If you are going to fix your relationship or go about creating a good one from scratch you are going to have to “give up” a thing that you cherish. What!!!??? you say, That does not sound good! And it does not, in fact, sound good. It sounds terrible. We are tired, and we work hard and we try hard to get whatever little bit of something we have in life and the last thing we want to do is give up one little piece of our share of the crumb. Not because we are mean and greedy or have to have it our way, or to win or be right. No. But because a piece of a crumb is not a lot. And more importantly because we are actually right. We are actually right. Sit with that. If we grabbed ourselves a jury of a thousand peers and told them the story of us they would weep and applaud and herald the injustice. They would send us messages of sympathy, empathy, condolence. Flowers. Maybe even small donations if we played the right music (a haunting cello, a few high notes on the piano repeated and spaced apart with a touch of reverb). After all, we are the sane one. And whatever is going wrong, hurting us, creating conflict with our partners, is fundamentally not fair and not our fault.
But (please don’t throw tomatoes at me until you have read to the end) here is the rub.
The same is true for our partner. Dun, dun, dun.
This is a terrifying idea that can’t possibly be true! What’s next, Erin. Are you going to take away the Tooth Fairy, Santa, chocolate!!!??? Are you going to tell me that everything I love is bad for me? That two plus two equals zero chips?
No. I’m not a total beeotch you know.
Does it mean that he wasn’t a total asshole when he said the thing about your sister’s hip size? Your beautiful smart sister who would do anything for anyone —and what kind of standard of beauty is that anyhow? What’s next, animal cruelty and the KKK? Does it mean that it was okay that she said nothing when that skeezy guy from the office was obviously hitting on her in his “let’s have coffee and talk marketing strategy at 7pm on a Friday night” email? No amount of friendly wholesome emoji-ing is going to cover up that agenda. Nope. That wasn’t cool. You know it. Your besties know it. 9.83/10 Cosmo readers would agree.
And are you supposed to just be OKAY with it? Let it slide? Sweep it under the rug that is so piled high with sweepings it is more of a hill than a rug now?
And, Erin, what about the many of us who have fought hard and long to have a voice, to respect ourselves, to establish boundaries with other humans? That doesn’t sound healthy for us. Are we supposed to just throw all of that “authentic self” stuff into the trash with the latest copy of Entertainment Weekly?
Sometimes partners do shitty things to each other. Sometimes partners drop the ball on things. Sometimes partners don’t show up the way their future selves will be proud of in relationship. Sometimes we look at ourselves and say, “Oops, my bad”.
But I am here to tell you that THE GAME IS RIGGED.
That whole “is it a blue dress, it is a gold dress” test that went viral a few years back?
Well, for some eyes it’s a gold dress, and for some it’s a blue dress.
Even if more eyes are going to see a blue dress, statistically speaking, some eyes are going to see a gold dress.
In every situation in which there is conflict, there are two different dresses at play.
And if they could see it your way, it would be solved, because you’d both be looking at a gold dress!
And if 99 percent of the population could see it your way, but they can’t, well then it’s not solved because they are looking at a blue dress. The tiny little cones and rods in their eyes, the experiences in their histories, the meaning of certain words and symbols and ideas to them, all produce a different result for them.
It can be maddening. And it’s not okay.
Caveat —if you married a partner who is abusive, then it’s not safe or healthy for you to go about unrigging the game from within the relationship. You need a professional, stat. You need help and support and resources, and if you don’t know for sure if it’s abuse, well then you need and deserve some help to figure that out.
But for the rest of us there is usually some VERY GOOD reason we married or shacked up with or joined forces with this person in the first place. We may have actually LIKED them or hell, even loved them. There may even be things we like and love about them still! They may not actually be our (wait for it)… enemy!
But not being seen or heard or understood is scary and triggers “I am not safe” mode. We want to protect ourselves. We are scared that anything short of full guns a-blazin’ or erecting the north wall and they’ll pitch us to the lion’s den rolled in savory butter and herbs.
So, psssst, I am going to let you in on a little secret. I am gonna tell you how the game is rigged.
We are given a broken, what I like to call “model” of relationship by our favourite villain, The World.
It says, “I am constantly under threat or siege and have to protect myself or else” (see above, butter, lion’s den).
We see this model at work in the zeal of our friends and supporters for us to “kick them to the curb” for minor transgressions. We shouldn’t put up with it! We should respect ourselves! We should expect an invitation by Wednesday for Saturday. We should seem busy and aloof. We should be walking with a strut or an upturned collar, snapping a zee. We should ditch her ass. We need to get over it. We can do better. We can do oh, so much, bloody better. If he hasn’t slain a dragon, healed world hunger and got down on one knee in the middle of a hurricane, he’s not that into us!
Well let me ask you this: How far down the yellow brick romance road are we all gonna get if we are side-eyeing our loved one, other half, partner in crime on the daily as if they are looking at us like the next meal. I’ve seen this movie plot and I think a year alone on a boat where your only companion is starving for your flesh is 5 kilometers and an ocean too far out of my comfort zone.
What if instead of caving, conceding, throwing in the towel, being weak, and otherwise buying that we are ‘failing to protect ourselves’ we swapped out this boat, lion, tiger enemy campaign for something…different!???
What if we got in the boat with a lamb or even a fuzzy kitten?
What if we opted for a TRUST based model of relationship?
Well for starters a trust based model of relationship would allow us to “give up” that you have to see it my way or you don’t love me THING that I so brazenly (but gently) suggested we might benefit from giving up. And I am gonna go so far as to argue that giving up something that hurts us, that doesn’t serve the bigger loving good thing we want to create and grow is not actually a sacrifice at all.
And that my friend is how we come around to letting her have the gold dress while we keep the blue one. We think we’re giving up, but we’re not.
Everybody has a dress! Neato.
Let’s let our partner really see, feel and believe something different than us about the remark she made or the way he reacted. We don’t need them to see it like we do. They can’t. They have different rods and cones.
What I am radically suggesting is that the pain and suffering cycle is the pain and suffering cycle, and that it gets fixed one way. And that all the confusion over colour is a red herring (omg that was an unintentional pun, sorry not sorry). For pain and suffering to keep cycling you have to take the bait (intentional) and keep taking it.
I am suggesting that we get wise to this bait and get onto what we want to accomplish which is:
The whole business of what we want and what we need and how we can team up with our actual teammate to make that happen because behind all of that conflict is just that; some wants and needs that we are struggling to communicate, some ideas we have attached to our partner’s actions that seem to block those wants and needs.
It’s not easy AT FIRST because we have to unlearn the big, bird flippin’ zee snappin’ biz that is supposed to be keeping us dignified and safe from slaughter.
But we can do it. You can do it.
And if you need a little help? Well, folks, they don’t call me The Tiger Tamer for nothing. Okay well no one calls me that. But I am really good at helping you give up nothing, so you can have something really great.
— Love Erin
P.S. I have a cure for Less-than-itus. And for Unmet-need-itus. Hit me up if you need some game changing support. BYOKK.
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.