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July 2, 2016

Is Someone Else’s Happiness Your Responsibility?

“I don’t want you to do the dishes! I want you to want to do the dishes!”

I love the dishes scene in the movie ‘The Breakup’ with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughan.

Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship knows all too well that a relationship is made and broken in the daily details: messy house, who’s taking out the trash, who leaves their clothes on the floor, who’s turn is it to do the dishes, who’s calling the plumber, and the nonstop battle of who deserves the most appreciation/Biggest Martyr Award.

These things—while each separately feels small—can add up to one huge resentment if expectations, preferences and clear communication is neglected.

And so often, these hard conversations are not had until they are past their breaking point.

And at that point, the idea that a single person in the relationship deserves all the blame is frankly absurd. It’s how two people are coming together and their willingness to communicate openly, honestly and with understanding.

And I even want to take it one step further and ask you to consider:

Is there even any blame to be doled out?

Stay with me on this one:

#RadicalResponsibility (the concept that the Mindset Makeover 2 course is based on) is about taking 100% responsibility for all the things that transpire in your life. This doesn’t mean you take blame for things necessarily, but instead seek to understand your part in the non-communication of the situation.

So many “problems” in any relationship—friendships included—come down to things not being said.

How can we be upset with someone for doing something we have never verbalized is an issue for us? Or even if we have verbalized it—and here’s where I am going to challenge you—is it truly the responsibility of the other person to change? Or can they even?

One of my favorite Byron Katie stories, as told in her book, ‘Loving What Is’ is about her constant misery and frustration over having to pick up her children’s socks. She told them to put them in the hamper a million times. She reiterated how important it was TO HER that they listen and do what she needed them to do: put the damn socks in the hamper!

But here’s the mistake I think we make: we assume that if someone will not or maybe even cannot put their socks in the hamper like we have asked them to, over and over again, that they just don’t give a shit about us. If they cared about us at all, they would MAKE SURE to do what we asked, right??

Or … is it our responsibility to just do the thing that we are asking other people to do? Or if not that, explore other options that will make us less miserable/resentful?

Katie’s children could give two shits about if their socks where in the hamper or not. But Katie cared. It made her miserable that they didn’t care or listen to her.

So what are her options?

  1. Do it herself (she’s the only one who cares)
  2. Get rid of her children so she never has to deal with socks being on the floor ever again
  3. Get new kids that won’t leave their socks on the floor
  4. Continue to be super frustrated, resentful and assume they don’t love or care about her

These are the only things that are in her control.

What is out of her control is how her children act.

Can she ask them to be different? Of course. Can she threaten them? Yes. Can she give them ultimatums? She can. Can she yell and scream and kick and try to force? You bet.

But at the end of the day, what her children do is not in her control, is it?

Ugh, this is frustrating, right?!!

(BTW, this example is a metaphor that can represent anything that someone else is doing that is driving you nuts or that you don’t understand or that, if it was you, you’d do differently. As infuriating as it is, the other person is not you, so they wouldn’t necessarily do what you do. You can apply this example to anything that irks you about someone close to you).

Can you guess which approach Katie chose?


The reason being, there’s a choice here. If we want, we can choose the perceptions and actions that makes us the happiest. Thinking her children didn’t love her and continuing to be frustrated forever would have sucked, no?

And the first part of that is just not true. They do love her, but because they are NOT her, they have a hard time picking up their socks, or maybe they even can’t.

On Compromise

At first, this kind of “take care of your own stuff” approach can feel kind of cold. Because you feel like, “Yeah, but isn’t that the definition of a relationship? Putting your own needs aside for someone else? Isn’t it about compromise?”

I actually would not say it’s about compromise, so much as honesty and communication.

Think about it. When you are showing up honestly and openly and vulnerable with your loved ones, all the cards are on the table.

People know where you stand, and it also gives them an opportunity to both THINK about where they stand (many don’t even know what they want), and also communicate that to you.

Clear communication almost makes the idea of compromise obsolete because when two people are clearly stating their desires, fears, preferences and insecurities, they are giving the other person an opportunity to know and understand them.

And when we understand someone better, we are able to see where we can fit in and where our role lies.

Our role is never to make someone else happy. And their role is not to make us happy. Our only job is to show up as clearly, honestly and openly in the world so that they have all the information and the two of us can go from there.

And usually, the place you go is one that is deeper, more meaningful and pure, rather than obstructed by passive-aggression, manipulation, resentment and score-keeping. These are the tools of people who are out of their integrity.

So instead, let’s say that your partner or friend begins clearly communicating with you. They show up, as is, with who they are fully on display for you to consider, and they state their preferences.

Maybe it’s something you don’t like, don’t want to hear, or something that if it was you, you’d do differently. So this is tough, but you have a couple choices:

  • You can clam up, get defensive, ask them if they’re insane and shirk the opportunity to investigate why their preferences are hitting your insecurity buttons.
  • You can acquiesce out of fear that they won’t love you, accept you or hear you out. So you’ll brush your own fears and insecurities under the rug, don’t state your line in the sand, play the martyr and let the resentment and misery build over time.
  • Or you can take it in, consider how you feel, create your lines in the sand and then clearly state those back to your friend or partner.

This is where lines in the sand become paramount.

Lines in the Sand

Do you know what yours are with your friends and family? With yourself?

Another word for “lines in the sand” is preferences—but ones that are in fact so strong that you are willing to walk away from the relationship for them. They can be anything. They are 100% unique to you.

But they are not to be taken lightly. So chances are, you won’t have a million of them. You will probably only have one or two. It’s freeing to name and know them.

But here’s the vital part of any line in the sand: you have to be willing to follow through on what you said you’d do if they get crossed. This would be choosing #2 or #3 in Katie’s scenario, above. Getting rid of her kids or getting new ones who would never do the thing she can’t stand.

You can see how this would work in any relationship. When your lines in the sand are crossed, you leave.

THAT is the hardest thing. It takes self-awareness, confidence, honesty, self-respect and a relentless desire to be in your integrity.

I get asked sometimes, “When do I just become a doormat in the relationship?” and it’s when you are accepting something that feels out of your integrity. In other words, you allow your lines in the sand to be crossed.

So now you have two categories: 1) lines in the sand and 2) everything else.

Under the “everything else” category is where the concept of compromise comes in. Because you already said you wouldn’t compromise on your lines in the sand, so by definition, there is no compromise.

For “everything else,” you have two choices:

  1. Figure out a way to honestly communicate how you feel about them, and then begin doing the internal work of being okay with them. For this, you use tools like gratitude, benefit of the doubt, not taking things personally, not making assumptions, clear communication and doing what you need to do to feel in your power. THIS would be the compromise option. #1 for Katie, above.
  2. Be miserable.

That’s it.

When you don’t speak your truth and you sweep your feelings under the rug, resentment and grudges abound. How can you ever be okay when you are holding on so tightly to your hurts?

You’ll know when compromise is the right move when you have zero resentment or ill feelings about it, and you simply own your choice.

And if you are going to compromise, own your decision. When we blame others for our decision to compromise, we’re playing the victim.

Own it. And if you don’t want to compromise, then it’s a line in the sand, and the question is: what are you going to do about that?

#MindsetSkillset #RadicalResponsibility #LessMiseryPlease

Find these kinds of discussions useful? Join the JillFit 10-Week Mindset Makeover course. ALL THE DETAILS HERE.

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