One day, a man sought the advice of a wise sage. “What is the matter?”, asked the sage. “Please help me.” said the man. “I can’t seem to stop looking at beautiful women! Whenever I see a beautiful woman, I can’t help admiring them and it upsets my wife when she ‘catches’ me. How can I stop this behavior so I don’t hurt her feelings?” The sage thought for a moment and replied,
“Do you want to be able to train your eyes in a way that allows you to catch glimpses of beautiful women, without your wife noticing?”
“No, I guess not. That would be absurd”, chuckled the man.
“When you see a a beautiful flower, do you feel bad admiring it in front of your wife?”
“No. Of course not”, said the man.
“Then you know, it can uplift the both of you!” said the sage.“Admire beautiful women freely and joyfully wherever you go. And if you’re wife doesn’t like it, feel good anyway, because that just means she has her own work to do.”
I think most women have encountered some form of jealousy or envy in their lives, with friends or lovers. In situations like this one, it could go two ways. I could tell myself, “I’m not pretty enough. He doesn’t desire me anymore. I’m going to just sit her and sulk until he feels bad enough and stops that behavior. Only then will i feel better.”
Or I could deliberately choose better feeling thoughts. “That woman is beautiful. I can see how he would find her attractive. I find her attractive too. His desire for her does not compromise his desire for me. I’m attractive too. My husband loves variety. It feels good to me seeing my husband light up. It must feel as good to her being admired by my husband, as it does to me, when he admires me. I remember the times he looked at me, the way he’s looking at her” etc.
And that’s what taking relationship responsibility means to me.
Let me illustrate this another way.
I was raised to believe that children must honor and respect their parents. I’ve always had a hard time with “shoulds”. They feel restrictive and to me, they come from a sense of “obligation” rather than inspiration. So, how can you “honor” and “respect” someone when what they are expressing to you is a lack of “self-respect”? After all, if a person knows their true value, they would never feel the need to ask anyone else to justify it for them.
This woman didn’t know her own value, nor did she understand that it wasn’t her husband’s responsibility to make her feel good about herself. In the same way, her husband didn’t understand that sacrificing his own pleasure meant that he was holding himself responsible for his wife’s happiness. But how can a person teach another about happiness, if they themselves aren’t an example of it?
The trouble with many relationships arises when one or both parties try to appease the other, rather then teach them about empowering themselves. This dynamic happens in all kinds of relationships, whether it is intimate, parent-child, employee-boss, friends etc. Somewhere, someone is leaning into someone else for support. But relationships are fickle and when one person decides to step out of the way, we run the risk of tumbling over and then we will be crying out to others to pick us up and kiss our bruises. As children, we learned this. As adults, it’s about time we dusted ourselves off, stood on our own two feet and took responsibility for our own well-being.
And that just means we have to first learn to let go of trying to control another person’s actions, thoughts and emotions. Let go of trying to mold and shape ourselves into the vision of another, if it wasn’t our vision to begin with. Let go of seeking approval from others. Let go of placating others into well-being. Take care of our own well-being, by focusing on thoughts that bring us more joy. But most importantly, we could remind ourselves that every situation, no matter how hopeless can give us the opportunity to find our bliss.
“When you follow your bliss, doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.”- Joseph Campbell