Many people share with us that they are seeking the “cure” to their relationship woes. They’re looking for something they could do, change, fix, adjust, add or remove that will take away their loneliness and bring love to their lives.
This investigative thinking is definitely part of the cure. The challenge, of course, is the reality that none of this happens instantly.
What if there really is ONE major cause of relationship problems, one issue that if you address, would change everything? The good news and the bad news is… there is!
The good news is that it makes it easier to understand why you might be having problems in your relationship.
The bad news is that resolving the issue takes a deep personal commitment to heal. Change takes time. So while we can tell you the biggest cause of relationship problems, fixing them is far less simple.
The biggest cause of relationship problems is self-abandonment.
This is when we abandon our own needs, values, commitments and truth in order to serve some other need that is mistakenly elevated in importance.
Let’s take a look at what self-abandonment is and why it causes almost all the problems in relationships.
There are many areas in which we can abandon ourselves: emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, relational, and organizational. One or more of these areas may be affecting your relationship:
1. Emotional Self-Abandonment
We abandon ourselves emotionally in four major ways:
– We judge ourselves rather than accept ourselves.
– We ignore our feelings by staying up in our head rather than being present in our body, especially our painful feelings of loneliness, heartache, heartbreak, and grief.
– We turn to various addictions to numb the anxiety, depression, guilt, shame and anger that we cause when we judge ourselves and ignore our feelings.
– We make others responsible for our feelings.
Once we emotionally abandon ourselves and make others responsible for our feelings, then we need to try to control them to get them to love us and make us feel worthy. Trying to control another with anger, blame, criticism, compliance, or withdrawal creates many problems in relationships.
2. Financial Self-Abandonment
When we refuse to take care of ourselves financially, and instead, expect our partner to take financial responsibility for us, it creates problems.
This is not a problem if your partner agrees to take financial responsibility for you and you fully accept how he or she takes this responsibility, but if you choose to be financially irresponsible, much conflict can occur over your self-abandonment.
3. Organizational Self-Abandonment
If you refuse to take responsibility for your own time and space, you create power struggles with your partner and are left feeling victimized by your inability to create a sane personal environment and schedule.
This is especially true if your partner values an orderly home or being on time.
4. Physical Self-Abandonment
If you refuse to take care of yourself physically, and instead, eating badly and not exercising and possibly causing yourself health problems, your partner may feel resentful at having to take care of you.
Your physical self-abandonment not only has negative consequences for you regarding your health and well-being, but it also has unwanted consequences for your partner, which can lead to much conflict and power struggles.
5. Relational Self-Abandonment
If you refuse to speak up for yourself in your relationship, and instead, either giving yourself up or resisting, you are eroding the love in the relationship.
When you abandon yourself to another through compliance or resistance, you create a lack of trust that leads to conflict and resentment.
6. Spiritual Self-Abandonment
When you make your partner your dependable source of love rather than learning to turn to a spiritual source for your dependable source of love, you place a very unfair burden on your partner.
When your intent in the relationship is to get love rather than to share love, then you will pull on your partner for attention, approval, time, or sex.
When you do not take responsibility for learning how to connect with a spiritual source of sustenance, your neediness can create much conflict in the relationship.
Dr. Margaret Paul is a relationship expert, noted public speaker, and educator. Join her for her 30-Day at-home Relationships Course: “Loving Relationships: A 30-Day at-Home Experience with Dr. Margaret Paul — For people who are partnered and people who want to be partnered.”