Do you hear that?
It’s the sound of another good relationship breathing it’s dying breath. And your relationship could be next. People everywhere are believing popular advice that’s killing their relationships. Thankfully, you can protect yourself with a few changes in your thinking. If you’re ready to give your relationship a fighting chance, read on. These three dangerous but common lies get passed off as wisdom online and in-print.
Lie #1: Love yourself and everything else will fall into place
The lie is that you need to focus more on loving yourself in order to love others well and attract good things into your life.
The truth is there is no lack of self-love in our world. You don’t lack self-love and neither do I . The idea of loving your neighbour as yourself is not a directive to love yourself more. If our relationships are going to work, we actually have to focus less on ourselves. We need to be others-focused. The concept is simple but is hard for many to comprehend because it involves changing your way of thinking. Think about it — even when you are focused on your own inadequacies, you’re still focused on and loving yourself (in a way).
The flip side of lesson number one – the truth that actually works – is: Focus on providing the best relationship for your spouse that you can. This doesn’t mean you should be a martyr. Sometimes, loving someone well means letting them see that being self-centered doesn’t make them happy either.
Lie #2: Confront your problems
The lie is that problems get solved by talking about them at all times. The lie teaches you that you should learn conflict resolution skills and improve your ability to tell your spouse what you’re unhappy with.
On the other side of the lie is the truth — “You have to make 1000 positive deposits into your spouse’s bank account before you can make one negative comment or criticism.” That means, if you’re fighting all the time, you likely don’t have the credit with your spouse to be commenting on things you don’t like.
If I’m doing 1000 (give or take) nice, caring things for my spouse before telling him that I don’t like one thing that he’s doing, I’m betting he will be a happier man.I’m betting that a happier man will do nicer things.
Here’s the truth; the flip side of lesson number two: You reap what you sow. If you want care and kindness to grow, you have to do things that sow care and kindness.
It’s really easy for me to forget the truth that I reap what I sow. Sometimes, I find myself operating on the ‘You reap what you tell your spouse needs to change about them’ principle.
Yup. That works as well as you think it would.
There are people, though, who have made whole careers out of telling couples to set their marriage problems aside and put their energy into trying to connect. They teach to build goodwill and top up your relationship bank accounts before dealing with your problems. Here’s the best part: a bunch of your problems will go away on their own if you’re sowing good things into your spouse’s life.
Lie #3: Follow your heart
Conventional wisdom says to follow your heart, meaning decide based on how you feel. But that is just wrong because feelings are not your operating manual.
In fact, feelings are reactions to past situations more than reflections of your value system. Are you sure you want to make major life decisions based on a past heartbreak? Or would you rather decide based on what you want to create in your future? Following your heart actually makes you a victim of your emotions.
Instead of giving in to emotions and following your heart as it leads you to disaster, seek wisdom from sources you can trust. Allow your brain to absorb whatever information you are taking in before you react and then make a wise choice after considering your options.
So the flip side of lie number three – the truth that really works – is to use your instinct and intellect to rationally make decisions based on what you know, not what you feel.
The best relationship test ever
I dug up a blog article called The List that Saved My Marriage where author Becky Zerbe’s Mom hits a marriage advice homerun. In short, the author had decided her marriage was over and went to her parents for support. While committing to support her daughter, the mom asked her to complete one exercise first.
She said to take a blank piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the center. On the left, she was to write all bad things about her husband; the reasons she wanted to leave. The wife easily completed the list.
Then, the mom told her daughter to write her own corresponding behaviors on the right side of the page. For example, next to the complaint that “He doesn’t tell me when he’s going to be late home from work” the wife had to write, “I sulk and give him the silent treatment”. Finally, the mom took the paper, cut it down the middle and threw away the list of her son-in-law’s failings. Handing her daughter’s list of behaviors back to her, she sent her home to reconsider.
I would fail
How would you fare if you had to consider an honest list of how you’ve handled yourself in your marriage? Would you feel as ready to give up on your relationship? I know I would be humbled. Consider your own behaviors and weed out the relationship lies from your thinking. Instead, replace them with truths that lead you toward trust, love, and honesty.