How far can you afford to bend your values to preserve your relationship? How far can you go in giving yourself up to avoid losing your partner? How much of yourself can you afford to sacrifice to not lose someone you love? How do we find the balance between maintaining our integrity and bending our values?
Most relationships require us to bend to a certain extent, but how much can we bend without a loss of self?
There is an inherent paradox in these questions: A truly loving relationship is a relationship where each person accepts and even values the differences between them. If you have to excessively bend your values to preserve the relationship, what are you preserving? You are not preserving a loving relationship, since love does not demand that you excessively bend your values.
Rather than look at a relationship in terms of bending values to accommodate another person, let's look at it in terms of each person learning and growing as a result of their differences in values.
For example, Patricia is a highly-responsible person with a strong work ethic, while Sam tends to let things go a lot, which results in an imbalance regarding financial responsibility in the relationship. Patricia is not happy about this. Does she just accept these differences to preserve the relationship? No! That is not what a good relationship is really about. Since a good relationship is about each person learning and growing from their differences, rather than one or both people giving themselves up, Sam and Patricia need to engage in open explorations about their differences. They each have beliefs that can be explored, and in this process, new learning occurs that leads to intrinsic change rather than superficial compromise.
The real problem occurs when one or both partners are not available for exploration and learning. If one partner says, "Just accept me the way I am," or gets angry or withdrawn when the other partner attempts to discuss the situation, no learning can take place. Then the other partner either has to accommodate or leave -- not a healthy situation.
Joe is extremely neat, while Julia has a hard time putting things away. Roberta is always on time while Cecelia is always late. Maggie is a spender while David is a saver. Carl has a high sex drive while Andrea has a low sex drive. Angie is an authoritarian parent while Curt is a permissive parent. Ronald is highly social while Greg is a homebody. Depending upon whether or not each person is open to learning, these differences can lead to:
- Constant conflict
- One partner giving in to avoid conflict
- Both partners opening to learning and growing as a result of their differences
The outcome of these conflicts depend entirely upon intent. In the Inner Bonding process we teach there are only two possible intents in any given moment:
- The intent to protect against pain.
- The intent to learn about love.
When one or both partners have the intent to protect against pain, then they will find many controlling ways of avoiding dealing with their differences. They may argue, defend, withdraw, blame, give in, resist, explain and so on, Each is intent on having their way, not being controlled by the other, or avoiding the other's rejection. This will always lead to distance and unhappiness in the relationship. The problem is not in the differences themselves, but rather in the unwillingness to learn and grow from the differences.
When both partners are open to learning about their differences, their differences become fertile ground for the exciting process of personal and spiritual growth and healing.
We cannot make another person be open to learning -- we don't have that control over others. If you are in a relationship where your partner refuses to learn and grow from the differences, then you need to be honest with yourself regarding how much of yourself you can give up and still maintain a sense of integrity. You cannot afford to compromise your personal integrity. You can bend and accommodate as long as you do not feel as if you are losing yourself. Once you feel that you are losing yourself to preserve the relationship, you will likely find yourself so resentful of the other person that the relationship begins to fall apart anyway. You are not preserving it by accommodating -- you are destroying it while losing yourself.
The key is to be willing to come up against conflict and rejection, and even lose the other person rather than continue to accommodate, when going along with what your partner wants means a loss of your personal integrity. On the emotional and spiritual level, you can afford to lose your partner, but you cannot afford to lose yourself. If you learn and practice, you will discover the strength you need to be willing to risk losing your partner, rather than continue to lose yourself.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. She has counseled individuals and couples, and led groups, classes and workshops since 1968, and continues to work with clients from all over the world on phone and Skype. She is the author/co-author of eight books, including the internationally best-selling "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?" (over 1 million copies sold), "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By My Kids?," "Healing Your Aloneness," "Inner Bonding," and "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God?" In 2010, Margaret co-completed a 12-year project called SelfQuest®, which is a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. SelfQuest® is being offered to prisons and schools and sold to individuals, families and businesses. In addition, Margaret offers a powerful 12-week relationship e-Course, The Intimate Relationship Toolbox, and a weight loss course, Dr. Margaret's Permanent Weight Loss Program, a Free Inner Bonding eCourse and Free Help with relationships, parenting, addictions, personal growth and spiritual growth.
Margaret has three children and three grandchildren. In her spare time, she loves to paint, read, make pottery, and ride her horse.
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