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Try out this mind-blowing marriage thought experiment

conflict habits stress Apr 21, 2021

Have you ever had a single line of text change your life? 

We have. Here’s a line that changed ours from two of our mentors Gay and Katie Hendricks:

“In all times and every way, we are getting exactly what we are committed to getting.”

Take a moment to sit with this idea. 

Take a moment to let it in.

Consider the idea that, somehow, you are committed to getting all the problems and challenges you experience throughout the day.

Most of us recoil at the very thought of this idea. We feel deep resistance to it. Our minds flood with defensive thoughts: "How can that be?" "Why would I be committed to all this struggle?" or "I'm not the problem here." 

But if you can let these initial waves of resistance move through, if you can open to a radical sense of curiosity, this simple thought experiment can change your life.

Why?

It flips our ordinary way of viewing marriage and life on its head. We’re wired to think that most of our problems originate from outside ourselves. Here's what this wiring sounds like, "if only my partner were more loving or more engaged" or "if only my extended family wasn't so crazy" or "if only the world weren't so out of control." If only these things changed, then I could finally be happy.

This experiment challenges us to set these thoughts aside, if only for a moment. And instead wonder how it could be you. It's an invitation to consider the far more empowering thought that you might also have something to do with creating these dynamics. It's a thought that might sound depressing but, in the end, is radically empowering. Because if you played a role in creating these problems, then you must also have the power to change them.

So how can you make this shift in perspective?

 

Tools

 

1. Identify Your Unconscious Commitments.

The first step is to see these commitments more clearly. To do that, it can be helpful to ask yourself, "What are the problematic results I'm getting in marriage?" "Where am I stuck?"  

Then, write down your answers. 

For example, many people tell us that they feel upset at their partner for not caring enough, doing enough, or loving them enough. If that's the problematic result you're getting in marriage, write down, “My partner isn’t caring, engaged, or loving enough.”

 

2. How am I committed to this?

Now for the mind-blowing question: “How am I committed to getting this result?"

This isn’t one of those questions that you ask, think about for 15 seconds, and then leave behind. No, this is a question to meditate on. It’s a question to plant in your mind and then sit with for a while.

Once you have reflected on it, write down the one to three ways you are holding this pattern in place.

For example, if your partner doesn’t do enough, your question becomes, “How am I committed to having a reluctant and disengaged partner?"

Once you look closely at this question, you might notice that your desire to control various aspects of life (your finances, social calendar, or life logistics) keeps your partner from stepping up.  

Or maybe you notice an emotional pattern that holds this dynamic in place: your fear of being vulnerable, showing your true emotions, or asking for what you really want.

If this particular issue resonates, be sure to also check out The Reluctant Partner Chapter in The 80/80 Marriage (Chapter 14) where we guide you much deeper into this inquiry.

 

3. Build one commitment breaking habit.

Do you really want to change this commitment?

It’s a question worth asking because most of the time we actually benefit in some way from these dysfunctional commitments. We get to feel in control. We get to be right. Or we get the badge of honor that comes with being a superman or superwoman in life.

But assuming your answer is "yes," that you want to change this commitment, the final step is to create a new commitment-breaking habit. It's something you can do every day to interrupt the momentum of the commitment you have identified.

If you're committed to having a reluctant partner, for example, your new habit might be revealing your inner experience when you feel frustrated or upset (and -- for bonus points -- doing it from a place of kindness).

If you're committed to a marriage where you constantly fight about fairness, it might be building the habit of one radically generous act of contribution to your partner each day.

If you're committed to never spending quality time together, it might be setting aside twenty minutes to share your experiences at the end of each day.

This new habit will help you disrupt your old commitment and develop a new one -- a commitment designed to give you a different, better, result.

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