How does the bond, that starts out so fresh, alive, vital and vibrant turn into a bind that feels so heavy, oppressive, suffocating, and exhausting in couple relationships?
Go back to the beginning of your relationship. On day one, What did you owe your partner and what did you deserve from your partner? In those first few minutes what did you owe and deserve from this new person you’d just met? Nothing. Way back when, you neither owed nor deserved anything at all from each other. Two completely different people chose to spend time with each other. You couldn’t wait to call, txt, or see each other. You kept each other in your “B” position in the relationship triangle and put everything else and everybody else in your “C” position. You gave freely and received freely, neither owing nor deserving anything from each other. You took initiative to accommodate your partner and you willingly looked for ways to please each other. As a result, a bond began to form between the two of you. Both of you felt good about the relationship because you were free to be you and you were free to be in the relationship at the same time. But the bond over time turns into a bind.
How does the bond turn into a bind? The short answer is because of what you think is fair. Fairness? Yes. Most people believe that basing their relationship on what’s fair should keep it together, not be the reason it falls apart. But this is where we suspend our judgement and deceive ourselves. The problem with basing a relationship on what you think is fair is that your idea of what’s fair and your partner’s idea of what’s fair are always different because you’re different people. So what do you owe and deserve from your partner now? I would suggest that because life is not fair, you neither owe nor deserve anything from your partner today either. Now no one ever deserves to be abused or neglected, because we are person’s of worth and value, but beyond that, you neither owe nor deserve anything from your partner. Now, I’m sure you disagree with this position because you have worked so hard to keep the relationship together based on the concept of fairness.
So If fairness doesn’t keep relationships together, how do two different people make a relationship work?
First, let's look at why fairness doesn’t keep relationships together. Fairness starts out with all you do “For” your partner.
The bond over time begins to turn into a bind as feelings associated with entitlement… based on all you’ve done “for” your partner… begin to surface. While you initially give gladly, freely and openheartedly without thinking about what you deserve over time you believe that you deserve acknowledgment, appreciation, recognition… something in return for all you’ve done for your partner. Trying hard to meet your partner’s every want and need you slowly begin to want and expect your partner to do the same “for” you, which just sets you up for this entitlement, disappointment, frustration and resentment. You might even think, well if someone did everything for me that I do for you, I’d bend over backward to please them or give back as much as they’d given to me. The problem is that your partner is not you. While you might bend over backward to pay another person back for all you’ve done for them, your partner is a different person who might not bend over backward for another person and your partner has the right to be different from you. And no that’s not selfish. Interestingly, you want your partner to value what you’ve done for him or her, but you’re not valuing your partner’s choices. Instead you’re using leverage in an attempt to get your partner to appreciate, value and attend to you like you want him or her too… Clearly, this doesn’t work.
When you’re doing all that you’re doing “for” your partner and telling your partner all you’re doing “for” him or her, you’re using leverage. Whether you recognize it or not you end up building a case against your partner based on all the “good” things you’ve done “for” him or her. These “good” things turn into “bad” things from your partner’s perspective because you leverage your partner or obligate him or her to you. Let me give you an example. A wife accommodates her husband by putting off her plans and expects her husband to accommodate her by spending time with her. She gets angry when he spends more time focusing on tasks around the house or at work… when she’s put her plans off “for him.” Her anger is a function of leveraging him to appreciate that she has put her plans off when he doesn’t even know what’s happened or A husband takes his wife to dinner and expects sex afterward. That’s leverage too. Does she owe him sex? No. His anger is a function of the leverage or obligation he believes she has toward him. This doesn’t work in relationships.
How do you respond when someone attempts to leverage you? Many years ago, my wife and I were invited to a neighbors house to enjoy a gumbo dinner. Two months later, I heard a knock on my front door. It was their sixteen year old son.
Opening the door, I asked him how I could help him. He said,”That gumbo y’all had over at the house was good wasn’t it.”
I said, Yes, what do you want? He replied, “I’m selling Pecans for my school. Want to buy some?” He was attempting to leverage me using two month old gumbo, that had nothing to do with pecans… to get me to buy his pecans. Did he trust I wanted to help him with his school project? NO. He didn’t know that I gladly support neighborhood schools and would have been happy to purchase the biggest bag of pecans he was selling. That day, I wish i could tell you I still bought the biggest bag of pecans he was selling, but I bought the smallest bag of pecans because I didn’t appreciate his attempts at leveraging me.
He thought I owed it to him to buy his pecans. He turned the generosity of his parents into a debt or obligation he thought I had to repay. You could be doing the same thing. You can turn the generosity you exhibit toward your partner, into an obligation or debt when you think your partner should react in specific ways back to you.
In fact, when your reaction is anger, you’re revealing that what you’ve done “for” your partner is really “for” yourself to leverage your partner, but it hasn’t worked and you’re angry because your leverage, debt or obligation didn’t work. This undermines the trust in your relationship because leverage is based on fear rather than love. The fear is that if you don’t do all kinds of things “for” your partner he or she won’t do anything “for” you. If you trusted your partner really wanted to invest himself or herself in you, you wouldn’t have to point out all you do “for” your partner. You would give to and receive freely from your partner. John often came home from work and would tell Nancy about his day. He expressed how exhausted he was and how hard his day had been. In moments of frustration he would remind her how he didn’t go to bars, he didn’t go out with his friends and how he was such a good husband. As John continually made his point over and over again, Nancy increasingly felt obligated to John and eventually told him to please go out with his friends. She was sick and tired of hearing how she needed to appreciate all he was doing “for” her. Typically, not knowing what else to do, you do more of what doesn’t work, expecting different results which is the definition of insanity.
The Bond turns into a Bind because you in the “A” position, have placed what you think is fair, right or reasonable in your “B” position, being more loyal to what you think is “fair”, you put your partner is your “C” position. When two people in a relationship are more loyal to what they think is fair, a conflict of wills develops in the relationship and the tension builds with both people resisting the leverage their partner exerts on them. This will-conflict is the cancer that eats away at the trust in a relationship with both people armed to the teeth defensive and full of resentment toward each other. I’ve seen people do things out of this conflict of wills they would have never done if they weren’t caught up in this will conflict. So if what you think is fair doesn’t hold the relationship together, but is the actual reason relationships fall apart, what does hold relationships together?
How do you get out of this conflict of wills or stop this constant tension that develops because you are being more loyal to what you think is fair than to your partner? Rather than doing “for” your partner, with expectations of your partner, an alternative way of having a relationship is to give yourself “to” your partner with no strings attached. Now, if you’re like most people, you’ve been trying to keep your relationship together using fairness for so long it will take some time to think differently. So let me say it again, rather than doing “for” your partner which results in anger, frustration, disappointment and resentment, giving yourself “To” your partner, No Strings attached means you are giving FROM a position of trust and strength rather than FOR your partner’s approval or acceptance based on the fear you won’t get these if you don’t operate from fairness. Giving freely and releasing any expectations of getting anything back from your partner is refreshing and attractive. Now, let me ask you, is your partner going to realize what you’ve done and appreciate all you’ve done in your timing and in your way? Absolutely not, because he or she is a different person. So from the moment you give yourself “TO” your partner, no strings attached to the time that your partner does realize, appreciate or acknowledge what you’ve done, you will have to trust God to sustain you. This is where you grow as a person in the relationship. This is how you work on the relationship while you are also in the relationship. This is where you grow as a person, knowing that you can give more than you ever thought you could give because your giving is not dependent on your partner, but the result of all that you’ve received in Gratitude from God.
Ultimately, the foundation of who you are from this stance of gratitude and having received freely from God develops your character and identity and holds your relationship together. You choose each other, FROM a place of belonging, strength and courage beyond yourselves Not FOR the acceptance and approval of your partner … This foundation of who you are begins with giving and receiving freely rather than based on fear and fairness. The bind that is destroying your relationship can return to a bond as you surrender to loving your partner Freely. This is the subject of the next video segment.
Questions to Consider
1. Rather than using leverage, why can’t a person just ask for what he or she wants directly?
2. Is will-conflict built into couple relationships because of our differences?
3. Do all couples experience will-conflict?
4. If fairness doesn’t keep relationships together what does?
5. Why can’t two people just agree on what’s fair and go from there?