Reader Question: Is It Really Me or the Other Person?
I can see that you’re answering questions for free so I’m giving this a shot and hope you’d respond to one of mine.
This is in regards to my most recent break with my wife which never seems to end. She broke up with me just last week and says it’s not me, that’s it’s her.
The thing is, it has become a pattern since she always comes back. I’m sure she’s not running off with some bloke, but she’s been doing this on-and-off thing almost after every argument. And that’s after spending 3 yrs. together being married, dated for a year prior to that. I don’t understand since we’ve been happy for the most part, except yeah a few fights here and there. Any thoughts? Thanks!
Robert from UK
One of the biggest lies told during breakups is, of course, “It’s not you, it’s me.” This, as we all know, is usually said by someone dumping somebody else. They feel guilty for breaking up and so they want to make the dumpee feel better. Most of the time, it isn’t much help to the person being rejected.
And I’m sorry if this is shocking news to you, but no matter what the other person says, it probably is you, not them, that is the problem. There’s probably something going on with you that contributed to the breakup, or to the rocky period in your relationship that you’re currently going through.
That common lie designed to make someone feel better leads to many, many reader questions, as people hurt in their relationships struggle to find answers – is it really me, or is it the other person?
The answer is a bit complicated. Every relationship problem, every breakup is at least partly about you. A relationship is a two-way street, and both partners are responsible for doing their part of it. So, in the end, all you can do is take responsibility for your part of the work and let go of the rest.
Let’s say your marriage is in trouble. And let’s say you feel that most of the trouble is due to your wife’s awful behavior. It’s sure tempting to protect yourself from feeling guilty by putting all the blame on your spouse. You get the solace of feeling like a victim who did nothing wrong at all.
While this choice to blame someone else for everything might make you feel better, albeit briefly, it doesn’t help solve the problem at all in the long run. Why? Because your wife is an independent human being, beyond your control. There are two people involved in the marriage, and only one of them is under your control – You.
You can’t control your spouse’s behavior at all. Don’t be fooled. Oh, yes, you can nag, wheedle, plead, beg, order, shout, bribe, cry, threaten and so on, and sometimes it seems like it’s working. But really, your partner only changes her behavior because they decide to, not because you made them. The only person you can truly control is yourself, and even that’s difficult at times.
So, in that sense, It’s all about you, if you understand what I mean. That means It’s all up to you. That’s not a very easy lesson to accept, but you’ll find ultimately that it’s true.
What must you accept at first? That your spouse is an independent entity. No matter how wonderful you are, no matter how loving and devoted, sweet and faithful, helpful and sexy you are, your partner could conceivably decide at the drop of a hat to abandon you and move off to join a Tibetan monastery. You can’t prevent that from happening. All you can do is adjust your own attitude.
Now, I’m not saying your spouse is likely to abandon you or run off to a monastery in the Himalayas. I’m just saying it’s possible they might decide to do something you don’t like, and you have to accept that.
Once you’ve done that, once you’ve relaxed the tight grip you were holding on your relationship, perhaps squeezing the life out of it, you will find, paradoxically, that your bond with your spouse is stronger.
Then it is up to you to concentrate on yourself and on your own happiness and health. That’s the best thing you can do to keep your marriage strong and healthy. You are half of your relationship, and you are the only half you have control over. So focus on that half and leave the other half to take care of itself.
That doesn’t at all mean you don’t communicate with your spouse or partner. That doesn’t mean you don’t tell them your feelings, or ask for what you need, or share your dreams and frustrations with them on a daily basis. Not at all. But it means you let go of trying to force them to do what you think is best.
If your partner has broken up with you, left the relationship, you can’t force them back. But, by taking good care of yourself – going to the gym, e
ating right, using your mind, socializing with other people, learning new things, travelling, and so on – you make yourself a happier, healthier, more interesting and attractive person, thereby giving yourself the best chance of winning them back. And even if she doesn’t come back this time, you’re still a more interesting and attractive person for a new partner who may come along in time & won’t give you this on-and-off pattern. [Watch: What to Do if Your Wife Wants a Divorce (& Save Your Marriage)]
If you’re still together but your relationship is in difficulty, once again, the best thing you can do is to be clear with your partner about what you want and need, but then to leave it at that and focus on yourself. Don’t neglect yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be gentle with yourself. If you’re fighting about chores, about the division of labor in your relationship, then make it clear how you feel, but then focus on doing your part of the chores as well as you can. That way, you know you are being a good partner. Try to leave it at that, rather than rubbing your partner’s nose in it – “See, I did my chores, so why didn’t you?!” is not a helpful thing to say.
Maybe your wife seems to have lost their attraction for you, or their sexual appetite seems to have disappeared. Again, it’s good to clearly talk about the situation, telling them you miss sex or regular affection. But then you have to leave it at that. Nagging, shaming, or demanding sex doesn’t work very well. Instead, take care of yourself by getting exercise, eating well, living an interesting life, being social, and so on. Be cheerful and agreeable – that alone makes you much more attractive and gives you a better chance of mending this rift in your marriage or relationship.
These are just some common examples, but the idea applies to many facets of relationships. When I say, “It’s you,” I mean it is up to you, Robert, to do what you can to help your marriage. And what you have the most control over is yourself, your choices, your attitude. Focus on those and trust that things will get better. They usually do.