One of the most joyous aspects of being in a loving relationship is having the freedom to “be yourself.”
We ditch the personas, the online facade, the need to be “on,” and instead put our feet up with our partner and relax into our authentic selves.
What a pleasure and what a privilege. It’s wonderful knowing that your partner is non-plussed and even happy to get to know the real you–the person behind the mask–and loves you for who you really are.
However, if we really fall in love with each other’s true selves, why do we struggle so much with our partners? Why do we find ourselves fighting, arguing, disconnected, and in pain? I thought we loved each other? I thought we genuinely knew each other–our positives, negatives, and everything in between?
There are so many psychological theories and explanations of why our original adoration for our partner eventually falls apart. From Imago Therapy, claiming that we are attracted to our parent’s character traits so we can heal that relationship, to more common phrases such as “opposites attract.”
But in spite of the many different perspectives over why this occurs, everyone at least agrees on one thing–disillusionment with our partner and our relationship is unavoidable. And the negative outcome happens pretty quickly, too–usually within the first few years, if your relationship even lasts that long!
The good news is that there is a remedy for this malady. Not to avoid the inevitable disappointment and frustration we will for sure experience with our partner, but rather a way to get through this phase and move on to a brighter day.
But this antidote, this special trick, this ancient secret is unpopular. In a world of “If you can’t accept me at my worst, you don’t get me at my best,” nobody likes to hear about my more conventional solution. It’s called “CHANGE,” and by change, I’m speaking about you, not your partner.
I get it–it’s much easier to convince yourself that you should have married the other guy, or you didn’t pick the right wife. And if you spend enough time on social media, you can easily convince yourself that your partner isn’t just flawed, but that they are a full-blown narcissist or even an abuser.
As a therapist, I never take these concerns lightly. You could be right. You could be married to a scumbag loser, a manipulator, or an irredeemable emotional basket case. Maybe even the next Jeffrey Dahmer (I’ve heard it all.)
However, assuming you are safe, my approach is always the same. Before we do a diagnosis of your partner, let’s make sure you are showing up 100%. Let’s start making the changes required for you to be called a great husband, wife, friend, father, friend, and person.
It’s hard work. Most people make a few adjustments here and there and believe they’ve transformed. But at the end of the day, I don’t want to hear from you about how you are a new person. No, I’m not interested in your self-assessment. I want to hear from your spouse.
When you think we are done changing you, I’ll call your wife and ask her, “So, how do you rate your hubby on a scale of 1 to 10?” if you’re not at least an 8, we still have work to do. If she’s still complaining that you are critical, angry, and dismissive, it’s back to the drawing board. If you are still spending extra time at the office instead of with her and the kids, you didn’t get the assignment.
And of course, if you came to me feeling that your hubby is real the problem, let’s check in with him when you feel you’ve done “everything you can.” I’ll find out if he feels respected, loved, and appreciated. Is your hubby happy coming home from work? Does he feel prioritized in your life? How are things in the bedroom? How is he being spoken to in front of the children? In front of your friends and family?
When your spouse is happy with you–when they are so pleased with your communication, affection, attentiveness, and emotional connection–at that point, if you are still convinced that you married a narcissist, we can address it.
99.99% chance that won’t be the case. 99.99% chance you will find yourself wondering what the issue was from the beginning. I can’t count the times I’ve heard “Things are so much better, I don’t even remember why I came to you in the first place!” So when you are confused about why we even are talking, and perhaps feeling a bit ripped off, I’ve done my job.
On a deeper, spiritual level, this journey isn’t about making your spouse feel good at all. It’s about your own personal transformation. And it’s permanent. You have become a different person, an excellent husband or wife, and a wonderful human being, fully capable of loving and being loved. This outcome — this reward for your efforts — is perhaps your greatest human achievement, as you are exponentially better at expressing your true Gdly nature.
Wow. Congratulations to you. This is an incredible accomplishment.
And now, you can humbly, lovingly, turn to your partner, and say:
“Thank you. Thank you for your patience, your support, and your belief in me. Thank you for giving me the chance to change, and really love you.”