Do you lose yourself in love?
How to Unravel the #1 Relationship Myth
There are many myths that undermine relationships, but one of the most common is the belief that “I am responsible for other people’s happiness.” This pattern is so common as to be almost primal. You can hardly find a person who does not act this out to some degree.
In moderation, this belief supports the give and take of healthy relationships.
But in more extreme expressions, those who believe they are responsible for other people’s happiness can become people pleasers, weighed down by a goal they can never attain. For who can control the reactions of others?
Pleasers often make their own needs and desires secondary to everyone else’s. Believing their actions are loving and kind, they may not see that much of their energy is devoted to winning approval. This is why people pleasing often undermines rather than nourishes a relationship. Healthy relationships thrive when each person is coming from honesty, a balance of caring for self and others, and integrity with oneself.
Claire’s Aha: Let’s take a closer look at this myth at work in an excerpt from an Option dialogue I had with a client I’ll call Claire. Claire came to me feeling very frustrated that she couldn’t please her boyfriend.
Note: I’ve left out a number of questions and details from our hour session for the sake of brevity.
Claire: I try this, I try that. No matter what I do, Rodney never seems satisfied or happy. Nothing I do is ever enough!
Q: Do you believe you can make Rodney happy?
A: Yes, I think I should be able to. I try to do what he wants-I avoid disagreements with him, I watch the movies he wants to see, we go out with his friends, I dress the way he wants. But he’s never satisfied.
Q: Why do you believe you can make him happy?
A: Because if I don’t make him happy, he’ll leave me.
Q: Do you know if that’s true?
A: I believe that it’s true.
Q: Why do you believe that?
A: Because he gets upset if I don’t do everything he wants to do.
Q: What might you be concerned would happen if you didn’t believe he’d leave you?
A: I think I’d do what I wanted, and then he’d really get mad.
Q: Would it be okay to do what you want sometimes, even if he gets mad?
A: I’d like to do what I want sometimes, but I’m afraid to risk the relationship.
Q: Is it worth it to you to not do what you want in order to keep the relationship?
A: When you put it that way, I’m not sure. Hmm. Maybe my being happy is as important as his being happy.
Q: Do you believe it could be?
A: Yeah… Wow. What a concept! I could be focusing on making myself happy!
Q: Would that be okay with you?
A: Maybe it would be okay, because right now neither one of us is happy.
Even in this excerpt you can see how Claire’s limiting beliefs start to loosen up and shake free.
She has been acting from the myth that she is responsible for Rodney’s happiness and that she is responsible for keeping them together. In this session, it occurred to her that she was not putting enough importance on her own happiness.
Claire continued to explore this idea and uncover more insights in subsequent sessions. And, at the same time, her actions began to change. More and more often, she took care of her own needs and expressed her feelings and opinions to Rodney. One day she reported in amazement that he was much nicer to her now, as she got more independent. (However, there are no guarantees about how someone will react to our transformations.)
Tool Kit for Unraveling the Myth
If you think you may have the tendency to lose yourself in relationships, look for a belief that could be underlying this behavior, such as, “I must do –, or I won’t be loved,” then ask yourself these questions:
- Do I believe that?
- Why do I believe that?
- What seems true about that?
- What am I concerned might happen if I didn’t believe that? (What might happen that I would not like?)
Something you have held as true may reveal itself to be a myth-not true, and damaging to your happiness and your relationships. Keep asking yourself these questions, and more insights will unfold. You’ll know the myth is unraveling when you see your actions and reactions change. Where your actions were frozen in a self-defeating pattern, you’ll now discover a flow of options and more peace.
Ain’t love grand? And let’s include self-love.
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