In my counseling relationships with people, I have a rather structured contract that we all agree to.
In my relationship with my best friend, we implicitly agree to schedule lunch around her schedule because mine is more flexible.
In your significant relationship, you also have many contracts. Most of these contracts have not been explicitly agreed upon.
In my own relationship, I’m the one who makes coffee in the morning. My partner makes the bed. I call to schedule doctor appointments for the family. He takes the trash out.
If you start to explore all the expectations you have of each other, you’ll realize that there’s an unspoken agreement on an enormous number of actions. That day when the agreement is unmet—that’s a day of disappointment, hurt or anger.
Think about the last time you found yourself upset at your partner. Can you discern the unspoken contract you have for your partner? For myself, I got a little peeved that my husband went to work when he was sick. Teasing this out, the unspoken contract is: I expect him to take care of himself.
As we know there is my business, your business and God’s business. This is clearly not my business! It is my business to express my concern for his well being, but I need to phrase it as a request, not a demand or an expectation. A demand is “you must take care of yourself.” A request would be “I want you well; you might want to stay home and rest.”
Try to develop a practice of recognizing the unspoken contract that is creating friction in your relationship. First of all, destroy the contract. Let go of your expectation. Shift your demand into a request. Recognize where your boundary ends and your partner’s begins. This will make a huge difference in relating to your partner.
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Usually that drive tells us that we are gaining much of our self worth by being a “good boy or girl”. This is not an objectionable goal, but when we allow our boundaries to be violated to serve others, we’re doing the whole world a disservice.
If you’re doing things for other people that make you feel resentful, reconsider how you could handle it. For instance, if you always wake your teenager up in the morning and it turns into an argument every day, you’re probably not feeling very thrilled about that. Stop doing it. Buy the kid a clock.
Make sure they know it’s their responsibility from now on. Let it go. Doesn’t that feel good?
If you can’t start there, start with something smaller. Anything that you are doing strictly for someone else, ask yourself, do I find joy in doing this? If the answer is no, then look for an alternative. Disappoint them. Let them know you won’t be doing that anymore. Let me know how it goes over in the forum.
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Hope that helps,