It only takes one to make a marriage,
but two to make a divorce.
© Al Turtle 2004
After many years of working with couples, I have come to this conclusion. It takes two people to start a Marriage, or an intimate partnership. It takes both to decide to divorce and carry the splitting through to its end. But it takes only one of them to lead the way into a great relationship. The idea is that either one of you can stop a divorce from happening.
This idea has, over the years, proved to be my most upsetting contribution to couples work. More people have written me about how angry the thought makes them. Great! Get angry, but please engage this idea, and its truth.
So many people who are divorcing, point their fingers at their partner, placing blame and responsibility as far away from themselves as they can. And I certainly don’t want to blame the “blamers”. The pain and distress of a Power Strugge is awful. No one likes it. Getting away from that pain and that distress are very important. I am completely with you all on that.
But how much of the pain and distress is a result of what you are doing? That’s a pretty good question. And here’s what I have found is the awful answer! 100%. I don't mean that you are responsible for all of the the trouble and that your partner is not responsible at all. I mean each of you is 50% responsible for the mess and 100% responsible for your part. That’s my belief. Sounds crazy? I don’t think it is. But it has taken me years to see it. I was kind of slow.
While both people contribute to the distress, who is resolving it? If one of you really (and I really mean REALLY) starts doing the work, to become a really cool, responsible partner, the other will have to follow suit – in time. But as long as both of you are waiting for the other to start changing into a really cool, responsible partner, nothing will happen. No wonder people feel so frustrated.
The usual problem, I see, is that neither of you know what to do that works. I like to think that to have a great relationship takes 10 skills and requires that you solve 10 problems. That’s it. Now, when you start off, both of you have, say, three of the needed skills – three out of ten. And you have tools to solve 3 of the problems. You use those three skills and you solve those three problems. Now you are left without 7 skills that are needed and this lack begins to drive you crazy. And now you are left trying to solve 7 problems for which you have tools that don’t work. You do what you think will work, and it doesn’t, over and over and over. Aaaarrrggghhh!
Here’s the deal. The traits of a really cool, responsible partner are measurable, learnable, trainable, specific. That’s my belief. You don’t have to wait for your partner. Learn new skills. Change yourself. As your partner sees the change, they will be forced to change also. That doesn’t mean you will force them. It seems to me more like the principles of passive disobedience that Gandhi taught. If you become a really cool, responsible partner, who the hell wants to divorce you? Get it!
If you change, they have no reason left for them not to change except one – perhaps they are stuck. So give em a really, cool responsible partner’s kick in the ass.
But most people are not so much stuck as they are just not seeing a reason to change or a way to change. If you start, lead the way, show the way, and get out of the way, I believe they will follow. I say, “Divorce the relationship, not your partner!”
I can hear you saying, “Yeah, yeah. BS!” And thats ok with me that you don’t like this idea. I’ve just learned differently.
Who does not want a great relationship with a cool, responsible partner? If you are struggling with your partner, part of the problem is your partner may look to you like a pain in the butt. Why should you please them? Why should you stay with them? I know this point of view. However, you probably look like a pain in the butt to them, too. Why should they stay with you? Think on that!
But if you turned yourself, trained yourself, into becoming a cool, responsible partner, now what? All bets are off. And you have nothing to lose.
So get to work and get a kick out of it when you see them changing too.