If you’re a human who has interacted with other humans, chances are very likely that you’ve experienced relationship challenges at some point in your life. Whether it’s between a parent and child or among spouses, siblings, friends, etc. At times all relationships encounter difficulties.
In recent months, a few people have consulted me about the nature of their relationship struggles with another person. I’m certainly no expert but I read a lot and can offer safe space with contemplative candor, plus a small pocket of life experience for what it’s worth it. Though the circumstances of each situation were different, they held a common theme that went something like this: The individuals in the relationship had done a fair amount of work to improve communication and interactions with the other, yet there was something more needing attention — an external issue larger than what they could manage between them, and it was limiting their growth tremendously.
This led me to the notion of differentiating what I call “We Work” from the outside pieces in the relationship equation. In every relationship there is We Work to be done. We Work is part you, part me. It is the individual evolutionary adjustments each person makes in order to become their best selves and thus benefit the interplay and development of the relationship.
But then there are extraneous areas of an individual’s life that are not We Work, though they unquestionably deeply affect the relationship. These are the big elephants in the room, such as addiction, infidelity, abuse, and treatable mental illness, to name a few. They are the matters I call “Mine Alone” for which the one who has the problem has to take sole responsibility to heal it. The culpability is not on the We. These Mine Alone pieces fall squarely on the shoulders of the person with the issue, leaving no justification to alleviate their burden of repair. There is no “he made me do it,” or “yeah, but look what she’s done.” No amount of We Work can fix the Mine Alone parts. The individual needs to step up and own it, seeking support from professional resources with the conviction to make some wholesale changes. And if that individual does the Mine Alone work before it’s too late then they may get the grace to preserve or return to the We, moving forward together.
In our relationships we can do all the We Work we want but if we don’t address the the Mine Alone issues, then our potential is thwarted and all can be lost. So when looking at relationships one holds dear, make an honest assessment as to what part of the process is the give and take of We Work and what may be Mine Alone to tend to and restore.
May you be inspired!