People without self-awareness have crappy relationships.
It’s that simple.
How do we know? We’ve interviewed and coached hundreds of people, and this basic axiom of relationships holds…Every…Single…Time.
So powerful is self-awareness that, when it’s missing, anything else you might do to improve your relationship is destined to fail.
You could read all those inspiring posts on Instagram. You could read all the marriage books (which we love so long as 80/80 is one of them :).
You could buy one of those cute date-night idea jars for your kitchen counter. You could even hire a professional Kama Sutra coach.
But when you lack self-awareness, when you’re unable to witness what shows up in your inner world and how you show up in the outer world, none of this other stuff matters.
Because trying to improve a relationship without self-awareness is like trying to paint your bedroom walls in the dark.
Sure, you might get some patches of paint in the right places. But you’re more likely to make an even bigger mess of the place, spraying paint on the carpet, on the bed, and all over yourself.
That’s the tricky thing about being in a relationship without self-awareness: you can’t see what’s really happening.
You’re living blind to all the ways you’re making yourself, your partner, and just about everyone else miserable.
Because blind spots are invisible, seeing them is the most powerful antidote. So here are a few relationship blind spots to watch out for in yourself.
Consider Dave. He loves Sandra. But he also resents her. She never initiates sex, he thinks. It’s always on him. And that’s not fair. So he withdraws. He checks out with the ESPN app, late night Netflix binges, work emails, and some porn every now and then.
Their lack of connection and non-existent sex life, he thinks, “That’s Sandra’s fault.”
From the outside, it’s easy to see what’s happening here. Dave lives in a world where he’s the victim and Sandra is the villain.
But it’s never that simple. Sitting beneath the radar of Dave’s self-awareness are all the ways he’s contributing to this dynamic.
He’s never talked about any of this with Sandra in a clean way. Nor has he made an extra effort to connect with her.
Nor can he see that his passive-aggressive check out moves don’t exactly lead Sandra – or any sane human partner for that matter – to feel turned and raring to have sex with him.
Sarah has this one. The irony here is that she’s actually quite interested in self-awareness. She reads self-help books, does yoga, wears shirts that say “Spiritual Gangster,” and scrolls on the self-improvement side of Instagram.
But she’s gone so deep into this wormhole of self-care, that she’s deluded herself into thinking that she’s a kind of suburban upper-middle-class Dalai Lama.
Not surprisingly, Sarah also isn’t much fun to be with in a relationship.
Because she sees her partner as an unenlightened slob, while seeing herself as some sort of self-optimized Goddess.
But she’s not. She’s just as petty, irritable, and obnoxious, if not more so, because, unlike her partner, Sarah keeps trying to disguise her worst qualities as the “spiritual virtues” of a “higher being,” whatever the hell that means.
Blake is a master of this flavor of self-delusion. He doesn’t see himself as a victim. Nor does he see himself as enlightened. He just sees himself as more important than his partner.
His career – more important. His ideas – more important. His time – more important. His hobbies – well, you get the point.
Like all self-awareness deficits, it’s pretty easy to see why Blake’s marriage is falling apart. To put it bluntly, it’s because he’s a self-indulgent jerk.
It’s also easy to see why Blake’s going to have to solve his ego problem before trying anything else to improve his relationship. Nothing is going to work until he stops viewing his partner as an unpaid executive assistant.
It’s also worth mentioning what not to do when it comes to building self-awareness: whatever you do, don’t start calling out your partner on their blind spots.
This may sound like a clever idea. It may sound good in your own head to blurt out, “There’s you go again doing that I’m-Enlighted thing” or “That’s your It’s-All-About-Me Blindspot.” But never in the history of all human relationships has this landed well.
Upon hearing this, after all, your partner isn’t going to say, “You know what? I am being a selfish prick, aren’t I? Your feedback is such a gift sweetie.” No, they’re going to get defensive and become far less, rather than more, self aware.
Trust us. Let your partner do their work. Focus on yours. That’s the only way to win at the game of self-awareness.
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