One of the hardest things, and one of the questions that I get asked quite often is, “Could it have been different?”  So many people come to me wanting to know if their lives would have been different if they had not married this one person, if they had acted a different way in their marriage, why their relationships don’t work out, why they had bad relationships, etc, etc.  And uniformly the take the position that they did something wrong.  They may not like the other person involved, they usually acknowledge that it takes two to tango, but they see themselves as having an amazing amount of responsibility and control over the situation.

While I’m all for taking personal responsibility for a person’s actions, I think there is an issue with seeking it out.  For example, a long-term relationship has ended.  The party talking to me sees themselves as responsible for having chosen the other person, entered into a relationship, and not having ended it sooner.  They see the other person as responsible for bad behavior.  And that the whole thing should have and could have been avoided.  Well, I think that’s simplistic and not realistic, but a good place to start for healing. It’s probably  somewhere in the 5 levels of grieving or something.  Is there a dividing responsibility step…but I digress.

So I take away the assumptions and start probing with questions.  Why is the person talking to me responsible for choosing the other?  Wasn’t there mutual choosing going on?  Didn’t the other person have needs, wants, expectations, and baggage before all this started? Did both parties agree to enter into the relationship? Did this person not react in any way to the behaviors that were going on in the relationship?  You can see where this is going with this.  Assumptions many times get in the way of reality or create a reality that only that person can see.

So what if I challenge even more assumptions.  What if this relationship wasn’t meant to succeed?  What if this relationship is successful in that it helped you develop great boundaries, self-reliance, self-confidence, and the fire to stand up for yourself in difficult situations?  Not all relationships are meant to last 75 years or even to be happy.  And not everyone’s goals in a relationship are the same.  So the question of whose fault was it, me or you? Can become pretty irrelevant.  It’s always both and neither and the real question to be asked is who have you become because of it?  Who are you now and where do you go next?  Because you are much more than you once were and you’ll be glad to know that person once you’re done burning your ex in effigy.  Make sure you obey all the fire laws in your area and keep a fire extinguisher handy, ok?