Relationship problems are like songs we don’t like. When we have conflict or problems in our relationships, we change something we’re doing. It’s just like we change the songs we listen to, when we are tired of hearing them or don’t like them anymore.
The disturbing thing is, when you keep trying to change the songs of your relationship problems, you really prolong them. Why?
Consider Christi’s Experience
Christi* came home from dinner with Stan feeling angry and frustrated. One more time they had argued; this time it was about Stan’s drinking. Other times it was about how much time he spends watching sports, or how little time he actually spends WITH her, when they go out. One more time Christi felt like she was in this relationship alone, that she had to do all the giving. One more time she felt invisible and taken for granted.
As she thought about it, Christi realized she had lived most of her adult life this way. First there was Bob, whom she had married in her mid-twenties. They were both just out of college when they married, and Christi thought the long hours Bob spent at his office at the start his career would eventually end, and they could focus on building their family together. They had three children in ten years, and Bob nearly missed the births of the last two. Christi became a very accomplished organizer and juggler, managing their home, taking care of the kids and getting them to their activities. She kept smiling and kept going, thinking things would change soon.
Meanwhile, Bob was advancing in his career, which required evening meetings with clients and community leaders. Christi attended these events sometimes; but then she stopped because she usually ended up by herself, while Bob was meeting and greeting, and furthering his career connections. All the time she kept telling herself she was doing this to support Bob. She became so good at being a virtual single mother, she became invisible; to Bob and the kids too, in a way. That is, until the day she and the kids went on vacation, without Bob, because he had a big conference to attend, and couldn’t spare the time. The last thing she did as she was putting the bags in the car, was to leave Bob a note on his desk, telling him that she and the kids were not coming back.
When Bob discovered her note the next morning, he was dumbfounded. He had no idea she was so unhappy. Neither did the kids for that matter. She had kept herself so busy with running the house, and keeping her children going, she hardly knew it herself; that is, until the day she broke down and cried for hours, and realized she couldn’t do it anymore. She planned the trip, called her mother, and left.
After her divorce, Christi vowed she would never get involved with someone else like Bob. In fact, she didn’t date for two years; instead she got herself and her children settled in their new home, went back to school to update her nursing degree, and began a new job. She enjoyed her position in an out-patient surgery center, which gave her time during evenings and weekends to be with her children. The kids had finally begun to do better; it had taken time and therapy for them all, but Christi believed everyone was finally on the right track. She thought she was ready to begin dating again.
Christi was cautious when she met Stan; but his personality and interests, and especially his chosen career was so different than Bob’s, she decided to go ahead and take the chance, and they began dating. Their relationship was fun at first; Stan was so different than Bob, that it was refreshing to be with him.
After a while, Christi began to feel wooden and flat inside. She did not notice when Stan first started to ignore her, or take her for granted, or when she started to feel invisible again. This time, when she did notice it, she began saying things. She began to express her feelings of being invisible, and her frustration. After all, that is what her therapist had taught her to do, and so she began to speak up with Stan. That is when the arguments started.
Christi and Stan argued about what they did together, and what Stan did or didn’t do with Christi. They argued about her feelings and needs, and his right to his own interests and time. It happened over and over. Nothing really changed between them; in fact the arguments got worse. And Christi felt more and more alone, ignored and taken for granted.
The night Christi came home after the dinner when she and Stan argued about his drinking, and she saw how she had spent so much of her adult like feeling the way she did, she felt stunned.
How could this have happened, when she vowed she would not be in that place again? She had taken time to get herself in a good place before she started dating again. And Stan was nothing like Bob! And she had not been quiet this time about her feelings and needs! Why did this place feel strangely familiar and comfortable? How did she end up feeling ignored, taken for granted and invisible, AGAIN?
What just happened for Christi?
Christi began to discover her Relationship Roller Coaster. That was the day her relationships and her world began to change.
What is The Relationship Roller Coaster?
Christi began to discover her particular patterns of relationship struggle ~ what I term the Relationship Roller Coaster. The Relationship Roller Coaster is not what you probably think. Most people think relationship problems are like those songs I mentioned earlier ~ songs that we play over and over again. Often we think that to solve our relationship problems, all we have to do is change the songs we play.
So to change their songs, many women change partners, and they think that will solve their relationship problems. If we are beginning to awaken, or have been to a conventional therapist, or read conventional self-help books, we figure out that maybe we have something to do with our relationship problems, and so we try to change something about ourselves.
This is good. This is a step forward, in fact.
This step in the right direction usually looks like trying to change something that we do in our relationships, just as Christi changed from keeping quiet about her feelings and needs, to speaking up about them. This may work to a certain degree, for a while, but not permanently, because only changing what we do doesn’t really result in significant lasting change. So we try something else. Maybe also with some conventional help, we decide to try changing how we are thinking about ourselves or our partner in our relationship. Well this may change things a little more, for a while, but changing your thoughts, even in conjunction with changing your actions, is still just changing the songs.
What About the Idea of Changing Your Feelings?
It is a radical idea you know, because most women believe their feelings come from out of the blue, and they have little if any influence over them. Yes, we struggle to change our feelings, too; in fact this three-step combo is the common conventional approach to relationship change. This also is a step in the right direction; yet it is also still just changing the songs we play. It is not enough.
Changing the Songs is Like Chasing Symptoms
We prolong our relationship problems by only trying to change the songs Why? Because you are only changing things on the surface of your relationship, and not changing the underlying reasons for your problems. Changing the songs doesn’t go deep enough; it doesn’t result in significant lasting change in the inner substance of your relationship itself.
Change in the substance of your relationship itself is real, lasting change. That was the kind of change Christi yearned for. That was why she went on vacation and never came back. She wanted a substantively, qualitatively different relationship in the deep substance than what she had at the time with Bob.
Christi wanted her relationship with Bob to be transformed.
Change in the outward levels of actions, thoughts and feelings of a relationship is better compared to a musical theme with variations, not simply songs. Variations on a musical theme can initially sound very different, just like Stan and Christi’s relationship at first seemed very different to her, than the relationship she had with Bob. When you look and listen more closely, though, just like with a musical theme and variations, you can begin to see and hear the patterns. You begin to see and hear the theme itself. This theme underlies the variations; it is the deep structure of the music. If you are a musician, you can hear and even write down, the underlying musical structure of the theme in all the variations.
The problems may be the songs, but the Relationship Roller Coaster is the theme. Just as with Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini, you can go round and round and round through different variations, and still be playing the same theme. You can go round and round through endless variations of relationship problems, and still be on the same Relationship Roller Coaster. That was what Christ was experiencing, until she began to see the underlying theme.
To transform your relationship, which means to change the deep substantive, quality of your relationship, you have to change the theme, not just the songs. You have to stop repeating the same patterns or theme, over and over again, in endless variations. You have to get off the Relationship Roller Coaster.
What About You?
Are you on a Relationship Roller Coaster? The good news and the bad news is that we all have themes in our relationships. These themes don’t just show up out of the blue, (just like feelings don’t show up out of the blue, but that is for another post), they come from somewhere.
Consider that if you have repeated experiences of pain in your relationship(s) then you are on a Relationship Roller Coaster. This is different than having occasional off days or days when you just are not communicating well. Your relationship themes have put you on a Relationship Roller Coaster, when you have the repeated experience of pain and struggle in your relationships.
It is as straight-forward as that. The problem is that many women just go on from day to day, doing the same things and repeating the same songs, without considering the impact and results in their relationships. Even when a woman begins to tune in to the pain, because it becomes too painful to keep tuning out, and looking around, decides to start changing her thoughts, actions or feelings, she continues going around the same vicious circle, on the same Relationship Roller Coaster.
Why? Because she is only tuning into the songs; she hasn’t yet begun to tune in to, and then to CHANGE, the relationship THEMES themselves.
That is what happened for Christi that day. She had a glimpse, the first of many in fact, into her relationship themes.
That experience was a defining moment, a life and relationship-changing moment, for Christi. She made a new choice ~ she chose to discover more about the themes she had just begun to get in touch with. She also chose to do something new about what she was discovering. Christ chose to get help; that was the day she contacted me. As she and I worked together through her Happily Ever After! program, she found more themes, and she uncovered where they came from. Most importantly, she healed them, and chose to change her relationship themes.
Today, Christi is no longer dating Stan. She is happily dating Grant. She feels included, and respected and valued in their relationship. In fact, she feels more honored and loved and treated like a queen than ever before in her life.
So Can You
Stop trying to only change the songs of your relationship problems, and choose instead to discover the themes of your Relationship Roller Coaster. Choose to uncover where they came from, to heal their source, and then to intentionally create a new deep substance in the foundation in your relationships and choose new themes. You will then be freed from the Relationship Roller Coaster, and on your way to the deep love and fulfillment in your relationship that makes your woman's heart sing with joy. Reach out to me today to discover how with my help, Happily Ever After can empower you to do just that.