E2: Responsibility: The Foundation of Healthy Relationships

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I Hear You
E2: Responsibility: The Foundation of Healthy Relationships

Show Notes

Episode Transcript

Forgive typos and odd grammatical mistakes—this was transcribed using the magic of AI.

[00:00:00] Hello, hello and welcome back to the I Hear You podcast, I’m your host, Michael Sorensen. In today’s episode actually picks up where we left off in last week’s episode, talking about personal responsibility in relationships. And I know that doesn’t sound very sexy when we’re talking about relationships, but this is my second episode here because this is a foundational principle, a core principle that we all have to understand if we truly want to live happy, healthy, connected lives. So today we’re going to explore a handful of different things. We’re going to explore resentment, including how resentment forms in a relationship and whose responsibility it is to clean it up. We’re going to discuss the sneaky little lies that we buy into that sap, our happiness and energy, as well as ways to get out of that victim mentality and regain our power and happiness when we feel we’ve lost it.

[00:00:53] This is a powerful principle that applies to every relationship in your life, romantic, professional or otherwise. Let’s get to it.

A Question

[00:01:20] All right. I want to start off with a question. Whose job is it to make you happy?

[00:01:27] Who has the power to make or break your day? Who is it? Can just get underneath your skin and then 30 seconds can can set you off on this downward spiral for the rest of the day, week, month, year. I don’t know. Or on the flip side. Who do you feel you are supposed to make happy?

[00:01:46] Are there people that you feel like their happiness hinges on whether or not you show up a certain way, whether or not you say the right things, whether or not you dress a certain way? Do you feel like you have a responsibility to control other people’s happiness or satisfaction with you?

You Are In Charge

All healthy relationships require a solid understanding of the following truth: you and only you are responsible for your own happiness.

[00:02:11] No one can make you happy or sad. No one can ruin your day and no one can break your heart without you letting them. Now, to some of you, that might sound crazy, you might be calling B.S. right here, right now, saying, I don’t believe that. Well, I have to be very clear here. First off, I’m not saying that people’s actions won’t affect you. I’m not saying people can’t say hurtful things, they can’t do things that will affect you because they absolutely can, both physically and emotionally.

[00:02:38] But what I’m talking about here is that your happiness is not contingent on what other people do want and on what other people say your happiness as a direct result with how you interpret certain things. It’s a direct result of how you choose to react when things like that happen, because people will absolutely do things you don’t like. They’re going to forget important events. They’re going to say unkind things to you. They’re going to show up in ways that you that you don’t want them to show up. All of that is real. But again, the core principle, the core message of this episode here today is that it’s the way you choose to react to those instances that affects your happiness. And research backs this up.

[00:03:18] It’s about our interpretation. And the good news here is, is that we can therefore choose to be happy even in the most difficult of circumstances. And if you look outside of your own immediate life circle, you can probably find good examples of this other people, friends, perhaps cell members who have gone through horrendous tragedies in their lives. And yes, they fall into the depths of despair. They feel the sadness, they feel the hurt and the pain, because that’s healthy, that’s appropriate. And then they choose to pull out of it. Then they choose to do something about it. And they live happy, loving, connected lives, despite whatever darkness they’ve gone through. And that might be the loss of a loved one that might be losing a job, that might be in financial hard times, and that you can go back to some of the most horrific moments in this world, the Holocaust, for example, and find survivors or people, journals of people who went through those those horrific things, who were still able somehow to hold on to hope and to hold onto happiness and to still find joy in life despite everything that they were going through. So if people in situations like that can still be happy, surely you and I can do the same.

[00:04:30] And that is exciting. That to me is empowering because we are not victims of what happens to us in life. And the reason I bring that up right here on a topic primarily focused on relationships is because resentment often forms between between a relationship. When we feel like we’re a victim, when we feel like somebody isn’t showing up a certain way, that they quote unquote should show up. And we’re therefore upset and we say, you shouldn’t have done that or you should do this or I shouldn’t feel this way or that way. Well, you again, you can’t control what the other person does, but you can control what you do. You can control how you react. Relationships are wonderful. They are the backbone of a long and healthy life. If you listen to last week’s episode, you’ll know that Harvard researchers have found that over 80 years, over 80 years of research, they found that the single greatest determinant of happiness in our lives and our health, believe it or not, physical health is the quality of our relationships. So relationships are powerful. We absolutely want to have them. That’s why you’re listening to this podcast, right? They can add so much happiness to our lives, and yet they are not in existence to provide happiness that we cannot find within ourselves.

[00:05:43] In other words, you don’t have to have certain relationships to be happy. And that’s important to point out here, because if we don’t believe that, if we don’t subscribe to that, then we’re doomed. Oftentimes we feel like we have to hold on with us with a grasp that so tight to any relationship that we want. Be it your boyfriend, your girlfriend, even relationships with your children, with your friends, because you feel like if you lose them, then your happiness goes out the window. That’s a scary spot to be in. And what that does is it breeds manipulation. It breeds this enmeshment, because now you’re feeling like you are controlling whether or not they stay with you. And that’s a dangerous spot to be in. That’s where all the frustration, the resentment, the control, all of that comes out in a relationship. And if you’re in that, if you’re in a relationship like that, you’re always going to feel some level of dissatisfaction or resentment because your partner is never going to meet every one of your needs. If you’re expecting them to make you happy or on the flip side, if you think you can make them happy, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

[00:06:50] In contrast, a relationship in which both individuals own responsibility for their own happiness. That sets the stage for honesty, for thoughtfulness, and for selfless love. Because partners in that relationship, they work on becoming whole complete happy people on their own. And they welcome a relationship as added friendship, added support and love and partnership. They take responsibility for their own needs by communicating them to their partner or addressing them themselves. And this enables them to love unconditionally and without expectation.

[00:07:24] That’s the key here is unconditional love and loving without expectation, or at least as well as we’ll talk in a future episode. If you do have expectations, at least communicating those because again, that’s your responsibility. You can have expectations. You can want your spouse, your partner, your friend to respond in a certain way. But if you expect something, you have to make it clear to them you don’t just get to sit there and hope that they read your mind.

“It Takes a Really Great Man/Woman to Be Better Than None”

Now, I remember talking a number of years back to a close friend of mine, and we were talking about her daughter was going through a difficult divorce and she shared with me some advice that she shared with her daughter. And this is going to sound kind of weird if you have heard this before, but bear with me. She said to her daughter, it takes a really great man to be better than none. It takes a really great man, or I’ll say in the sense it takes a really great woman for me, for example, to be better than none.

[00:08:18] Now, what does she mean by that?

[00:08:20] Well, as we talked, she’s not saying that men are horrible or women are useless or so on and so forth. What she’s saying is don’t settle in your relationships. You know, this this advice to her daughter was don’t just run back out there and is married the next person that you meet because you don’t need a man in your life to be happy now. Absolutely. You want a loving, happy, long lasting marriage. And those are out there. But that’s absolutely something we can all have. We just need to be careful to not buy into this lie. I have to be. I’ll say it this way. I will be happy when I marry someone. I will be happy when I’m in a committed relationship because that is a slippery slope. You don’t you can’t just say, well, OK, now that I’m with another human, life is great. It takes a really great man. It takes a really great woman to be better than none. Meaning you want somebody who loves you unconditionally, you want somebody who understands you, you want somebody who is willing to talk with through the hard times with you, because again, as we talked last week, there are no perfect relationships. You will fight. You will get into disagreements. That’s just part of life. And that’s fine. That is not a sign of a bad relationship. But what you want to be careful of is that you’re not just jumping into something where they’re already red flags just because you want companionship.

[00:09:38] Work on healing yourself first. Take care of your own happiness. Make sure you know who you are. Make sure you know what you want and what’s important to you so that you’re not feeling like you’re sacrificing that just to be in a relationship with somebody else. So, OK. Enough of the principal talk and tough talking about responsibility here.

How Do You Know if You’re Taking Responsibility for Your Own Happiness?

Well, one thing that I point everybody to, whether it’s my my coaching clients and whether it’s or whether it’s it’s a broader presentation to a corporation. Look for the resentment in your life. Look for areas that you’re feeling unhappy. The next time you’re feeling unhappy, resentful, helpless, look to see if you’re blaming someone because nine times out of ten there’s at least some some aspect of that that you’re not taking responsibility for, that does fall on your shoulders.

A Real-World Example

You know, I’ll I’ll share an example from a number of months ago with that with an interaction my wife and I had, so I had gone out on what it was maybe a few weeks. There was something I truly don’t remember what it was at this stage, but there was something or there were a couple little things that were starting to kind of bother me that were weighing on me.

[00:10:52] And I repressed my thoughts. No big deal, whatever, whatever. You know, I’m not really going to worry about it, but the resentment or the concern did start to build and it got to the point where my wife could feel it. Then if you’re in a relationship, if you have siblings or parents, people that you’re close to. I think you probably know what I’m talking about here, where you can tell when something’s off with somebody that you’re close to. And we reached a point there where my wife, you know, we came home from dinner one evening and we sat down and she said, is everything okay? You know, I’m feeling like something’s off here. And of course, in my mind, I knew there was and I was a little embarrassed. And I said, well, you know, I’ve been thinking about it. And and I am feeling kind of frustrated with these certain things that you’re doing or that you’re not doing to control exactly what it was. But I finally had the courage to just lay it out there and say, well, here’s here is what I’m feeling. I actually did have some expectations around this point, at this point, in this point. And and I’m realizing that they’re not being met.

[00:11:52] Then I vividly remember the way she reacted. She just it was a very light level headed.

[00:11:56] She was like, oh, like in other words, really like that’s it.

[00:12:01] Like if you and she had basically said if you had just told me those things. I’m more than happy to change that or to do that or whatever. And I remember feeling kind of embarrassed, frankly, because I you know, that was on me for not just speaking up. And yet we went at least a couple of weeks where I was feeling some form of low level resentment toward her. And it really had nothing to do with her. It had everything to do with certain expectations that I had that I had not shared with her. Certain things that I wanted to do or that I wanted us to do that I hadn’t shared with her. And lo and behold, once I actually shared them, she was more than happy to make the changes or to make the adjustments or whatever it was. Now, I don’t share that, suggesting that you just get to walk around life telling everybody what you want and they’re all just going to to back down and meet your demands. You know, in this instance in my work, my relationship was great. We were both on the same page and everything worked out. Obviously, there are gonna be times when you say, well, here’s what I really want. Here’s what I expect in your partner or your spouse or your friend is going to say, well, that’s great that you expect that, but I’m not okay with that. And that’s an opportunity to at least talk through it and to figure out what you guys are open to, what can work for you. But again, there’s that dialogue. There’s that conversation that you want to have in a healthy relationship. What most of us do is what I did, unfortunately, in the situation is we just hold it in either one hope it’ll change or to expect the other person to read our mind, figure it out and make the change on their own, which when you say it out loud is ridiculous.

[00:13:34] And yet I think most of us go through our lives doing that quite often. So. OK. Next question.

What Do You Do if You’re Not Happy in a Relationship?

[00:13:45] Again, this could be romantic with your partner, your spouse, but this could be with a friend. This could be with your job. You know, this is really what to do if you’re not happy really in anything in life. And the solution is simple, at least in principle. Little bit more difficult in practice.

The solution is to take action. To do something.

[00:14:06] You no longer get to know that. Now that you recognize that, now that you know something’s off, you do not have the luxury to just sit back and wallow in your own pity and say, Oh, man, I really wish life would be this way. I really wish my relationship would be this way. But it’s not. And so my life is horrible. You don’t get to sit there, at least not if you listen to this podcast, because that tells me that you you have the presence of mind enough to know that there’s something you can do to make changes in your life. And so take this as an invitation. Take this as something positive. I’m not I’m not here to just call you out and make you feel horrible. I’m here to share great news that you can take action. You can do something to find greater joy and happiness in your life. So if you’re not happy in a relationship, do something. One of my favorite quotes I haven’t plastered on my wall in my office. Action cures fear. Action Cure’s fear that is the first step to changing something that you’re not happy with in life. So let’s go back to a relationship example here and say, OK, I’m feeling resentful, I’m not happy. First question, what are my expectations? What is it I’m expecting? He or she to do?

[00:15:19] Second question. Have I communicated those expectations?

[00:15:25] Again, I mentioned this earlier. Just because you have expectations doesn’t mean somebody is going to read your mind and understand them. If you have an expectation that you would like met, it’s your responsibility to do it. One of two things. One, you have to become aware of it and you need to be OK with the fact that it might not be fulfilled. And then, too, if that expectation affects or includes somebody else. I strongly recommend you talk to them about it. You you convey that expectation. Again, not in a dictator way. You do not get to go to your wife or to your husband, say, hey, I really want you to clean the dishes every night when I come home. Well, you can say that, but but they do not have to do that again. Partnerships here. Right. They get to say that’s a nice expectation, but I’m not OK with that. And then you guys work and figure out what you are okay with. What does work for both of you? So first question, what are my expectations? Second question, have I communicated those expectations? And then a couple of final questions here. Have I set boundaries? Are there certain areas of my life where it may make maybe my expectation here is that I get to come home and take just a half hour to myself to decompress? But every time I come home, my kids just jump on my lap and they’re screaming and they’re yelling and it’s all fun, you know.

[00:16:41] Or maybe my spouse expects me to do X, Y and Z chores the second I get home. Well, there may be an opportunity to set some boundaries there. Again, working with my spouse and saying, hey, I want to help. I want to. I want to. I want to carry my load here when I come home from work. I would really love to just take 30 minutes to decompress and unwind. Is that something you’re open to? Is that something that we can we get creative here and figure out a way to make that happen? And then you can set that boundary very loving boundaries. We’re gonna have a future episode on boundaries, because this boundaries alone are a game changer when you’re talking about happiness in relationships. But then you can talk with your children. You can talk with your spouse and say, here’s what I want to do. I want to be totally present with you. I want to I want to have fun tonight. Every time when I come home from work, I just need a little bit of time to take care of myself so that I can be there for you. And most people are gonna be OK with that, because at the end of the day, it benefits everybody. You’re happier there. Happier. You get time together, that resentment starts to dissipate because now you’ve taken responsibility for what you know you need.

Relationships in the Workplace

[00:17:44] So that’s an example in a personal already family relationship. Let’s break out of the home for a second here and talk about the workplace. What do you do if you’re not happy at work? What do you do if you’re facing a difficult co-worker or certain situation that is, quote unquote, sapping your happiness? Well, I’ll give an example from years ago, early on, this is when I was still learning all these principles myself, meeting with that therapist. I had a co-worker who. How do I say this? Basic for lack of a better term, really threw me under the bus and it was not based on truth in front of a large group of people. He. He made certain claims that were not accurate and it made me and my team look very bad and I was not okay with it. I was livid in that meeting. It didn’t feel like the time or place to call him back out. It would’ve started a bit. A large argument, but I was livid and I had a hard time letting it go. You know, I left that meeting thinking that is that is not OK. You know, I’ve been working my butt off. My whole team has been working their butts off to do all of this work for this other individual. And there he just throws us under the bus. And I recognized it after a couple of hours here, I was not going to be able to let that go because I didn’t feel like I should let that go.

[00:19:00] That was that was an opportunity for me. To stick up for myself, to assert myself and to say, you know what? That’s not true. That’s not accurate and I’m not OK with that. And so I actually invited this individual back into my office a few days later and I’ll shorten the conversation dramatically. So but I was very direct and I and I and I laid the facts out on the table and I said, you know, that was not accurate. I went back and I looked at everything and and I laid the facts on the table. I said, you know, that was not accurate. I went back. I have I have proof, basically, for lack of a better phrase. And we’ve been working our tails off to do all of this. And right there in that meeting, you just undid everything we’ve done for the past five years, as far as I’m concerned. And, you know, we went back and forth a little bit and he did recognize that he had done so erroneously and that it was malicious. And I said. And he said, I’m sorry. Okay. I you know, I’ll I’ll be better. And I said, I appreciate that. And I want you to go back to your team and tell them that you were wrong.

[00:19:59] I want you to clean this up. And he said all now you’re now you’re threatening me because I said, well, if you don’t do that, then I will. And he said, you’re threatening me now. And I said, no, this is not a threat. This is this is just about truth. This is about preserving our working relationship together. What you said out there really damaged our reputation and it’s not true. And so I expect you to go back and repair it. And if you don’t, then I will. And in that moment, he actually sat back in his chair and he said, OK, you’re right. Now, to this person’s credit, he did go back. He did clean it up. And over the next months and years, he really turned things around in terms of how he was approaching things. And I’m very happy to say sincerely, we have a great working relationship now, whereas the years leading up to that, that moment, we did not I could not say we had a great working relationship and yet legitimately now because I finally took responsibility for that. And I I called him out. I set some boundaries. I was very firm, very direct. You’re also respectful. And because he took it and he took responsibility. Now we have a fantastic relationship. Now, I genuinely enjoy talking with and working with this guy. So again, in my pre therapy days, I definitely would have just started avoiding this co-worker.

[00:21:13] I definitely would not have stood up for myself there because I didn’t have the tools, I didn’t have the skills. And I didn’t know that I had to take responsibility for certain things in that instance there. And yet because I was able to do that. We now have a great relationship. And I’ve got to think I’m not the only person who is in a situation or has been in a situation like that. So, yes, even in situations where somebody in your mind is being totally irrational, being totally irresponsible, what have you. You still have certain elements of responsibility there to take care of your own happiness. So I hope I’ve been able to drive home the point well enough. I’m a big believer in repetition and learning, and yet I never want to get so long winded that you’re like, okay, I’m done listening to you. But this principle is again, the foundation of everything else we’re gonna talk about in future podcast episodes. It’s the foundation of what I talk about in my book and it’s the foundation of my coaching and now the principles that I teach with people one on one and in group settings. This is powerful. I promise you from personal experience that if you take this to heart and if you continually look inward, you will find significantly greater happiness in your life.

The Invitation

[00:22:26] So before we wrap up, I do want to end with an invitation. Think of an area right now to day where you’re feeling resentful or unhappy in a relationship. Then dig a little deeper and see if you can’t figure out why, journal about it. Talk to a friend about it and figure out what responsibility you might have. Look for an opportunity there to take some responsibility. Ask yourself, what actions can I take to take back ownership of my happiness?

[00:22:59] If I’m feeling resentful, if I’m feeling upset, if I’m feeling victim or hard done to. What is it that I can do? Where have I given up responsibility? Because that’s what you’ve done. If you’re feeling that resentment, you’re feeling that victim mindset. That means you’ve given away your power. But again, the good news, you get to take it back. You have the power to take it back in the form of communication, in the form of setting boundaries, in the form of changing who you spend your time with, how you spend their time, so how you spend your time, so on and so forth. A powerful, powerful principle that truly is at the foundation of a long, healthy, happy and connected life that’s going to do it for today’s episode. I hope that you found some insight, some guidance, hopefully had a couple of a ha moments here while you’re listening. If you have, I’d like to ask a favor. And that’s again, like every other podcast out there to subscribe to the podcast, to leave a positive rating, a positive review and or please reach out to me directly. You can contact me through my Web site. Michael S. Sorensen, dot com. You can email me just directly at Michael at I hear you book dot com and give me some feedback. Let me know what more you’d like to hear of. Let me know what you’d like to hear less of. That type of feedback will help me make sure this podcast is as valuable as it can be for you, because the other day that is my goal here to pay forward everything that I’ve learned, everything that has made my life happier, more connected, more fulfilling, and pay that forward, spread the love. So thank you for your time today. Looking forward to chatting more next week.

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