-- Question for John --
I am a 24 year old young lady and I would like to have an advice from you about my relationship. I have been in a relationship for three years. Recently I had a break up with my guy. I love and miss him a lot. Is there any chance of him getting back together again with me? And I do want him to get back with me and marry me. Can you help? I am desperately in need of him. Should I call him?
-- Answer from John --
It is more possible to get someone back if you are not desperate and needy. As long as you are desperate and needy, the other person knows that and does not want to come back. So the first thing is to nurture yourself and do things to feel better as an individual. Once you feel better about yourself without the other person, you will be more able to discover a way to invite that person to resume a relationship with you. This will include directly dealing with the real reason for the breakup and making significant changes to improve things. The work involved in making those changes is in fact blocked by your own feelings of being desperate and needy. So the first step is always going to be for you to take care of those desperate, needy feelings yourself. Whether or not you succeed in getting the other person back, this is still the first step you need to take to heal your broken heart. So my advise is to find ways to nurture yourself and heal your hurt and fearful feelings as quickly as possible, which means today.
The first rule in relationship is this. If you are not getting the love you want, you need to do something different. If you just keep doing what you’ve always been doing, you will just keep getting the same results. You are a part of the dance, in other words. The steps you are now taking affect the way your partner is dancing with you. Want to change the dance? Change your steps in it.
I often recommend doing the exact OPPOSITE of what you are now doing. What is the exact OPPOSITE of what you are now doing to try to solve this issue?
I invite you to seriously consider this question and email me your answer.
There are two areas for you to look at. One – What are you doing with your upset feelings? Two – What behaviors are you now using to try to get what you want?
1. WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR UPSET FEELINGS?
Are you depending on your partner to take care of your upset feelings? These could be feelings of need, insecurity, fear, loneliness, resentment, or any other kind of upset feelings.
Are you looking for a change of behavior in your partner to take away upset feelings inside you?
If so, then the OPPOSITE of that would be for YOU to take responsibility for your own feelings and to self-care and nurture your own inner self. In other words, if it hurts inside, then instead of looking to your partner to take care of that hurt by changing their behavior, you learn to take care of that hurt feeling yourself.
You might think that this is unfair and that it means you will just end up accepting an unacceptable situation. Nothing could be further from the truth. The result of doing this is not to give up power in a relationship or to simply accept poor treatment by a partner. Taking care of your own upset feelings actually gives you added power and strength — based on internal fortitude and certainty — to make clear requests of your partner.
When your requests are mixed up with the sense that you are really asking your partner to change so that you won’t feel bad anymore — they sense that and are LESS likely to change. When your requests are clear, direct, and reveal your internal strength — and you do not DEPEND in any way on their changing in order for you to feel better — this is what really gets the attention of someone and influences them to be more responsive.
2. WHAT BEHAVIORS ARE YOU NOW USING TO TRY TO GET WHAT YOU WANT?
You are now talking and acting in a certain way as you try to affect your partner. It is not working, is it? So to keep acting or talking in that way is not likely to work in the future, either.
You will empower your attempt for improvement if you DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. I start with trying to figure out what the exact OPPOSITE thing is to do.
You have to figure out for yourself what that is. But I’ll give you a simple example here. The following is just an example. So don’t take it as my trying to be psychic about what is really going on with you. The situation may not even resemble yours. This example is just to focus you on the types of things you might explore and change in your situation.
The example is about Mary and Jim: Mary wants Jim to be more close, to spend more quality time together. They are more distant than Mary is comfortable with. So Mary’s upset feelings are discomfort with distance. And Mary is saying and doing things that are attempts to get Jim to change.
First, Mary needs to apply #1 above to the situation. Look at the feelings part of the equation. Mary needs to discover ways to take care of her own discomfort with distance. That might involve her in: (a) establishing or renewing deeper friendships with other people; (b) finding self-nurturing things to do when she is alone; (c) exploring how her upset feelings might relate to things she carries from childhood, for instance, the fear of abandonment — and taking positive steps to work with and heal these older sources of internal pain and fear; (d) discovering spiritual practices that elevate her own mood and gives her a richer sense of who she is as an individual. These are just a couple of things. The list is hundreds of possibilities long, and each can make a significant step in her personal growth and empowerment.
OK, so much for the feelings part. Next, Mary needs to look at the behavior part of the equation. What is she actually DOING now to try to affect Jim? Perhaps she is frequently complaining that they are distant. Perhaps she acts a little more needy. Perhaps she talks in a higher pitch voice, kind of like a child, when she asks Jim for more quality time together — indicating her insecurity. Perhaps she makes big threats or demands that they spend time together or else. Perhaps she pursues Jim in some way. OK, these are the things that do NOT work. So Mary needs to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT to get a different result.
The OPPOSITE of these things would be something like just allowing Jim to have all the time and space apart that he wants. And matching him on that. If Jim spends alot of time with friends, Mary spends time with hers or makes new ones. If Jim is always busy with work or activities, then Mary gets busy with her own work and activities. If Jim talks about the value of independence, then Mary sings its praises too.
Why go in the OPPOSITE direction? Wouldn’t that, in the example above, actually endanger the relationship further? Well, that’s what you would commonly think. Because if nobody is trying to make the relationship happen, maybe it would just fall apart, right?
Wrong. If a relationship in fact has any real basis or future to it, both parties are equally motivated to make it happen. But often one person takes the lead in pursuing togetherness. They carry the flag for “Closeness” and “Connection” like Mary in the example. Perhaps this relates to old insecurities in her. But whatever the reason, that automatically forces the other person, Jim in this case, to fall behind on that score — and take up the flag for “Individual Space” and “Distance.” Perhaps he does that because he was overly controlled as a kid. The reasons don’t matter as much as how to change the trap the couple gets stuck in.
Both individuality and connection are vital in a healthy relationship. But if one person takes up one flag, the other person has to take up the other flag. The way out of that dilemma is ultimately for both people to take up both flags.
To get there, one person has to change what they are doing.
In your case, making this change falls on you, because you are the one asking me for advice today. So if you were Mary in the situation above, you would be called on to put down your flag for “Closeness” and take up your own flag for “Individuality” — and in doing so, if you indeed have a motivated partner, they will soon have to take up their flag for “Closeness” and start making overture to YOU for more time together.
I have seen this repeatedly with the couples I coach. As soon as one partner backs off, the other one has to fill in the space. It takes courage for the first partner to make that move of letting go, because then they are filled with even more discomfort and fear inside themselves (or anger or resentment). This takes us back to step one again, and you dealing with your own feelings through self-care and self-nurturing. This leads to self-healing and self-empowerment.
I also said that if you have a motivated partner, they will respond to the change YOU make in yourself. What if you find out that your partner is in fact NOT motivated? What if, in the example above, the other person never tried to fill in the space and the relationship simply drifted apart?
Then my advice is this. You would want that to happen as soon as possible. Because it would happen sooner or later anyway. And why get yourself even more involved with someone who doesn’t want to be with you? In the end, you gotta ask yourself: “Why would I truly want to want anyone who doesn’t truly want me?” So it would be to your advantage in the long run to face whatever short term upset or pain might happen, so that you would free yourself to have a truly rewarding relationship with someone else in the future. And to better prepare yourself for a healthy, happy, successful relationship by learning to care for your own feelings and empower yourself to get the love you want in a real relationship.