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A Major Cause of Relationship Problems

By Dr. Margaret Paul
November 19, 2007

Are you in an unhappy relationship? Do you believe that your unhappiness is caused by your partner? Discover how you might be causing your own unhappiness and what you can do about it.

We all know that relationships are very challenging. 52% of married people reach their 15th anniversary and only 33% reach their 25th anniversary.

I have been counseling individuals and couples for 40 years and I believe that I have discovered a major cause of relationship problems - if not THE major cause.

Simply put, each person makes the other person responsible for his or her feelings and then tries, in various ways, to have control over getting the other person to behave in the ways she or she wants.

When most people get into a relationship, they tend to believe that this person whom they love will finally make them feel safe, secure, adequate and lovable. Because most people do not know how to make themselves feel safe, secure, adequate and lovable, and because many people came from families that did not provide this, they each believe that it needs to be provided by the other person.

The other person might try very hard to provide this. Imagine that you have a partner who is very kind and caring. But imagine that you are very critical of yourself. While your partner's caring feels good, as long as you are judging yourself, you will feel bad. No matter how much your partner loves you, as long as you are being unloving to yourself, you will not feel safe, secure, adequate and lovable.

However, you might not realize that your feelings of insecurity, anxiety, or fear are coming from your own thoughts. You might think that you are not happy because your partner is just not loving you enough. As a result, you might try various actions to try have control over getting the love you want - such as getting angry, blaming, or giving yourself up. The act of trying to control your partner only adds to your own bad feelings.

Meanwhile, your partner is likely doing the same thing - trying to get you to make him or her feel safe, secure, adequate and lovable. But when you try to control your partner and your partner tries to control you, you both end up feeling worse. One or both of you might go into resistance, withdrawing to protect against being controlled. When one person withdraws to avoid being controlled, the other person might feel even more abandoned, trying even harder to have control over getting the love you want.

As long as you each make the other person responsible for your feelings, you will continue to create a relationship that doesn't work.

The way out of this - the way to break this codependent system - is for one person to start to take responsibility for his or her own feelings through the consistent practice of Inner Bonding. It really just takes one person to break the unloving system that both have established. When you begin to notice the thoughts that create your fear, insecurity, and feelings of unworthiness and unlovability, then you can start to learn to heal the wounded part of you that is critical of you. As you do your own inner work and learn to love yourself, you stop being a victim. You stop blaming your partner. You stop trying to control your partner into making you feel loved.

While there is no guarantee that your partner will also make changes, there is a good possibility that when you learn how to make yourself happy and take the pressure off your partner to do this for you, he or she might be interested in doing this as well.

Whatever the outer problems are in your relationship - sexual issues, money issues, parenting issues, chores, time, and so on - the underlying issue is not taking responsibility for your own feelings. When you decide to learn to do this through developing a consistent Inner Bonding practice, and receiving the support of the Inner Bonding Member Community, you may be thrilled with the results!


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