If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 6+ years of marriage, it’s this.
Most issues in a relationship are better solved by looking within than by looking without.
Yet, something inside of us always wants to go against that better judgement and fix the external. It’s someone else’s job to change, or it’s someone else’s issues to fix, or it’s someone else’s viewpoint that’s wrong. What is it that constantly derails us from ever looking within when we know we should be? It’s simpler than we might think.
When issues arise in a relationship – whether that’s a significant other, a family member, a friend, or a colleague – rarely do the parties involved stick to the facts in trying to come to a resolution. Almost instantly, the ego jumps in to protect itself and any actual details of the argument become a moot point. A conversation about X, very quickly moves to a conversation about Y, with Y being a superficial mask for finding an answer to X.
I have struggled with this my entire life. Conversations are whittled down to who wins, which is oftentimes very different from who’s right. The internal protection of the ego, most of which happens subconsciously (or more appropriately – so mechanically as to not even notice), takes priority over the relationship at hand.
It is our mindset’s version of fight or flight, yet nowhere in the scenario is survival ever at risk. A confused and inappropriately applied reaction to scenarios that don’t dictate the need for this fight or flight protection.
The counter to this, which is and will always be a work in progress for me, is simply the awareness of its presence. The ego thrives when hidden, but diminishes when brought into the light. When we can confront ourselves with the reality of our ego taking precedence over the other person in the relationship, logic allows us to melt that ego away.
To get to that point, there has to be a conscious moment of pause. A moment where instead of reacting, we go inside and ask ourselves “Am I seeking to win or am I seeking the truth?” Or better yet “Am I seeking to win or am I seeking to get back to harmony in this relationship?” Because oftentimes, who’s right doesn’t even matter. It’s moving past the disagreement, by removing the ego and the need to be right, that gets us to that harmony again.
Like so many one-liner lessons we learned as kids that wind up being painfully valid as we get older, the wisdom “think before you speak” is an apt summation of letting logic, truth, and ultimately love win.
Though tough to do in practice, like a muscle it strengthens with use. The more I look within in any type of relationship, the easier that introspection becomes. And without that introspection, the ego wins every time.