Most of the messages I get have to do with intimate relationships. That makes sense because many people get into these kinds of relationships.
We want that connection, bonding, and intimacy with another person. It’s in our wiring. The catch is that once we find the person to share our life with, they almost always come with a mirror that reflects what we need to heal in ourselves.
Important: If you’ve discovered that you do controlling behavior and you’d like to change that about yourself, sign up for the life-changing Healed Being program over at healedbeing.com).
If you are currently in a relationship with a person that is trying to control you, listen to my podcast Love and Abuse to help you navigate through the difficulties.
I think that’s why it’s important to remember to view a relationship as an opportunity for healing and growth, as well as companionship.
And as you know some relationships come with a lot of healing and growth opportunities. And what you haven’t healed in yourself will be revealed in your relationships.
Think about the people that get with abusive partners time and time again. These people don’t want to be abused but the fact that they keep choosing an abusive person to be in a relationship with must mean that there is something inside them they need to heal.
I’m going to restate this because it’s so important:
What you haven’t healed from in yourself will show up in your relationships.
I know this to be true because when I was younger I carried lots of judgment into all of my relationships which systematically destroyed each and every one of them. Looking back it’s clear I was carrying around the pain and fear of a child growing up in an alcoholic household.
Then when I finally chose to face that pain and work on healing within myself, I no longer felt the need or desire to judge. Therefore, I no longer had to face those old triggers causing that judgmental behavior. Having eradicated that judgmental aspect of me, my relationships no longer suffered.
You know how strange it is for me, even now, to be in a relationship where I am not in a constant triggered state? It’s really weird!
I’ve never felt “untriggered” or at peace in any relationship.
In fact, the relationship I’m in now is the first one I’ve ever been in where I’m not in some sort of fear or angry state. And it’s not because I found the “perfect” partner. It’s because years ago I decided to focus inward instead of outward, and admit to myself that I needed to heal before I got into another relationship with anyone.
I realized that my relationships were failing because I kept bringing the same dysfunction into those relationships.
Everything you fail to heal from in yourself will manifest itself in ways that trigger you in your relationship.
Sorry to sound like a broken record, but I want to say this in as many ways as possible because what you think is a problem in your relationship many times turns out to be something you haven’t healed in yourself.
When I was married, I thought the problem was with her. I thought her binge eating was our major issue so I continued to be upset by it and judge her because of it.
But after we separated I took the opportunity to ask myself the question:
“What am I doing to cause the breakdown of this relationship?”
I pondered this question for a while. Then the answer came. I suddenly realized that by being upset about her behavior, I could actually be causing her behavior.
On top of that, I also realized that I was being selfish and controlling by trying to dictate how she should behave instead.
In fact, the biggest epiphany of all happened when I came to the conclusion that:
If I don’t like her behavior, then why don’t I just leave?
That was key to my healing. After all, I’m the one who doesn’t agree with her behavior. So instead of trying to change her, why don’t I just honor myself and get away from that behavior?
Of course, that mentality doesn’t help me heal from some deeper issues of judgment, but to realize that I had the power to just leave if I didn’t like something really gave me some big insights into what I was doing instead.
I didn’t leave.
I chose to stay and try to control my environment and her behavior. I chose to continue judging her and give her disapproving looks and not support her. When all I had to do was walk away, I chose to stay, suffer, and cause her to suffer through my critical view of her and her behavior.
It sounds so dramatic I realize, but choosing to stay with someone who did behavior I didn’t agree with meant choosing to stay and suffer.
I never realized that it wasn’t her that needed to change… it was me.
In fact, once I realized that I was in control of what came into my life or not, my judgments about her went away. All that outward energy that I directed at her no longer existed.
And for once I felt free – free of being triggered, which is something I never felt before.
I spent so much time focusing on her and her issues that I never really sat with the notion that I could just walk away instead of trying to control her. Focusing on what I needed to do for me released me, after which I could choose to stay in the relationship or not.
A funny thing happens when you accept that someone else will never change and has their own struggles to work through:
You become free of trying to control what they do to please you.
This is freeing. When you let go of wanting to control someone else and focus on what you want in your life instead, you realize how much power you have.
The path to peace is to stop trying to figure out how to control others to make you happy and start focusing on what you need to do for yourself.
That’s honoring your boundaries and letting others be who they need to be. Sure, if they ask for help you can help. Otherwise, let them be.
One of my objectives during my entire marriage was to help her fix her problem. I believed that once her problem was fixed, we’d be happy.
What I failed to realize however was that her problem was her problem, not ours. And unless she asked for help, I should really just focus on what I need to do for myself.
Realizing I could just walk away at any time freed me from wanting her to change. After that, I honored her struggle and just supported her in any way I could.
This confused her. In fact, she’d never seen me support her like this and she didn’t know how to respond to me. She was literally speechless because I’d never been supportive. And I’d certainly never been quiet about her struggles.
I finally had compassion for my own wife.
I finally came to a place where I didn’t make her challenges mine.
I just supported where she needed to be and stopped trying to control her behavior to please me.
I was free, and so was she.
Whatever you fear getting will usually be what you get.
I feared her eating junk food and never stopping. When I let go of that fear, knowing that if I honestly had a problem with it I could simply leave, I felt empowered. It helped me let go of my judgments toward her and let her feel safe around me to have her struggles.
That was so important, and one of the biggest lessons I learned from being married.
When your partner doesn’t feel safe in their struggles around you, you will nurture an unhappy relationship.
If you cannot meet their need for safety and security, it’s very hard to get to love, sex, romance, fun, and all the other great stuff relationships are made of.
It’s hard to feel happy when you don’t feel safe.
Once my wife felt safe around me, she had no idea who I was anymore. I was a stranger because I’d never allowed her to feel that way. She never felt comfortable enough to be herself in our relationship.
It was too late for us, however. Our relationship couldn’t survive the previous years of judgment so it fizzled out just as I learned all of this.
It was painful and I had some healing to do, but the entire experience allowed both of us to learn our lessons and grow into new people.
Right after my divorce, I decided I wanted to date again so I signed up for online dating. Then about a month into it, I realized how crazy that was! I barely got divorced and want to date so soon?
I hadn’t even grieved the “death” of my marriage yet and I was already looking to get into a relationship.
I had forgotten what I said earlier in this article:
What you haven’t healed from in yourself will show up in your relationships.
So I asked myself, “Do I really want to bring the same old me into the next relationship?”
The answer was “No. Not until I’ve healed.”
Sure I believed that I had healed from all those judgment issues…
But did I?
How would I know?
Have I been single long enough to even know who I am without someone else in my life?
The answer was no.
I went through a lot of healing and growth during my marriage, but I felt a little desperate to get into another relationship after the marriage was over.
I felt I was in a space of lack.
Having that desperate, lacking feeling made me realize that I’d be bringing that sense of lack into any new relationship that developed.
What you lack is often what you seek in relationships.
Carrying lack into my future relationships made me realize that I’d always be seeking someone else to complete me. I’d never be enough on my own, and I’d always be looking for someone else as my source of happiness.
When you carry a desperate need for love and affection into a relationship, your desperation becomes a drain on your partner and a strain on the relationship as a whole.
I felt a desperation inside me and I didn’t want to bring that into anyone else’s life. I had to work on that desperation and figure out what needed healing in me before I got into any relationship.
So for the first time in my life, I chose to be single.
I chose to find out who I was when I wasn’t with anyone in my life. I needed time to learn about me and what I really wanted for myself before getting anyone else involved.
I needed to heal from the belief that I needed someone as my main source of love and happiness.
Seeking someone else to make you happy is a recipe for disaster because that person will always be under pressure to please you in some way.
But seeking someone to share your life with, when you are already healed and peaceful inside is the formula for a long-lasting, loving relationship.
I didn’t want to go into another relationship bringing my “less-than” self. I wanted to be a confident, worthy person that someone would love to be with.
I didn’t want to give anyone the job of making me happy so I chose to stay single until I felt happy within. That is truly honoring yourself and only accepting what’s right and healthy for you.
The more comfortable you are within yourself, the more likely you will find a person just as comfortable within themselves as well.
And when you come together – and there’s no desire for either of you to fulfill what is in deficit in the other – you create a very healthy, peaceful life.
Your partner will always be a reflection of the level of healing you’ve done in yourself.
We don’t attract dysfunction when we heal ourselves.
I realize that can be a lifetime process (it certainly if for me), but it’s momentum. And momentum is progress. It is the opposite of unhealthy patterns.
It’s okay to still have healing to do, just don’t bring the unhealed aspects of yourself into someone else’s life and expect them to change to make up for it. All the change has to happen in you so that you create a safe space for others to be themselves, just as you want to be yourself.