Last month we considered Three Re’s of Successful Couplehood. Success was tied to both responsibility and resistance, two concepts relevant to anyone committed to personal growth and maturity, whether you’re part of a couple or not.
Imagine a relationship that is suffering because your friend drinks too much. Or you weren’t included in the latest girls’ night. Or no matter how hard you’ve tried, your father still won’t be the bigger man. Indeed, none of these scenarios may be your fault, but you still have responsibility.
Response-ability. We all have that—the ability to respond with our best selves. Too often, we choose denial, resignation, and/or passive aggressive reactions to our circumstances. And our subtle contempt—whether for ourselves or others—doesn’t help us get what we are made for: relationship.
Responsibility doesn’t mean fixing or falling on your sword. It means responding.
We can respond in three ways:
1. To ourselves. Take an inventory of your own resentments (hurts) and anxiety (fear) and desire (anger), contempt (shame). Maybe consider what part of your story this event reminds you of.
2. To others. Consider developing the courage to engage the relationship by humbly addressing your side of street.
3. To God. The 12-step communities have a practice of committing to pray for 30 days for those with whom we have a problem/resentment. This makes it an inside job of learning to love your enemy.
It’s very easy to hold a grudge or become a victim. Isn’t it good news that we have the ability to respond?
Look for the places where you exercise responsibility today. In some cases it will be easy and even fun. In some cases it will require risk. In some cases you’ll have to overcome significant resistance. We’ll look at that next.
For now: Respond.
Zach Brittle is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) in Seattle, WA where he lives with his wife and two daughters. He is a Certified Gottman Therapist and author of the Relationship Alphabet. Follow him on Facebook at Zach Brittle, LMHC or on Twitter @kzbrittle.
If you’d like to better develop the skill of being response-able, we’re here to help. Contact a Sage Hill therapist today.