This might be a bit controversial but bear with me.
Throughout life we are told we need to take responsibility for ourselves, our choices, our actions, our behaviour and so on.
So why is it, when there are problems in our relationships we are quick to apportion blame to our partner and stop taking responsibility?
No matter what is going wrong in your relationship, some of the reason for the issues will lie with you – there are after all 2 people in a relationship.
“How can you say that Deb, if someone is in an abusive relationship?”
Well, whilst I’m in no way saying anyone is responsible for being the victim of abuse, and we cannot be held responsible for the behaviour or actions of another, we are responsible for our choices.
Having had 3 abusive relationships I know I did not deserve to be abused however, I take responsibility by acknowledging I CHOSE to enter into those relationships, I CHOSE to stay in those relationships, I CHOSE to ignore the warning signs before and during those relationships, I CHOSE to allow the behaviour to continue without being challenged.
Likewise, when I had a partner who cheated on me, I acknowledged responsibility too – at the time I was more preoccupied with other things going in my life and not giving him the attention he wanted. We often take our partners for-granted and when I looked back I could see where things had gone off track.
This in no way condones any of the behaviour of my ex partners but it recognises that there were two of us in the relationship, each reacting to the other in one way or another, each believing that their reaction/behaviour is correct and acceptable so continuing to behave in the same way. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.
Most of our behaviour is learned from family and those around us, we have rules we live by on a day to day basis but in our own homes there is no-one, other than our partner, to challenge our behaviour. If poor behaviour goes unchallenged it becomes normalised and accepted, regardless whether the behaviour is actually acceptable.
What behaviour are you allowing to go unchallenged in your relationship at the moment?
What behaviour are you exhibiting that you could change to make an improvement to how you perceive your relationship?
I’m often told that the way my partner and I got together is like something out of a Fairy Tale or Hollywood movie, and as today is Tell a Fairy Tale Day I thought I’d share some of our story with you.
We first met 23 years ago in 1998, it wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, my first thoughts were; he was rude, arrogant and I wouldn’t want to bump into him alone on a dark night! I was out with some girlfriends for my birthday, we’d bumped into some mutual acquaintances, one of whom was the person I really fancied, and we’d all started enjoying the evening together, drinking, chatting, laughing, this rude, arrogant man seemed to tag along and we just couldn’t shake him off.
At the end of the evening we were all jumping into taxis and I discovered to my horror that he lived at the other end of the village I was in. So we had to share a taxi. I got out at his street so that we split the taxi bill and he invited me in for coffee. Bizarrely, I agreed. We sat at his kitchen table drinking coffee and talking. We talked all night. I recall sitting at the table seeing the sun come up and realising I still wasn’t home.
This was a revelation to me, a man who invites you in for coffee and a chat and genuinely wants coffee and a chat. My interest was piqued.
He called me a couple of weeks later and we went on our first date – to the local Rugby 7’s tournament! We actually dated for a year before going our separate ways; I went to live and work in London (I was living in South Wales at the time) and he went to Nottingham University as a mature student. These were the days long before mobile phones were common-place and we just couldn’t maintain a long-distance relationship.
Not a day passed without me thinking about him. In the years that followed I got married, had a baby, got divorced, went through business failure, bankruptcy and more before I started to put myself first and started following my dream to become an actor.
I recall receiving the call that told me me I was cast in a play that was due to tour the South West of England. I said to the partner I was with at the time “I have no idea how, but I know that this play is going to change my life”.
It did change my life.
Whilst I was in rehearsal and chosen as the ‘poster girl’ for the play, that man I’d met all those years ago had headed into his local theatre to book tickets for a production. Looking at the posters advertising forthcoming productions, he thought he recognised the woman in the poster for ‘Ward 7’, the play I was in. Asking the box office manager if he knew who I was, and mentioning me by my maiden name, the box office manager also recognised me as I had been in a children’s theatre group with his daughters when I was a child.
A few telephone calls later and they had ascertained that ‘Yes’ I was the woman they thought I was. At that point all I knew is that someone who thought they knew me had booked tickets for opening night. I had no name, it could have been anyone.
A week before opening night I received a Facebook message request. It’s fair to say my heart skipped a beat when I saw who it was from. But I was sceptical. I hadn’t heard from him for 15 years at that point and the last I’d heard he was living and working in Canada with his girlfriend. I agreed to meet him for a coffee.
Within minutes of meeting I knew I was in trouble. All of those old feelings came rushing back and the conversation we had that day over coffee just reinforced the message that he really was the love of my life.
He turned up on Opening Night and within 3 weeks I had left my partner and moved in with him to his bachelor pad in a seaside town in the South West of England. That was 8 years ago and I’ve never been happier.
I’ve often said ‘when you ‘know’, you ‘know”. I always knew he was the love of my life, it took him a while to realise I was the love of his life. That day we met for coffee we talked openly and honestly to each other for hours. We had both felt the same way, he just hadn’t felt he deserved to be loved.
The past 8 years haven’t been easy. We’ve dealt with stuff that would have broken a less strong, healthy or robust relationship. But we have continually felt more and more in love with each other.
Can we look back and say we would have done things differently? Of course we can. But there is nothing in either of our pasts that we’re ashamed of, nothing that either of us doesn’t know about the other, and nothing that we know we can’t overcome in the future.
What we have, is what our relationship was based on from that very first night we met when I didn’t like him at all – we have communication, honesty and trust. We have shared values.
Yes, the way we reconnected is something of a Fairy Tale but there’s truth in the adage that ‘life is stranger than art’.
I’d love to know your Fairy Tale moments.
It’s no surprise that over the past year there have been some questions I’ve been asked time and time again “How can I rejuvenate my relationship?” “How can I bring back the spark?” “How can I make sure we survive?” “How can we keep the spark alive during lockdown?” and many, many more questions.
The simple answer is, there is no secret weapon, like everything else it takes work. But I’ve narrowed it down to 5 simple ‘rules’ to rejuvenate your relationships, ALL of your relationships, during lockdown.
These will work with your partner, your children, your family and whomever is sharing your home and life with you at the moment;
- Know your Boundaries: Make a list of what is and isn’t acceptable to both parties. One of you wants to watch news 24/7 the other doesn’t. Then create a compromise that works for both parties Maybe ‘News at Noon’ and the 5pm update is all you need. Perhaps one of you wants to maintain normal working hours whereas the other wants to stay up late and have a lie-in before starting work and/or home-schooling. Again, set the boundaries, maybe agree that you both get ready for bed at the same time so the one staying up doesn’t disturb the one already asleep by switching the light on and getting changed. Put your clothes for the following day ready in the bathroom or spare room so that you can get dressed without disturbing your late-night partner.
- Create Space: Where possible set up separate work areas and maintain a timetable to ensure you get done what needs to be done without too much interruption. It also helps if you replicate your usual daily routine so you’re not in each others’ pockets 24/7. When it needs to change for any reason, plan the disruption in advance so it doesn’t create stress and friction.
- Submit: Know that you can’t control the current situation, you can only control your response to it. Trying to be in total control will only cause tension and anxiety. Submit to the situation, do what you can and then accept that this will pass. It is only a temporary situation and a new normal is just around the corner, even if it does seem that the corner is getting further and further away. You can only do what you an do, in compliance with the rules and restrictions in your location. Fighting against them will raise your stress levels.
- Step into Selfish: Put your needs first. If your needs are properly met, you’re better able to look after everyone else. Think of the oxygen mask on a flight – you’re advised to put your own on first so you’re better able to help others. Take time to do your own exercise, have a bubble bath, volunteer to do the shopping alone!, read a book, watch your favourite Netflix series.
- Be Kind: Everyone reacts to stress differently. But remember your manners. Be kind, polite and respectful to each other. It will go a long way and stop the tension rising. If you can assist a neighbour or relative as well, it will create harmony and good energy, and you will be repaid in kind. People respond and react to the way they are treated.
These simple ‘rules’ really will help your relationship. And when you can get it on an even keel, maintaining harmony in the home, you can look at revitalising your relationship using the tips in my free e-book; ‘Top10 Tips to Redefine your Relationship’ offers more tips to revitalise your relationship and kick-start your sex life whether you’re in a couple or single.
How do you or your partner know if boundaries have been crossed?
A lot is said about the importance of boundaries. We live our lives within the boundaries of the law, we understand the societal expectations of how we should behave in public spaces, we raise our children with boundaries around bed time and how far they’re allowed to venture on their own. In school we have rules and regulations and likewise in the workplace. So why do so many of us forget about the importance of boundaries within our relationships?
Without putting boundaries in place, we set ourselves and our partner up to fail.
Imagine trying to play a game without knowing the rules? How could you possibly know if you were doing the right thing? How would you know who won?
In entering a relationship and not having a mutual understanding of each other’s boundaries, you are setting the relationship up for failure. That failure may not manifest in a break-up or divorce, but it will manifest some other way. Resentment builds, the couple drifts apart, resentment builds even further, you find fault with each other and start to despise each other, wondering what on earth you even saw in each other in the first place. One or both partners may start to look elsewhere for fulfilment, not just sexual fulfilment but emotional attachments, someone that understands them.
Yes, that classic line ‘my wife doesn’t understand me’ isn’t a cheesy pick-up line used by men just looking for a bit on the side, it’s a plea for attachment and fulfilment that is missing from the relationship and is equally applicable to women as it is men and to heterosexual and same-sex couples.
So, what are your boundaries? If your partner isn’t aware of your boundaries it is unfair to expect them to know when they have crossed them. It’s equally unfair to expect your partner to understand why you are so angry with them when they cross your boundaries, if you haven’t told them what your boundaries are.
Just as we live surrounded by the boundaries of law, rules and regulations with very clear consequences of what happens when those boundaries are crossed, so we need to create those boundaries within our relationships. Think about those little things that really wind you up and start to put boundaries in place to rectify them. It could be something as simple as asking your partner to put their dirty laundry in the laundry basket rather than leaving it in a pile on the floor or it could be that you have an open relationship but the boundaries have been crossed.
Whatever your boundaries, share them with your partner. When you both know and abide by the same rules of engagement can you have a truly equal relationship.
Book a call with me if you’re struggling with having a conversation around boundaries or if you need help to work through boundaries that have been crossed.
Book a call before you end up in the divorce courts. Let’s work out what’s not working in your relationship and why and create an action plan to get it back on track.