Relationship advice

The Selfish Secret to My Relationship Success

We got an awesome view of the moon on our second trip home!
Locked out and (potentially) hangry…

The other night my partner Vanessa and I pulled up to her front door only to realize that neither of us had brought a housekey. (You had the pleasure of getting to know Vanessa if you’ve listened to my R3 Relationship Masterclass).

It was a sinking feeling. We searched my van, we searched pockets and purses, and we dug through the luggage that we had brought from my house.

But I knew it was in vain. I knew the key we needed was back at my house, a full hour’s drive one way.

We each knew how the mistake had happened, and we each had our own role to play in it. A good case could have been made for blaming either or both of us.

It was nearly 9pm and now we were faced with the reality of turning around and driving for two more hours, back and forth, hungry, without dinner, to get this key that we had forgotten.

A recipe for blame and fighting

It was a perfect recipe for feelings of disappointment, or worse. It was the sort of situation that often precipitates a fight between partners, and this had certainly been the case in my own relationship history.

But not anymore, not for me.

I don’t ever turn against my partner and I don’t ever turn against myself. It doesn’t take discipline or hard work. It’s not because I’m especially empathetic or caring, or because I’m such a good communicator, or because Vanessa and I have negotiated an agreement about how we will behave with one another or speak to one another.

It’s not a product of ultimatums or understanding attachment types or love languages. It’s not complicated in any way, and I know that the essence of this ability has always been there within me waiting for my discovery and my embrace.

Purely selfish, really simple

The reason that I never turn against her or against myself is purely selfish, and really simple –

I care about how I feel. I like to feel good, and blaming myself or anyone else feels less than good. So I don’t do it.

It really is that simple.

Feeling good is my primary life objective, and I let very little get in the way of that.

When I talk about this people sometimes view me skeptically or even suspiciously. It turns out that many people are not comfortable with prioritizing feeling good, and they can sure offer a lot of justification and explanation for this!

I’ve discovered that a desire to feel good is the very best medicine for strengthening a relationship, as long I understand where my good-feeling experience actually originates. That understanding is an ongoing and endlessly satisfying process.

We want to feel good

At core, I believe that everyone wants to feel good. But a lot of people are getting the whole thing backwards. If you believe that feeling good is a product of conditions or circumstances (including other people, like your partner), you’re going to be in for a lot of trouble and a lot of hard work.

I have come to know that feeling good is a natural outcome of befriending myself completely, of never being unkind or impatient with myself, of always holding myself in nothing but positive regard, and of treating myself only with affection, care, and unconditional love.

This is the easiest and most natural thing to do, and yet it’s actually pretty rare. The idea of befriending myself fully is easy to grasp, but it took me nearly fifty years to embody the idea in a real and stable way, and it’s the actual embodiment of the idea, the day to day living of it, that makes a difference.

I’ve been working with couples as a counsellor and therapist for over a decade, and I’ve been fascinated with relationship dynamics for even longer.

I’ve explored every type of relationship theory and intervention imaginable. And all of this has brought me to a rather astounding, somewhat humorous, incredibly satisfying, and perfectly practical discovery –

My relationship is primarily defined by how I feel about myself and how I treat myself on a day to day, moment to moment basis.

I know, it seems too basic, too simple, and maybe too self-centered to be very relevant to relationships. When people want complicated explanations and interventions and “we” solutions to what seems like “we” problems in relationships, this idea of unconditional positive self-regard as the key to relationship success might seem a little far fetched.

So don’t take my word for it. Put it to the test. Treat yourself with nothing but kindness. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt always. I’m talking about your behavior and your thinking. I’m talking about the words that come out of your mouth, the stories and monologues that fill your head, the memories you choose to focus upon, and how you feel about yourself in each moment. You, like everyone, have developed some habits in these regards, but these habits can be changed, and it’s not that hard.

Give yourself the ultimate gift that you deserve

Give it a try. If you’re struggling in relationship, take a break from focusing on your partner or on the dynamic between the two of you, and give yourself the gift of unconditional love. See how it goes. See what kind of difference it makes.

Try it for a day. A week. A year. Maybe you’re ready for this.

In the moment that I became ready, I felt a clarity like nothing I’d felt before, and I never went back to self-doubt, to shame, to blame, or to feeding frustrations of any sort ever again.

I want this for you. I want it for you unconditionally. I know it is your true nature and your heart’s deepest desire. I know you are on your way to unconditional self-love, and that all roads lead to this particular Homecoming.

If you want support and encouragement from someone who knows this territory from the inside-out, listen to a free sample of my R3 Relationship Masterclass or email me and request a client package.

[Update – Vanessa has generously and skillfully shared her own telling of this story. Read on below…]

The instant I realized that Justice and I had both somehow forgotten to bring keys to my house when we left his home earlier that evening, I felt a wave of surreal disbelief. My buoyant happiness for having arrived at my home, my sense of delicious anticipation to cook dinner together, crumbled into shocked regret. There was my front door, only steps away, but we’d have to spend another two hours driving back and forth to his house to retrieve the keys before we could get inside. 

The question welled up in my mind: How could I have been so dumb? And then, almost immediately, I felt acceptance. There was no changing the situation with negative emotion. So I decided to go easy on myself. I still wanted to have a good time that night, and I felt more committed to feeling joyful than plunging into aggravation or distress. Choosing to feel good, no matter what, has become a habit for me. 

And so this silly key-less scenario, which could have blown up into stronger emotions like blame, anger, self-recrimination, shame, accusation, impatience, just mellowed out as I exhaled stunned laughter, and then let myself feel genuine amusement at the predicament. 

How bizarre! For over a year now, we’ve divided our time between our two homes, and usually we both carry copies of each other’s key. We’re smart and attentive people. But by some ridiculous and actually unfathomable turn of events, we’d locked ourselves out without realizing it. 

We laughed at ourselves on the drive back. We made jokes, told stories we hadn’t shared before, listened to music, and appreciated how much better it was to feel good than getting upset with ourselves or each other. 

Before this turn of events, I had been looking forward to watching the full moonrise that night over the ocean from my beach house. We had spread my parents’ ashes there less than a year before, under a full moon rise, following my mother’s final wishes, and so watching the moonrise there is always special for me. Now, instead of beholding this May Flower Moon from the deck together, we were on the road again. But after we’d picked up the keys and turned the car back towards my house, we gasped with delight when we saw the glorious full moon rise above the treeline over the highway. For most of our return journey, the full moon hung magically in our field of vision, right above the road, like a beautiful peaceful beacon guiding us back to our destination. Everything is always working out.

I was reminded of a previous key-error episode in my life, with a former partner, which had gone so differently. In that experience, 12 years earlier, my ex-partner and I were visiting a small community on a remote island when he locked my car keys in my car, at the far end of a dirt road, in a wilderness park. It was Sunday. No cell service. I was furious. I stormed ahead of him, raging and complaining, as we had to walk for over an hour to the other side of the island to ask for help at the only place that was open, a First Nations museum and cultural centre. We’d been there earlier in the day to see sacred Potlatch regalia, which had been confiscated by the Canadian government in 1921, when our country still outlawed these dances and ceremonies. (In fact, my great grandfather was the Christian missionary involved in this notorious colonial raid, so my emotions that day were already very strong.) When we finally arrived, I swallowed my righteous anger at my ex, pushed down my humiliated sense of stupidity and guilt, and asked the kind woman at the front desk for help breaking into my locked car. It was closing time, so she phoned her friends, then drove us back to my car, where the three locals used a bent coat hanger to quickly jimmy open my driver’s side door. I thanked them profusely. They refused money but offered us salmon. The woman told me, “Now you will never forget the beauty and generosity of our island.”

That experience has always stayed with me as a reminder that there is never any point in getting angry at myself, or anyone else, because I’d regret it later, and I don’t ever want to blind myself to the beauty and generosity of life. 

And so, when Justice and I finally got back to my house that night after our drive under the full moon, we had a wonderful fun time preparing our long awaited meal, played cards, and ate dinner at midnight with moonlight bathing the beach out front in a gentle glow, appreciating the beauty and generosity of life.  

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Campbell River Marriage Counselling Justice Schanfarber

I’m a teacher, mentor, and forward-focused therapist helping people understand and befriend themselves completely. Over ten years experience serving clients worldwide. Email to request a client info package.

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