You did this to me!
These words, this belief, are the biggest relationship buster I hear in my office.
If a wife cheats, if a husband is cross-dressing, if a child is using drugs – those who are affected by someone else’s behavior personalize it. They believe that the other person is doing something to harm them, to piss them off, or to otherwise inconvenience them. There is the expectation, unrealistic as it may be, that “If you love me, you will (or won’t) do ............”
This totally doesn’t make sense when you, the identified victim of the behavior believe that the other person does indeed love you.
The missing piece, of course, is that you are loved and your spouse, child, parent, or friend is doing something that is apart from you. In the case of a cheating spouse, the affair happened because of any number of possible reasons, none of which are about you NOT being good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, or loved enough. There are issues in the relationship, but that’s not it.
When your child does something with which you disagree, it is NOT because you are not loved or because you were a lousy parent. Kids do lots of things that may or may not be good for them. I remember a world history class during which the professor pointed out that Britain’s best kings’ sons were the worst kings and vice versa. It’s not about how much the children loved their parents.
Cross-dressers and transsexuals live in their own special hell when their loved ones accuse them of not caring enough about them to put aside their very identities and live a lie. In my book, Addict America: The Lost Connection, I discuss the paradox of selfishness versus charity – which is which?
It comes down to equality versus power and control. There can be no Connection where there is a power difference. How can you say you love someone and then demand that they prove their love for you by changing who they are? How can you feel your own worth when it is dependent on what another person does?
Cross-dressing, drug use, and cheating may seem like very different behaviors coming from very different motivators - and they are. The common theme is the meaning we put on those behaviors. When my self-worth is measured by what you are doing, we will never Connect and what’s more, nothing you do will ever be enough for me to feel that I am good enough, smart enough, or successful enough. I am giving you all the power. When I can’t start from a place of trust that you love me, then nothing you ever do will be enough for me and we will live in a state of disconnection and never achieve true intimacy.
The key message here is that no one can do anything TO you. Someone can do something and then how it affects you is your choice. The way we think leads to how we feel. When we change our belief that someone is doing something to us, our feelings will change. Use the Serenity Prayer:
God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.