Which is more important to you in your relationships -- to be kind or to control?
There is a powerful choice you can make that will heal many of your relationship problems. This is the choice of kindness -- with yourself and others.
This may sound simple, yet for many people there is one choice far more important to them than kindness -- to attempt to control others' feeling and behavior, outcomes and their own painful feelings.
Kindness to yourself and to others comes from a desire to support your own highest good and the highest good of others. When your highest priority is to support the highest good of all, you are naturally kind. You don't even have to think about it. It flows easily when your deepest desire is to be a loving, caring person.
But when your deepest desire is to protect yourself from getting hurt, then your automatic choice, particularly in conflict, is likely to attempt to control -- with anger, withdrawal, blame, judgment, compliance or resistance.
Jack and Jenny
Jack claimed to love his wife Jenny. Yet as soon as Jenny didn't do what he wanted or expected, he would immediately become angry, blaming and judgmental. Jenny, frightened of his anger and of losing his love, would immediately defend and then comply with Jack's wishes, hoping to have control over his feelings and behavior toward her.
Jenny was afraid to do what she wanted to do. She constantly monitored her behavior, telling herself, "Jack will get mad if I do that." Have you ever heard yourself say this to yourself?
With all this anger, defensiveness and compliance, it's no wonder that the fun, joy and passion that had been so wonderful at the beginning of their relationship was often non-existent.
Jack and Jenny sought my help. Their marriage was in trouble and they wanted to save it. They both loved their two small children and didn't want to break up the family.
As Jack and Jenny worked through the control issues that each had learned in their families, they started to have fewer conflicts. Yet when a conflict did arise, each would automatically revert to their old controlling behaviors.
"I am going to give both of you an assignment," I told them in our Skype session. "It is a simple assignment, although not at all easy. This week, I want both of you to focus on being kind to yourselves and to each other. You will not be able to be kind to the other if you are not being kind to yourself. Jack, if you do not take loving care of yourself, you will end up feeling angry with Jenny. Jenny, if you are not taking loving care of yourself, you will end up trying to control Jack with your defensiveness and compliance. I know both of you try very hard to be kind to your children. I want both of you to practice treating yourselves and each other with the same kindness with which you treat your children."
Both Jack and Jenny agreed to practice this assignment.
The next week in their session, both of them claimed that the first four days of the past week had been the best days in years.
"But then we slipped back into our old patterns," said Jack. "I forgot about kindness. Why is it so hard to remember?"
"Jack, both you and Jenny have been practicing your controlling behaviors for your whole lives. These patterns are not easy to change. Your automatic unconscious response to fear is to control in some way. It takes a lot of practice remembering kindness for these patterns to change. "
Today, Jack and Jenny's relationship is much improved. While they still occasionally revert to their controlling behaviors, they are able to be kind much more of the time -- a result of their dedicated practice. They are having more fun with each other, and their sexual relationship has greatly improved!
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Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. She has counseled individuals and couples, and led groups, classes and workshops since 1968, and continues to work with clients from all over the world on phone and Skype. She is the author/co-author of eight books, including the internationally best-selling "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?" (over 1 million copies sold), "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By My Kids?," "Healing Your Aloneness," "Inner Bonding," and "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God?" In 2010, Margaret co-completed a 12-year project called SelfQuest®, which is a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. SelfQuest® is being offered to prisons and schools and sold to individuals, families and businesses. In addition, Margaret offers a powerful 12-week relationship e-Course, The Intimate Relationship Toolbox, and a weight loss course, Dr. Margaret's Permanent Weight Loss Program, a Free Inner Bonding Course and Free Help with relationships, parenting, addictions, personal growth and spiritual growth.
Margaret has three children and three grandchildren. In her spare time, she loves to paint, read, make pottery and ride her horse.