Improving on Yourself is the Key to More Satisfying Relationships

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

"What do you think I should do about problem X?" In a social conversation that turned into an extempore consultation, a lady with whom I was talking asked me if I had some advice for her about her never-ending relationship problems and conflicts. She said people have hurt her all her life; she has been lied to, betrayed, and countless times, been stabbed in back by everybody she has ever trusted and loved. 

In a situation such as this, professionals are supposed to respond by saying something to the effect, `This is not a matter you and I can appropriately address in a social conversation." Instead, I gave into my Samaritan spirit and asked her, "What do you think is the cause of it?" She said she just was UNLUCKY. She had parents who nagged her constantly and had nothing positive to say about her. As parents always criticized her, she moved out the first opportunity she got. All the men she met were no good. They took her money, used her, abused her, and then went on for someone else. 

There are men and women who truly believe that all of their life, they have been wronged, cheated, and unfairly treated by every one around them. Do they think that the Greek Goddess of Tragedies selects a particular individual and then chases that person systematically for their entire life'? "All men (and women) are created equal, " therefore, an individual can't be so singularly and totally unlucky that everyone around them turns out to be plain mean and heartless. There are some nice people too, and now and then we all stumble into them. Ask ten people and at least nine will tell you that they are nice to other people.

Everything has two sides. The lady told me her side of the story, but what is the other side of the story? If all the people who are or were part of her life were asked who did what and who is to blame, fingers would be pointed in both directions, wouldn't they? 

I asked the lady, "You pointed out many problems that your family and friends have, but what is the problem that you see in yourself that may have caused some of these conflicts in your relationships? I soon discovered that she expected advice rather than a question. Taking a moment to recover she replied, "My problem is that I am too nice. " 

Nothing is more flattering than self-criticism "I am too nice," is a problem? How is that possible that a person who is too nice to everybody, and everybody (without an exception) being mean and ungrateful to him or her? I said, "I wished I had your problem. Give it to me. I have been working hard for years to be too nice to people and I still fall very short of the target." 

We laughed heartily and with laughter as her facial muscles moved, she suddenly got in touch  with her headache. She, frequently suffered these headaches. Looking for an aspirin, she said "Because of these headaches, I go off on people." In her mind, she was totally justified for going off on people. After all, she always has been too nice to everybody and everybody in turn acts totally inconsiderate and selfish. Furthermore, they don't give her a break even when she has these splitting headaches.  

Plato once said, "An unexamined life is not worth living. " The real tragedy is when we are caught in the rut with our blindfolds on. Without self-examination, we wouldn't know what is hurting us. We wouldn't really know what we are up against. What we may think is the problem, may only be half the problem. Granted, some people have to face more than their fare share of "mean" and "unkind, " people. All we have at our disposal to work with, is our own self. If we modify our own expectations and the intensity of our reactions, and then examine why we always choose a wrong person every time, maybe, we can stop the pain from multiplying. 

People are not going to change for our sake. They will change for their sake and on their own accord. Why? because, in order to change, the person has to want to change. You can make the other person do something by force, but you can't change them. When we don't accept this as a fact, we get madder and sadder and our pain keeps on multiplying. So, don't wait for others to change. Go to work right away. Possibly, when others around you see you working, they might begin to pull in their weight too.

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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