masked it for fear of an unwanted encounter, your partner feels that dark energy. It unconsciously registers within them, creating an opposing reaction. So your partner is waiting, albeit unaware that they’re preparing to defend themselves from what they think you’re about to say!

But not a contrary word slips out of your mouth. You’re busy learning about yourself, and your silence is deafening to them. It’s giving your partner the momentary room – and the freedom ¬– they need to see that the only thing punishing them at the moment is their own defensive thoughts and feelings. They’re ready to fight…but your silence has left them no one to fight with!

They’re left alone with their pain, with no one they can blame for its mounting pressure. This new awareness is the same as their realization of a limitation in their nature they would have never seen otherwise. What was concealed is revealed, and the healing can begin because now your partner has seen the need to change.

Exercise #2: Drop your end of this unseen tug-of-war

All forms of competition between partners breed conflict, especially in the unconscious form that it takes in what seems – on the surface – to be a casual conversation.

It all starts as simply as you wanting to tell your partner about something that you did that day; perhaps to share an insight you gained, or just to talk through some condition at work or at home that’s concerning you.

No more do you finish your sentence – or at times, right in the middle of your words – than your partner interrupts you. They’ve decided to change the topic – on the spot – to one that’s obviously more interesting than whatever it was you had to say. They start talking about themselves!

Now maybe you show it, maybe you don’t, but you’re hurt. So you do one of two things: you either pull the conversation back in the direction you intended it to go, or you sit there, tune out your partner, and have a dialogue with yourself about how all your partner can do is think about themselves.

Of course, you could tell your partner about how self-centered they are by always hogging the spotlight but, as a rule, they’ll just take your comments as proof that you want the stage all to yourself. If you want things to change, to end this unseen tug-of-war between the two of you, then try the following exercise.

The next time you begin to talk about yourself to your partner and they step in front of you – in order to talk about themselves – don’t compete for the stage. Let them have the center spotlight.

Don’t compete with them. Allow them the room they need to complete feeding the unconscious parts of themselves that believe they’re the only thing that matters in this world.

Don’t contest their solo performance. And, to the best of your ability, don’t judge it either. Instead, witness it and yourself at the same time. You’ll see that most of the pain you feel in these moments isn’t because your partner wants to steal the show, but rather because you want the same thing that they do: some attention.

We all want to be the main attraction, and some seem to need it more than others. The more clearly you see this, the less interest you’ll have in the parts of yourself that always want to fight for that part.

On the other side of this equation, by giving your partner the stage all to themselves, you help make it possible for them to see how empty it is to be on it all by themselves. They may not change their “act” all at once; in fact, it’s unlikely. But, for your choice to no longer compete for the “top spot,” you’re awarded the “Freedom” prize for best supporting actor.

http://www.relationshipmagicbook.com

I’ll tell you when a relationship between two people really begins to change… it’s when one of those two people realizes that no one wins a fight. There is no winning side to any fight when the cost of that struggle is to lose sight of what matters most in life: love.

dejected couple by car in storm clouds

Have you ever been drawn into a fight with a loved one where – by the time you got knee-deep into who’s “right” and who’s “wrong” – maybe over the most trivial of matters – it felt as if, somehow, your very life depended on the outcome of that fight?

We’ve all had moments like this, perhaps too many times; which is why it seems strange that we’ve yet to see the following: there’s no such thing as a “winning” side in any fight between two people who love one another, anymore than one seat proved itself better than another on the deck of the Titanic.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t, and won’t always be differences in opinion between our partner and us; this is natural; needed, actually. There will always be some differences between us that aren’t a question of which of us is right – or wrong – as the case may be; rather there may come times when a disagreement might be over the best course to take for the well-being of a child, or over some other shared concern…where we see a different path than does our partner in order to reach an outcome that both of us agree is for the good of all. So, to that end, let us agree that there’s a big distinction between working through our differences – creating together a choice that’s palatable to both of us – versus trying to shove what we believe is right down the throat of our partner.

Our demands never prove we’re right, anymore than our negativity proves our partner is wrong. The only thing this kind of stress and strain between us proves is that we’re missing at least one piece of the puzzle in that struggle with our partner.

Again, what’s the missing piece? We can call it “love.” But if the word – or even the ideal – had the power to hold us together when everything feels like it’s trying to pull us apart – especially in the throes of a fight – then all we would have to do is call up that word, and our world would suddenly be right.

To be clear: love is not just a word; it’s an action. It’s a choice we agree to make when we see – by the light of a higher order of understanding – that there’s something more important at stake in that moment than struggling to satisfy our own self-centered interests.

In this instance, one such new action would be to use the onset of any conflict, regardless of who initiates it…to fight for something higher than who will be the next “king of the hill.” In other words, rather than fighting with your partner, fight instead to remember how destructive it is to your love to tear into one another…over anything.

Let me anticipate what you may be feeling at this point, and answer that fear: Don’t fight to “get on top” of any thought that tries to tell you, warn you, “But, if I don’t fight back, my partner will walk all over me.” Instead fight to see how much pain there is in any compulsion – whether your partner’s, or your own – to have the last word. Then you won’t want to win that kind of power for yourself, and neither will you want to punish your partner for the same.

If we will dare to interrupt the usual pattern of fighting with our partner – pause just long enough to even consider this new action – we will see in that same moment what love has been wanting to show us all along: any argument with our partner – where one of us is trying to prove we’re right, and the other wrong – is not because we know “better,” and it’s certainly not born of love. In these moments, we fight for one reason, and for one reason only no matter how you want to call it: love is absent.

In a way, this is all we need to know, all we need to see, because when that telling moment comes we won’t be tempted to start looking for yet another false solution. If we see, no matter how dimly, that love is the only answer, then we know our new response must be to refuse to fight.

On another note: yes, it’s likely that your partner won’t understand what you’re trying to do, and may still want to fight. But, eventually, they’ll see how useless it is to pick a fight when they can’t find the “old you” to fight with. Each time you choose to leave them there with their enmity, but with no “enemy” to legitimize it, they’ll have little choice but to let it go, whatever “it” is in that moment. This may take a while, but you’ll soon see the birth of an altogether new relationship between the two of you.

http://www.relationshipmagicbook.com