This piece is inspired by one of my very favorite self development resources, Byron Katie’s brilliant tool set, The Work. The Work has us ask 4 questions about whatever judgment we’re making about anyone or anything. After answering the four questions, in the final step of The Work, we flip our judgment around and apply it to ourselves. This is my favorite part of the process, called The Turnaround, because for me, it yields the juiciest results. After restating the judgment and substituting “I”, “me,” or “myself” for whatever we’re judging, we then find several examples in our lives that support the statement, even if it conflicts with what we believe, because it ultimately loosens up our beliefs around what’s true, and has us consider other possibilities.
This applies so profoundly to the question, “Should I leave him?” A great turnaround to apply to ourselves is to ask, “Did I leave myself?” The wording of the first question assumes that the answer has something to do with the other person. And for the most part, except in a case of conflicting values, it doesn’t. It has everything to do with how you feel about yourself, and what you are doing to nurture your own sense of competence and self worth.
Many of us get into relationships and forget about this. We choose our partner based on what we’re missing in ourselves and feel great, initially. Then, after some time, when our partner stops giving us what we want, the great feeling subsides and what’s left is that feeling of “missing.” The trouble is that we focused all of our attention on our partner, nurturing the relationship, creating security, and stopped focusing on what we love and what has us feel great, independent of our partner. And it’s simply not possible to be a great partner when we’re not feeling great about ourselves.
The thing is, if we don’t feel great about ourselves, then we can’t believe why our partner would feel great about us, which makes it difficult to receive, feel, or be present to their love and gifts. We become dependent on our partner for praise, affirmation, and in some cases, even our lifestyle and material things. God forbid our partner breaks up with us, or that we want to break up with him – if we don’t feel like we’re worth anything on our own, or that we couldn’t possibly survive as a single person, either we’ll stay in a relationship we don’t like, or wind up devastated by the breakup, or worse yet, we’ll make a manipulative play to get our partner back and get ourselves into a twisty on-again-off-again relationship.
Have you heard this before? Does it sound familiar? I had to hear it hundreds of times before I finally got the impact of not heeding this advice. I can’t tell you how many times I “lost myself” in a relationship and “let myself go” instead of nurturing self-love. I would actually recoil at the word, “self-love”. It seemed to be an act people would put on to look good to other people, and not something that could actually be real. That is, until I started getting clear about my values, what I truly want out of life, and what I’m committed to. Once I started making those things the priority instead of my relationship, I developed the ability to feel great about myself, and became a much more rock-solid partner in the process. Most importantly, this gave me the stability to make clear choices as to whether or not to stay or leave my relationship.
It’s a paradox – nurture yourself and you’ll nurture your relationship. Attempt to nurture your partner with nurturing yourself, and the relationship will suffer. If you want clarity on what to do next, look no further than your own heart, and give yourself what it is that you really want.