Back off

Just like work, don't let your relationship become your only obsession

couple with each doing their own thingsIf a relationship is the most important aspect of your life, then you may be putting too much emphasis on it.

Like a balloon with too much air, it will eventually explode. Like work, relationships too should never be your entire life. It’s only part of the whole. Work, growth and creativity are also important. But no one thing should take over to the exclusion of the others.

We all know people who have nothing in their lives but their work. This may bring them financial success, but they may have few friends, little creativity and few deep relationships.

If couples focus entirely on each other, they don’t allow themselves the freedom to grow and create.

When the relationship goes from being the primary focus to being the only focus, other things that life has to offer are lost. Although I believe a person can grow more within a relationship than without one, I also believe it is necessary to find a balance between self and other.

Many of my clients have parents who were in traditional relationships.The fathers went to work and the mothers stayed home. Today, however, women require more freedom. Men are now becoming more willing to work alongside their female partners, helping out in the home and with childcare. For both parties, this is a much more balanced and creative way of life.

If you know someone who is consumed with a relationship, recommend backing off for a while to them and look for other things in life that are fulfilling. Backing off serves two purposes: It makes them more attractive to each other; and opens up new areas of creativity.

But if they continue to overwhelm the partner [or the person they are closest to] with continued pressure about the relationship, they will either lose the joy in it or, worse, lose the relationship altogether.

Take the example of Homer and Marge. For two years, they’ve been talking about getting married, but Marge doesn’t feel comfortable with the idea, even though Homer is supporting her and her son from a previous marriage.

Instead of backing off, Homer keeps putting the pressure, trying to find ways to get Marge to accept the kind of relationship hee envisions.

He even tries to talk Marge into moving to the country so she can focus all her attention on him. He tells her that his plan is for her to assist him in his business. Convinced that all this is the right thing for both of them, Homer keeps giving Marge the hard sell and then feels disappointed when she continues to resist.

In truth, Homer is trying to control Marge and the course of their relationship. His relentless pressure for a commitment and his ‘let’s do it now’ focus is actually pushing her away to the point where she may never find the emotional space to accept his idea of a dream life.

What he needs to do now is back off and let things happen in their own time. This backing-off process can be very difficult, and in Homer’s case the support of a good therapist might help him understand his own behaviour.

It might also give him an insight into what might be missing within him that causes him to focus on his relationship more than on himself.

As long as he keeps financially supporting Marge, she has no reason to change anything. Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? [Why bother to get married?] Besides, Homer’s constant neediness has definitely lost its charm.

As a therapist, I like the idea that we are all born with a mission, and it is our job in life to find out what it is.

Being consumed with a relationship gets in the way of doing this important work. Time alone, as well as some of the other exercises I mentioned, can start us on the process of surrendering to the will of the universe —so we can see what our true life purpose is all about.

This was first published in the May 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Barton Goldsmith
Dr Barton Goldsmith, PhD, an award-winning and highly sought-after keynote speaker, business consultant and internationally syndicated author, has helped develop creative and balanced leadership in several Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, and government organisations worldwide. He lives in California, USA.


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