“She can’t do that…”
“He has to understand that…”
“He can’t say that…”
“She has to change that…”
We’ve all uttered these sentiments, or something in a similar vein, at one time or another. Perhaps we say them as a longing for connection, a desire to be understood, a hope for validation or a plea for respect. We think we are making reasonable requests, yet toward the end goal of getting the other to change, we make demands of his or her behavior.
Simply put, this does not work.
In fact, in hopes of creating the relationship we want with others, we can actually forfeit the relationship with ourself. When we require of others, we handcuff ourselves to their actions rather than choosing for ourselves how to best navigate a situation. We describe all the ways in which we need him or her to behave so that we are ok rather than choosing ways to be more ok ourselves. And therefore, we limit our choices by limiting ourselves.
In no way is this an excuse to stay in unhealthy relationships, rather a call to empowerment in what you can and cannot choose. You can choose what is ok with you and what is not, you can choose how to respond, you can choose how much space and slack is in a relationship. However, you cannot choose what others say to you, how others view you or what they do.
Perhaps this feels unfair, annoying, hopeless or simply wrong. And to some degree it may absolutely be those things. It may drain and exhaust you to choose to bow out, overlook or move on. Yet this is the only way to live un-handcuffed. Grab hold of the counter-intuitive idea that you get the choice only in how to respond and not in how others show up. And grab hold of the great freedom this actually is.
Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.
For more information, contact Lindsay today.