Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Key Value for a Rich and Vibrant Relationship – Personal Responsibility

by Russ Hardesty, PhD

Do you live with the belief that if you love enough or your partner loves enough you will be happy? This sentiment is expressed in many of songs of the day like Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion

For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I'll be forever thankful baby
You're the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You're the one who saw me through it all


These lyrics suggest that it is only because of someone else that truth, joy, rightness, dreams and love exist. This belief is the substance of fairy tales, novels and movies. However it is also the formula for empty and failed relationships. A rich and vibrant relationship is built by two partners choosing to take responsibility for their personal happiness. There is an agreement, spoken or unspoken, for what each partner is responsible.

Responsibility for one’s inner life cannot be given to another
In the song, “Because You Loved Me” the responsibility for joy, dreams, peace and love were placed on the lover. That’s a heavy and impossible burden. When one assumes that their partner is responsible for their happiness, relationship success becomes dependent on one partner’s strength and the other’s weaknesses. Equal partnership is not a possibility since it requires that each take responsibility for their inner life.

Often partners engage in a series of self-defeating games
such as “If it weren’t for you….” Or “If you hadn’t…” which are symptoms of a partner not being responsible for their own inner life. These games have elements of blame, faulting and discounting. Evidence of a man or woman being responsible for their inner life is an understanding and being accountable for their response to their partner’s actions or behaviors. The feelings associated with those actions that are displeasing are completely under your control. Likewise, your partner’s feelings toward you are under their control. This level of personal responsibility makes for freedom from guilt and blame. Because of this freedom a rich and vibrant relationship is possible.

When unhappiness occurs in a relationship, it is important to seek out the core beliefs that create this unhappiness. Your unhappiness, just as your joy is your responsibility.

Action Steps:

1) Identify those experiences in your relationship in which you felt (or thought) unhappy or disappointed. Write them down.
2) Reflect on each experience and with intellectual and spiritual honesty determine your part in each situation.
3) What thoughts and actions can you change?
4) Describe how each change can impact your relationship. (Actionable steps)

1 comment:

  1. Yep - I was taught to give and make other people happy. I believed the other person "should" make me happy too! Thanks for this blog. I'm getting more and more individually independent, searching my own soul for happiness, fun and giving from that happiness and fun for nothing in return. The disappointments are fewer, fault finding and the "stewing" over circumstances are less!! Thanks Russ.
    Pam Fitz

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Reader Comments

"...My spouse and I have been married for 32 years and I've experienced our relationship from giggly in bed, to passionate in bed, to mad in bed to "sleeping" in bed...As we grow older the intimacy definition changes for me. Intimacy also for me is just sitting quietly, or driving for miles quietly or walking just hearing our footsteps crunch the leaves, holding hands. My usual struggle in intimacy is in my head - I have to intentionally stop my daily to do list, my past and future stuff and live in the present moment..." Pam

it's ... smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion

“We have found that passion ebbs and flows but we set a goal for our relationship a number of years ago that is working for us. At least every six months we do something that will create a lifetime memory. For us, we love to travel, so it's been pretty easy to find something big to do that will create that lifetime memory, but sometimes it's the finding of smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion.” Steve Rae


What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?


“The "typical beliefs that people have when the “fire” seems to have gone out of a relationship" I believe are a) that you feel your partner should have changed or should not have changed and b) that you feel you should change or that you should not have changed.

Acceptance of yourself and your partner leads to forgiveness. What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?” Brian Massey



A word from Russ Hardesty

The realm of relationship is mysterious; filled with magic, surprise, excitement, passion, intimacy, loss, disappointment and creativity. I am fortunate to have a life partner who is at once a mirror, teacher, lover, nurturer, student and companion. In this place of mystery, I continue to grow into a mature, loving and free man. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and comments – which is a gift to me! Thanks for joining the expedition! Russ