Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page
How can I make you understand? How can I make you happy? How can I make you love me? These are the sorts of questions people can find themselves asking when an important relationship isn’t working – maybe a relationship with a parent, a close friend or a lover.
It can feel as if there has to be a way – a formula – that will result in this important person seeing you – feeling about you – the way you want. So you try to work it out. Suppose I help more about the house? Suppose I buy flowers? Suppose I tell funny stories? Or cook a great meal? Or help them live out their sexual fantasies? You can rack your brains looking for the answers and this can become a sort of game, a puzzle you are trying to solve. It can even become a mental obsession.
Rather than trying to figure this out on your own, you can of course take a more direct approach and ask the other person what they need from you. What do I need to say? What must I do? What sort of person do you want me to be? This approach can, unfortunately, put the other person under a lot of pressure. Is this like a business arrangement? If you wash up every day, do they promise to love you? If you make them laugh, will they be happy forever? Of course, people can’t make promises like that, but they can feel very pressured by these situations, and feel obliged to make you promises that ultimately they cannot be sure of keeping.
The difficulty here, it seems to me, is that you are trying to make someone else think or feel a certain way as a result of the things you do or say. And then, because they feel like that, you expect that they will behave in a certain way – they will be understanding, or loving, or caring. In other words, you are trying to construct a chain of logic that will lead to a situation in which the other person acts in a certain way. You are trying to be the person you think they want you to be. It is a tortuous way of thinking – and a way of thinking that can become a mental torture.
I remember working with a couple who were like this – and I remember the man asking his partner these questions. The answer she kept giving was that she wanted him to be himself – to be honest with himself – to be happy with himself. “I can’t love you if you don’t love yourself”, was what she said. This was really difficult for him, because he had spent so much time and energy trying to be who she wanted him to be, that he’d rather forgotten who we was, who he wanted to be. He had become someone who only saw himself through her eyes, who judged himself on her reactions.
He found it difficult, but he did find ways to change his thinking. We talked about his life before he met his partner – what he liked to do and what made him feel good about himself. We talked about what he believed in and what was important to him. We talked about what he wanted in the future. And he found that actually, things became much simpler. He concentrated on doing what he thought was right, rather than doing what he thought his partner thought was right.