One of the most frequent reasons for therapy is difficulty and pain in a romantic relationship. When relationships are marked by addictive behavior, loneliness, anger, or sadness/depression, one can benefit greatly from professional help to either repair the relationship or find the courage to move on.
Often, relationship issues begin with blaming the other person, “he or she made me feel this way” or “he or she did this to me.” Both statements have problems: First, nobody can make you feel anything. As the saying from Eleanor Roosevelt goes, “nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” People say and do things, and then we react – but we have tremendous power (even though it may not always seem true), to control our responses. Viktor Frankl says, “between stimulus and response, there is a space, and in that space lies our freedom.”
The second statement “he or she did this to me” also has deep problems. Melanie Beattie, a wonderful author on codependency in relationships, sums it up perfectly: “People don’t do things ‘to you’. They just ‘do things’.” We often personalize other people’s actions, when the reality is that they would act this way towards anyone, and the reasons for their actions are deeply linked to their past (and have nothing to do with us!). Codependency is one of the most prominent, and often undiagnosed causes of unhealthy relationships. Whether or not it is a cause of relationship issues in your specific situation, we believe understanding some of the traps of codependency can be helpful in building (and maintaining) healthier relationships.
No matter how strong the feelings we experience in a relationship are, we should remember that feelings are not facts, and we have options. Taking action in the present is the starting point for healthier relationships and a better future.