Many people who struggle to move their relationships forward or to move on after a breakup focus on identifying the responsibility (and fault) lines. This attitude and mentality are tricky when the relationship is still ongoing because it becomes the blame game and keeping score. When the relationship is over, trying to pin the fault takes them into blame, shame, and seeking validation territory. I also find that people are inclined to play Columbo or FBI agent and keep looking for reasons to justify their perception of who bears what of the responsibility, rather than process the information and move on.
Focusing on blame and dividing the relationship into ‘parts’ blocks you from being in a loving, mutual relationship. You also can’t be yourself because you’re too busy trying to dodge or pass blame.
Relationships are not a 50:50 partnership; they’re 100:100.
Now, when a lot of people hear this they feel baffled. But here is why I feel that relationships require 100% contribution from each party:
Anything other than putting your whole authentic self into the relationship and giving it your all is subjective.
You need to be your authentic whole self for a relationship, not half a person doing things in the context of what they think is their ‘share’. Oh, I’ve done this, so I’ll wait for him to do that. This isn’t authentic or loving. You’re doing things based on the other person, not on you. Instead of giving and loving wholeheartedly, you’re keeping score. You’re effectively saying Well I am this, this, and this, so I know I’m doing my half and they need to step up and do theirs.
You cannot split relationships like you’re splitting who pays what on a date!
Let’s say you work on a team of five people. Do you decide to only put in your a 20% contribution? Hopefully, you don’t and instead, if you’re a conscientious person living authentically, you’ll put full effort into your job rather than waiting on others.
Fifty per cent is always half. It doesn’t become one hundred per cent because someone else is there beside you. And that certainly won’t happen if the person is:
- Reluctant to be in the relationship.
- Has a different idea of what your relationship entails.
- Has inflated the idea of what their contribution is and thinks that their 10% is 50%. They’re turning the proverbial crumb into a loaf.
- Contributing their ‘50%’ but it’s not the 50% you want!
I see relationships like this every day. They’re not only struggling but also lack authenticity because one or both parties are not being themselves. They’re not being honest about who they are, what they need and where they need to step up. So many of these relationships lack shared core values. The people don’t even recognise the importance of values because they think that the attraction, sexual chemistry, common interests and the fact that they talk the nth degree out of the relationship and say they love each other is enough to sustain it (it isn’t).
Love, the feeling, is not enough to make your relationship work. Fifty per cent of you isn’t either.
Relationships take two, and they’re co-created. You are 100% responsible for yourself and 100% accountable for your own experience, but you’re also both 100% responsible for the relationship. Note, that this doesn’t make you responsible for what they do, but it does make you responsible for yourself in that context.
Let’s take a common relationship issue: Woman plays Florence Nightingale and engages in fixing/healing/helping her ‘broken man’. Maybe he’s got issues with alcohol, is an emotional mess due to a series of bad things that happened to him, or he’s a recovering sex addict. Maybe he says that he says that he’s aware of his issues and dealing with them and that he wants the ‘love of a good woman’. The relationship flounders. She frustrated, he feels invalidated and possibly patronised and controlled. It becomes clear that he can’t make her bigger than his problems.
Whose fault is it that the relationship isn’t working?
- His, because he has a drinking (or whatever) problem and couldn’t overcome it?
- Hers, because she thinks that she can love away his problems?
- His, because aside from the drink (or whatever) problem, he has other unresolved issues at the root of it?
- Hers, because she expecting more from him more than he’s capable of actually delivering?
- His, because he thinks that if he was loved ‘enough’ by someone else and the relationship was ‘good’ that the problems would be magicked away, so has unrealistic expectations of her while at the same time resenting her ‘input’?
- Hers, because she turned a blind eye to the problems at the start of the relationship or when they manifested and saw that not only was there an opportunity to help a wounded soul, but had already decided that she wasn’t prepared to end things because she was in love?
- His, because he wants to believe he can be better than this and tells her that he’ll change, even though he only manages a limited amount of change before falling into old habits or creating new bad ones?
- Hers, because she thinks she knows what’s best for him and doesn’t accept the reality of who he is and so bets on potential?
I could go on but I hope you get the idea.
Relationships are co-created and 100:100. Each party contributes to the success (or ‘failure’) of a relationship.
When you fix/heal/help, it’s out of a desire to control and fix your own issues through the other party so that you can right the wrongs of the past. You are being over-responsible. And someone who takes cover with an over-responsible person is consciously or not, sheltering with someone who will overfunction so that they don’t have to take responsibility.
Many people believe that ‘real love’ is having the power to change someone. They think there’s no better way of getting the ultimate validation they seek than ‘fixing’ a ‘broken’ person so that they do the proverbial leap and declare ‘I can walk!’ But more often than not, this doesn’t happen. It’s also unhealthy because it creates a victim/rescuer dynamic.
You could spend from here to eternity trying to work out the fault lines, but all that does is stop you from taking responsibility for you.
Sometimes the fault lines will be very clear but unless you’re going to do something productive with your information and learn from it and move on or make the appropriate changes on both sides to address the issues, rather than obsess about it and stay stuck, you’re engaging in responsibility-dodging.
It takes two people to adapt and change for a relationship. You can’t row the relationship boat with one oar.
You can do all the adapting and changing you like, but if the other person stays stuck in their ‘gear’, it won’t make a difference.
Blaming someone doesn’t have to stop you from you recognising, acknowledging and owning your part. You can totally recognise what they have done while also acknowledging, for example, whether this situation represents a pattern of being with the same person, different package and relationship. You can ask What’s the baggage behind my response and choices?
I get it. Unavailable people and assclowns, for example, do more than enough things to warrant being hugely annoyed or even devastated by them. But if you stay and put up with it, no matter how long it was for, it is time to be accountable for your part because you’re putting all of the focus on them, which renders you helpless. Put it back on you and empower yourself by recognising where you may believe, accommodate/whatever too much and do something about it.
When someone lies to you and you buy into the lie, your ‘part’ in things is denial. That doesn’t mean they’re any less responsible for the lies they told, but you learn that you need to be more real with yourself. You stop lying to and deceiving you.
Another example: When someone repeatedly does stuff that is disrespectful, your part in things is not having enough boundaries. Again, that doesn’t make them any less responsible, but you learn to respect yourself. You create consequences when people cross your boundaries rather than letting them continue running the red light.
When you recognise that relationships are 100:100 partnerships, have an honest conversation with yourself and strive to be more authentic, it makes your relationships so much better and so much easier. If you’re being your authentic self living congruent with your values, you will recognise when someone else isn’t. You will be not be comfortable living in an inauthentic relationship that doesn’t recognise and honour your values. You’ll address the concerns and/or opt out.