Most romantic relationships are built on myths and lies. Uncover the truth of loving authentically.
Most romantic relationships are built on the myth of a fairy tale. We don’t stop listening to fairy tales as we get older. Instead, they morph from children’s stories into popular romantic and romantic comedy movies and books. One of the most prevalent myths in modern media is “You complete me.”
In the 1996 romantic movie Jerry McGuire, Tom Cruise has a revelation at the end of the movie and appears on Renee’ Zellweger’s doorstep after she thinks their romance has failed. He gives an impassioned speech about how he’s realized he’s in love with her, culminating in the sentence, “You complete me.” That one sentence perfectly sums up the soulmate myth. It also lets people off the hook for taking full responsibility for their own happiness. Nothing real or true comes from outside of us; anything you want from another person, you also want from yourself. When you take responsibility for your own happiness and commit to giving yourself what you think you need, others will show up to affirm that you have done that.
An experience with my husband will illustrate what I mean. When I decided to leave him, it was partly because he had become derisive about my work. I’m an energy healer, and I had learned to be a channel. He was frightened by what I was doing because he didn’t understand it. I had done enough inner work to stand up to him and tell him that if he didn’t like it I would leave. What I didn’t understand at the time was that there was a part of me that was afraid of my skills; a part of me didn’t understand how I could do those things and didn’t fully trust it. Over the next few years, I grew in my own trust, understanding and capacity. Recently he overheard me talking; I was leading a monthly call for new coaches. When I got off the phone he said, “You are amazing! You are absolutely brilliant. What you say makes so much sense, and you say it so clearly.” This was the same man, who has been a perfect reflection for me to see how fully I love myself. How he responds to me is a great indication to me every day of how I am treating myself. This is true for all of us, all the time.
One day during the time my husband and I were separated, I went on a rant about him with a good friend. My friend listened to my rant then made one simple suggestion that changed everything. He said, “Change the pronoun.” Those three words summed up the common experience we have with romantic partners. Our partners mirror for us ways in which we are unloving toward ourselves. Rather than taking ownership, we lash out at and about them. “He doesn’t respect my work,” or “He doesn’t appreciate how much I do” are examples of how we resist the image in the mirror. Changing the pronoun invites you to reflect back onto yourself so you can take responsibility for any changes you wish to make.
EXERCISE: Change the Pronoun
In your journal or notebook, make a list of the criticisms you most commonly make about your partner. Taking each criticism one at a time, answer these three questions:
1. When and how do I treat myself or act in that way?
2. When and how do I treat my partner in that way?
3. How can I take that criticism and grow from it?
I’ll give you an example from my own experience. “My husband doesn’t respect me” was the criticism. He would make disparaging jokes about me in front of other people, which understandably hurt my feelings. I had asked him to stop, but he kept doing it. When I changed the pronoun and asked, “When and how do I not respect myself?” I had a lot of answers. I wasn’t treating my body in a respectful way; I was drinking too much and not exercising at all. I would make disparaging jokes about my business when I thought my audience wouldn’t understand what I do. When I asked “When and how do I disrespect my partner?” the answers flowed freely. I didn’t believe he was willing to grow, and I felt spiritually superior to him. He must have felt that on a subconscious level, and it contributed to his own feelings of unworthiness.
Armed with a deeper understanding of the dynamic of disrespect within my relationship, I was able to shift it. I made clear requests that he stop making disparaging jokes, and I acknowledged to him that I didn’t believe he was willing to grow. I apologized for my part in the dynamic, and he finally understood how I felt when he joked. He apologized and immediately changed his behavior. He also decided to prove to me that he was willing to grow, and set about growing with a vengeance.