The last four Song Workshops have been with couples in crisis, pain, and in that dreadful place of wondering if this marriage is going to make it. I watch and listen as the stories unfold, the tears fall, the anger builds, and the resentments bubble up to the surface. Every single time, and I mean every time, there is a common thread.
NO ONE FEELS HEARD.
Every relationship has its unique quirks, but for the most part what they want, what we all want is the same. We want to feel heard, safe, loved, acknowledged, and that we matter, that what we bring to the table matters, and that the person we are doing life with values us above all else. I hear it from men and women alike. And never do I not hear it.
In the midst of each of these sessions I asked this question, “If she never changes, what happens? If he never changes, what happens?” You might assume each person would quickly answer with, ‘well, it’s over then’. But they don’t, they don’t say that. Almost every time they sit very quietly, having never considered the idea, that all this striving, all this effort, all this longing and frustration and anger might have absolutely no purpose what so ever.
I continue, “what if everything you are doing to make him/ her change is never gonna make them change, then what are you going to do? Because it appears to me, that changing him, changing her, is your full time job, that the idea of your peace and happiness hangs in the balance, depending on this outcome. It appears to me, that all the investments in this marriage are being deposited into the idea of the other person changing. Now, what if they don’t?”
There is just breathing. No one speaks. We all sit with the reality that we, with all our crazy beautiful well intentioned will power, can not change anyone. People change when they want to change and that, my friends, is the only time anyone changes. We can not shame our partners into better behavior, just as they cannot shame us into better behavior. We can make requests, ask for something new in the relationship, but our happiness can not rest on wether we get it or we don’t, unless we intend to remain unhappy.
You see, the person we married has not been given the job of making us happy, safe, and at ease. That job belongs to us and God…ALONE! I love when Byron Katie says, you start giving them what you want them to give you and then we can talk.
In one of these couples sessions a client said, said, “yes, but I want him to know how wrong he was.” I smiled. Very gently, I said, “making him more wrong, will not make you more right. It will just make him more wrong, more shamed, more humiliated, and why on earth would anyone want to live day in and day out with someone who needs them to know how wrong they are?” She looked surprised and curious. Isn’t it interesting how we want the other person to love us and so we go about it by making sure they know how wrong they have been.
If you can come to your partner much like the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, life will be a great deal easier. If you can be the one responsible for your joy, life will be much more happy. If you can love him or her as much as you want them to love you, you will know the love you crave. If none of this makes any sense…. then go buy a hula-hoop. When you get home, put it on the ground. Stand in the middle of it. Then, remind yourself that whatever is in your hula-hoop is your business and anything outside of it belongs to God or someone else. Your marriage will thank you. Your children will thank you. Your friends will thank you. Your heart, will thank you.