The other day, I was talking to a friend who was telling me how she’d finally mustered up the courage to let go of the abusive and cheating boyfriend she’d lived with for several years. (Can I get an hallelujah?) It wasn’t an easy decision, of course, but one she knew she’d ultimately have to make for a while. She was just in denial, like too many of us, thinking if she just made herself part Victoria’s Secret model, part Wonder Woman, and part porn star, he’d change. But that didn’t happen (on several fronts, but that’s another blog altogether).
And now, she’s absolutely obsessed with what he is thinking, asking herself and anybody who will listen: Why didn’t HE didn’t value her? Why did HE cheat? Was HE so scared of his feelings, HE needed to create distance by going outside of the relationship for sex? Did HE have a complicated relationship with his mother? Was HE abducted by aliens and programmed to first enslave and then eliminate? And most importantly, now that she’s gone, would HE finally wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and realize: He couldn’t live without her?
It was bad—this focus she had on him. Instead of focusing on why SHE stayed so long and why SHE would even want to go back, she’s not even asking those questions.
And yet, when we spend precious time trying to figure out the actions or motivations of another person—whether it’s a lover, a spouse, a friend, a family member, or a co-worker—we’re doing their work. It’s like a bowling a strike after the game is over: A moot point.
The experience of being in relationship with that person only has meaning if we do OUR work. If we see whatever they’ve brought into our lives as prompts for self-awareness—as teachable moments.
The question then becomes: What are we supposed to learn from the experience? And how can we use these lessons to let go of what no longer serves us in relationship and in life?
To figure this out, ask yourself these six questions. I recommend journaling around them to learn more about yourself and to let go of what’s keeping you focused on somebody else’s “work” instead of your own!
- How much time to do you spend armchair diagnosing your love interest in relationship (before, during, or after)?
- Do you spend more time evaluating your partner’s actions than you do looking inward to understand your own? Why or why not?
- Do you believe that your needs matter in relationship? Why or why not?
- Do you feel that your needs are being met in your current situation?
- What needs to change in order for that to happen?
- What role can you play, irrespective of your partner, in creating positive change that will enhance the quality of your relationships going forward?
What do you think? After doing this exercise, what have you learned and how will you use those lessons to let go? Do share!
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Jill Sherer Murray is an award-winning writer and speaker who studies creativity, relationships and self-growth. She is also the founder of Let Go For It®, a lifestyle brand dedicated to helping individuals let go for a better life. Jill’s TEDx talk as well as her advice column, Big Wild Love: Let Go For It® were created in service to her loyal and growing fan base, who seek support in the act and the art of letting go for the love they desire and deserve. Follow Jill @letgoforit on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.