Neil StraussUncategorized

You, Me, Us

Before writing The Truth, I thought that relationships were about finding the perfect–or at least the best–partner. Since writing The Truth, I now realize that they’re about becoming the best possible person you can be. And the success of a relationship has very little to do with the other person, but it is all about you and how you relate to your partner.

Unfortunately, many people are too caught up in their own baggage to actually do this. Whoever they date, once the initial projection period ends and a real love relationship begins, the same issues rise to the surface–every time.

This is because our choices of love partners occur on an unconscious level, patterned after our first experiences of love (or lack thereof) with our caregivers. As the psychoanalyst James Hollis puts it: “Who in their right mind would seek out someone and say, ‘I want you to repeat my childhood wounding. I will love you because you are so familer.’ But we do this all the time . . . What is known is what is sought, even if what is known is wounding.”

So here are five ways you can become a better person to have a better relationship:


1. Let Go Of Blame and Resentment.

Recognize that any problems have nothing to do with your relationship or the other person. They’re all in the way you relate to the other person. Even if your partner has done something unforgiveable or abusive, you can still make the choice to relate to them by leaving them and not looking back.


2. Let go of control.

You can’t have a relationship with someone hoping they’ll change. You have to be willing to commit to them as they are, with no expectations. And if they happen to choose to change at some point along the way, then that’s just a bonus.


 3. Become a scientist of your own worst behavior.

Any time you overreact to something—by shutting down, losing your temper, sulking, feeling hopeless, freaking out, disassociating, or any of numerous other dysfunctional behaviors—it’s typically because an old wound has been triggered. And you’re regressing to the childhood or adolescent state that corresponds to that feeling. So to recover, pinpoint what old experience is being triggered, tell yourself the truth of the situation, and forgive yourself and your partner.


4. Untangle yourself from your partner’s emotions.

No one can make you feel anything and you don’t make anyone feel a certain way. So don’t take on responsibility for your partner’s feelings and don’t blame your partner for yours. The most caring thing to do when they’re upset is simply to ask if they want you to listen, to give advice, to give them space, or to give them loving touch.

5. Reparent yourself.

Instead of trying to get from your partner the things you never got as a child—whether it’s safety, freedom, understanding, connection, or acceptance—give them to yourself. Afterward, you can start to give these things to your partner as well. Pretty soon, your entire relationship will change and grow up along with you.