• Ruta Ka

How Do We Trick Ourselves Into Thinking That We Are In A Good Relationship

Updated: Sep 15, 2019

As relationship starts almost all of us are at the high. It feels good, or the feeling of "good" is building up, increasing, emotions become more intense, deeper, our admiration for the person grows. Every day (or week) we discover something that makes us go like "Oh wow, I was anxious about this or that thing, and then, guess what he said?" or " this and that happened and then X* did that… Wow. He's really amazing." We go to our offices with this glow on our cheeks, things don't seem so hard anymore, because now we have X and our life seems a bit more magical and mundane tasks such as stuck printer don't annoy us so much anymore.


Time goes by, things develop and then this happens: we feel tired, we feel unmotivated, we feel stuck, something really irritates us, but we don't really know exactly what is that thing that is causing this. To turn it up a notch, our life starts to feel a bit meaningless, we have this relationship that kind of ticks (almost) all the boxes, but an inner sense of fulfilment is not there anymore (and we start to wonder if we ever really had it in the first place)...


  • What happened?

  • How did we get here?

  • When did it happen?


Everything seemed to be all right. There was nothing in particular that has happened at any point. There was an argument here and there, there was a misunderstanding here and there, but overall there was nothing big enough to make us feel like we cannot continue. But now we are here and it feels like somehow we cannot continue, and yet there is no clear reason why. Also, our relationship seems good, but it doesn't feel good anymore…



OK. Let's look at the possible answers.


#What happened


Most likely what we have experienced is overlay (if you don't know what overlay means, you can watch this video by Teal Swan).

At the beginning of the relationships, one, the other or both parties tried to put a somewhat better foot forward and demonstrate to each other their good qualities. In cases of more manipulative dynamics - one of the partners specifically projected those qualities that we wanted to see and that's how they made us think that indeed they have them and that made them in our eyes a compatible partner for us.


Other times, presenting the qualities that we don't have is a more subconscious process: we want to identify with those characteristics so we act as if we have them*, but because it doesn't come from our depths, it cannot last very long. It is not sustainable. So as time goes by, it is harder and harder to keep on presenting the qualities that we don't actually have.


Also, the partner who was presenting these qualities can feel that he/she is not accepted for who they are (because acceptance and approval from our side was because of this fake quality rather than the real character) and they start to feel resentful, while the other party feels like something has gone wrong because their partner is "not the same as he used to be"…


What happened to us is we have "bought" the character the way we were introduced to it, so now when we don't see those characteristics that we were going for, we (or they) are making excuses why that is: "my work is depressing", "I'm feeling tired", "my cousin is ill" - there's always going to be an excuse since life is not a constant, and there is always something happening, so if we want to find an excuse - we will. And sometimes we help them find excuses because we WANT them to be what they said they were. For example, a guy who we thought acted very caring, now sometimes behave in a really uncaring way. But since we want him to be the caring guy that we met, we might find all sort of reasons why he is now "temporarily" is not being "themselves".


The same goes for us. We may be trying to find excuses to explain why we are not the way we were presenting ourselves at the beginning, but the truth may be, we don't really have those qualities at this point in our lives. For example, at the beginning of the relationship, we presented ourselves as very "chilled out" and "cool". But in reality, we are more stressed out and "everything has gone wrong today" type. {of course this is not to say that it cannot change in the future, but we are talking about what is the state of things right now}


So in reality, the interaction between the couple changes because "the character" changes. And if it doesn't change for the better, real-er version, we will feel like we have lost something.

So basically we have gradually experienced a decline in the quality of our relationship and there is a gap in between how we thought it will be and how it actually is. Which would not be a problem by itself, but the problem is that the way we are currently feeling in the relationship is way worse than we expected to feel and overall we feel worse than we did before we had this relationship.


Conclusion: let's be even more real next time, from day 1!


#How did we get here


Have you heard about the "boiling frog effect" (not sure if it is an actual term or I just made it up)? There is this theory, which is also a real thing, that if you put a frog in water and you will start to heat it gradually, even after temperature will reach the point which would be unbearable to the frog, the frog is not going to jump out and it will eventually die.


Why?


When things happen gradually, it is hard to see the limit where it is too much as we are already used to our current situation, and if something happens a little bit "more"- we can handle it.

It is the same reason when someone who is losing weight cannot see that they lost weight unless they measure it somehow. They see themselves in the mirror every day (and there was no day where day lost 10 kilos overnight) so the difference is barely noticeable on the day to day basis: we lose grams per day, not kilos. And few grams here and there don't show much visible difference between today and yesterday.


The same goes for our relationships. They probably did not become very bad overnight, it was probably happening in "grams". There was this little thing that we didn't really like that much, but we kind of accepted, then there was this another little thing that was there, but it was not big enough in comparison to our "grand vision" of our partner, so we have probably accepted that too, and now we feel like we have a pile of all of those sticky things that we really don't like, however, none of them on its own is big enough to say that relationship is not working.


After all, we WANT it to work.

After all, we WANT that grand vision to be true.


And what makes it even worse sometimes is that after we put "so much work" in this relationship, we really don't want it all to go down the drain. It is a bit like graduating in with law degree and realising that you HATE the justice system…

Not to continue with that takes loads of guts as it also requires admitting that you have invested all this time and effort in something that you don't really want, aka made a mistake.*** So basically we are boiled.


Conclusion: let's not lie to ourselves next time! Let's address it from the very first time and then the second and so on. Little things - they pile up to mountains!


#When did it happen


The actual timing is hard to pinpoint. I would say that it actually happened at the very beginning. Also, the first time we saw/sensed inconsistency and we justified it - we got the ball rolling in the wrong direction. Or we could say in a messy direction.

Emotionally speaking, the first time that we have lied to ourselves is when we started self-deception in the relationship.


Regardless if our partner was truthful to us or not, the first time we FELT that something is wrong and didn't really look into it, we have agreed to have this dissonance (feeling that something is wrong but mentally justifying it and going with it anyway).

Sometimes this point is hard to tell if we are de-sensitized from our emotions.

Most likely, however, we do know that point when we first felt that something was wrong. I think the trap here has also to do with our self-image. Rarely any person wants to be classified as "dramatic" or "over-sensitive" or "overreacting". Because even though there is nothing wrong with those qualities, generally they are seen as "bad" and "negative", and who want to associate themselves with "bad" or "negative"? I would say nobody. So it could be that even though we felt it, we didn't call it out in the way it should have really been called out and therefore we were stuck with it. And it all built up from that point onward with every time we did this to ourselves.


The important thing to realise here is that it DID happen. We did close our eyes or our minds to the messages we were receiving and we have continued to pretend that everything is OK. This is not to shame you. And this is not to shame me. It is just to say that we do lie to ourselves sometimes because we want things to be good or better than they are.


Conclusion: let's listen better to ourselves next time! No matter how quiet it is! If there is a voice in us - it has something to tell us!


How to do things differently next time?


#Checking-in: Is The Water Still There?


When we buy a new plant, it usually looks good, it comes with the pot, the soil and it has a little picture of how the plant will look like in the future.


So when we get in relationships things are also like that: we have something, that we are planning to grow, and we also have a picture of how we want it to look like. So as time goes, we sometimes forget the maintenance. We do forget to put water on it, and we also forget to see if the plant is growing into something that we like.


Imagine that we bought a rose, but as time goes by, we start to see that it kind of looks a bit like a cactus… Are we still happy to keep it? Do we still like it? Can it serve the same function that we have intended originally?

Of course, relationship does change as time goes by. Sometimes, what it turns out to be is much better than what we have expected. But sometimes it might not be, in a bad way…


So I believe that check-ins are really important. Regular check-ins. I know it might sound a bit of business-like, but I think it is effective and could really prevent us from going somewhere where we really don't want to go. So I think it is really healthy to stop every 3 or 6 months or so (or whatever it feels right for you) and check in the following:


  • Does this relationship feel good to me?

  • Is it better or worse than I thought it will be?

  • Do I feel like it positively changes me?

  • Do I feel that our partnership is deepening?

  • Do I feel that it is in line with where I want to go in my life?

  • Does it make me feel more expanded or restricted as a person?

  • Did I communicate all my frustrations and wants, or something is pending? If yes, what is it?

  • Where there any changes in where I want this relationship to go?

These are some example questions that we can use on our own, or with our partner. The important thing is to continue sharing the same reality and not to slip into individual "bubbles" in the relationship so that both partners know where they are - it is only fair. Also, being real and honest about how it feels, so if there is something that needs to be addressed or changed - it can be done before it is too late.


#Self-Distrust To Be Replaced with Self-Trust


Who knows what is best for us? Our mum? Our best friend? I'm afraid not. They may WANT the best for us, but what they want is very often THEIR BEST for us. They are not us. They like us, and they may be very close to us, but they are NOT us. I mean do you even know YOURSELF in and out? I don't. I haven't met many people who claim they do. Which means the other people definitely don't know us better than we know ourselves. Therefore us, who live with our thoughts and feelings 24/7 from the day we were born are surely more qualified to know what is best for us.


OK. We may look at our life and notice "mistakes" that we have made and we may wish we didn't. So then we might look at other people, especially those in our environment who claim that they know better and start trusting their decisions more than ours. Or we may already be conditioned from our childhood to do things in the "right" way. What is the right way? What they usually mean by that is some kind of way which is approved by society or our group (peers, family, town, community, etc.).

So we sometimes get in relationships, and while in it, instead of trusting what we FEEL is right for us we do what others say is SUPPOSED to be good for us. That includes our partner.


So if there is something in our relationship that bothers us, we should TRUST that bother. We should trust that our senses, unique to ourselves are telling us that there is something not right and go with that. Do not fall into the trap of mental reasoning and "logicing sh*t out of it". If something FEELS WRONG, it IS WRONG. Period.

Also, vice versa is true. If somebody is telling us that something is or looks wrong, according to their view, but if we, being totally honest with ourselves can tell that that thing FEELS RIGHT for us, IT IS INDEED RIGHT for us. Also period.


So trusting yourself, I think, is paramount. And not only trusting to get into relationships and make no mistakes and successfully live happily ever after… But ALSO, to trust yourself to get in relationships, for whatever your reasons are, stay in relationship, for whatever your reasons are and communicate what your needs are in the relationship. If anything is missing, express your boundaries - if anything makes you feel uncomfortable, learn in a relationship whatever you want and need to learn, change the relationship - if it needs to be and finally trust that you can get out of the relationship, that you no longer want to be in.


Let other people help you if that feels good, but ultimately - TRUST YOURSELF the most. Those who try to mess with your sense of reality and your self-trust - have no place in yours.


#Over-responsibility To Be Replaced with Co-Responsibility


If we want to have a balanced relationship (in terms of power and equal partnership) we must not take responsibility which is not ours.


It is good to be responsible for our actions, and it is good to take our partner as part of our-selves, but it is not good to take it ALL onto ourselves. It is not good to have the amount of responsibility that feels burdensome. How to tell? When it starts feeling that we do all the work (emotional work), i.e. seeing our imperfections, taking responsibility how we feel in the relationship, regardless what our partner does, when we are the ones being understanding, and most tricky one is when we keep on forgiving, glazing over things because we are "good". When we do these things we basically volunteering to be emotionally abused. Abuse might sound like a bit of a strong word here, but that is what happens.


Carrying all the responsibility for the relationship to go well is abusive.

Even taking about let's say 80% or 70% of responsibility is abusive.


Why?


If there are 2 people in a relationship, both are 50/50. My 50% of the relationship is my 100% responsibility, but the other 50% of the relationship is a 100% responsibility of my partner.

Does that sound right?


Oh, and it must not only be words like "of course I support you", or "we are in this together" and the sorts. It must FEEL that our partner TAKES their part of the responsibility. If it doesn't feel that way, that means it is not there.


# # # #


So those were my latest insights after my last relationship. I hope I have learned some things and I hope I helped you to learn some things too.


In business, we do monthly accounting, and we get monthly bills where we check our expenditure and usage so that we get a clear picture of our consumption, we also go for regular dental checks and eye tests, does our relationship deserve any less of regular care?


To summarise my point here is when we entered the relationship and it was all rosy at first, let's not assume that it is going to stay that way or that it is worth keeping just because it was so good at the beginning. Let's be brave and look at it: after all, we want the real thing.


After all, we don't want to end up with the cactus just because the label said: "rose"…



Love,

Ruta


*X is the person in question. Insert any name you want. Could be male or female - whoever fits the template.


**This seems to contradict motivational technique which is often called "Act As IF" or "Fake It Till You Make It" but I don't believe that in this case, that's it. Those techniques are designed to change our beliefs about our capacity and increase our confidence and possibly create new habits. In trying to get a good impression in a relationship, it creates a "shield", which works kind of like face paint, so the other person is coming in a relationship not with the real you, but with the image that is being presented.


***I don't really think that anything that we do is ever a mistake, because it is likely that there were some learnings and growth from it, however, let's just face it: at the point of realisation, it feels like a mistake.

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