There Are No External Solutions for Internal Problems
Many of the problems we face in life may seem external but can usually be attributed to some internal conflict. This is especially true in romantic relationships. I recently watched a video where a young man was advising his peer group to work on their relationships rather than swiping their hook-up app for their next flame. Some of the points he made were valid, but I couldn’t help but smile at the naivety of his youth as he spoke of the old days when people met and married and stayed together by working on their marriage. The young man was too young to recognize that many of the older generation only stayed together for two reasons. One was financial and the other was religious. Just because you have been married for 60 years, doesn’t mean you have had a successful marriage. There are many long and unhappy marriages where couples live in quiet animosity. Success is never present in the absence of joy. You have to be happy with what you’ve got in order to be truly successful.
Back in the proverbial day, women stayed home to raise children and were financially dependent upon men. Divorce rates skyrocketed after women started using birth control and getting into the workforce. Having money gave women the power of choice and in many cases the desire to pull away from the confines of religious expectations. Statistically speaking, most divorces are initiated by women. When religion and finance dictated women’s role in society, divorce was simply not an option. Women who dared to divorce were shunned and thought to have loose morals (a rather unfair assumption).
Most people who have problems in their marriage will try marriage counselling for a while or read the multitude of books available on improving relationships. I’ve been there and done all of that. You get insights like set aside time for each other, use respectful language, be transparent in your activities, compromise, budget your money, etc. None of it is bad advice. It just doesn’t hit the core of the problem. These are external solutions for what are really internal problems.
Below is a list of some common problems in marriages. Each of them has an external solution and an internal solution. The internal solutions never seem to get examined and dealt with and so things eventually fall apart.
Works too much/ doesn’t spend time at home: Everybody wants a partner who will spend time with them and value spending time with their children. Some partners are excessively driven to prove themselves at work, to the detriment of their families. Oh yes, they may have many justifications around being able to earn more and take nice vacations and live in a fancier home, but what really drives people to value their work life more than their family life is more about the talk inside that person’s head. There can be a wide range of inner conversations here, but the most obvious is the thought that you are only as good as the work you do or the money you earn. Pair that person with someone who equates their value with the amount of attention they receive and you’ve got big trouble. Both partners need to change the talk in their heads and that’s why having another date night won’t fix the problem.
Mental health: Having a partner who suffers from mental health issues can be very challenging to a relationship. People with serious mental health issues need to work harder at changing the talk in their head than others. Talking about your problems as a form of therapy is not nearly as effective as changing the way you think. Also, holding your partner responsible for your mental wellness is as ineffective as it is unfair. The problem is internal, so the external solutions of medication and counselling are actually incomplete. Don’t be passive in your treatment. You must take responsibility for your own mental health. Take your medication and focus on getting your inner voice saying the right things to you. I know it’s hard, but it’s not impossible.
Addiction: Addiction is often considered a mental health issue. Addiction usually happens when people engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the garbage they believe about themselves. Self-loathing causes many problems. Addiction is only one of them. You think you know yourself better than anyone else and your sensitivity to who you believe you really are causes you to do terribly destructive things. What an unfair way to treat yourself. You can dry up in rehab as often as you want. Unless you change the way you feel about yourself, the external solution of rehab, will never work. Most rehab programs try to help people fix that relationship, but once again, you have to take full responsibility for yourself to conquer the problem. Self worth doesn’t come in the form of a patch.
Abuse: Abusive people have low self esteem and a strong need to feel powerful. That means their behaviour will not change until they change their inner dialogue. Abusers who go to jail still abuse. People who accept to remain in abusive relationships must also change the talk in their heads. Ask yourself why you must accept such behaviour in your life? It’s never okay. So many people say things to me like, “I don’t take that shit from him/her. I put her in her place.” The thing is, if you keep having to tell the same person how to treat you, then your external solution of talking back is the wrong solution. Not to sound like a broken record, but the problem is internal.
Spending habits: Money is cited as one of the leading causes of divorce. You can try setting up a budget or consulting with your partner before you make extra purchases, or doing any number of things to modify your lifestyle, but most people find it hard to break their bad spending habits. Money represents freedom for some while for others it can be a tool for exerting control over another. The things that drive us to spend excessively or to exert control are internal problems. No budget can take away someone’s need for power and no amount of self restraint will cure someone’s need for retail therapy. This is also an internal problem which requires an internal solution. Get to the why behind the behaviour in order to change your relationship with money or your need to control people.
Infidelity: In spite of what your cheating partner says, nobody just falls into an affair. It is never an accident. You are either putting out the vibe or you are not, and while the reason for doing so may seem like an external thing, it is not. It is not 100 percent because of your spouse. It is always more about your relationship with you. We make decisions about what kind of person we want to be and we find many ways to justify infidelity, if we decide we want take that path. That’s human nature. It is only when people get caught cheating that they realize how much they have screwed up their lives. Your spouse will never trust you, and you open the door to being treated in the same way. None of it is good. The truth is, what typically drives infidelity is a need to be desirable on some level to other people, but nobody can love you or respect you enough to change how you feel about your life and yourself over the long term. If your sense of masculinity or femininity depends on how others view you, then you are in trouble. No amount of transparency in your marriage can take away your need to seek validation from others. Validation is something you need to give yourself. Do you want to be the kind of person who cannot be trusted to remain faithful? Are you okay with being known as a cheater? In some cultures it is applauded, but it is still the sign of an unhealthy inner relationship.
Prolific Lying: Nobody can spoil trust like a liar. Some people just lie for the heck of it. Others lie as a manipulation tactic. If they repeat it enough, it becomes accepted as the new truth. Most of us will lie to get out of a jam. Humans do tend to tell white lies from time to time, but most lying is rather toxic. Some liars are pathological while others are just prolific. Most people won’t call out a liar to his or her face. Usually, they just get talked about behind the scenes. Why can’t a habitual liar be truthful? It’s always about their relationship with themselves. There is no external solution for fixing cowardice or low self-esteem. The only way to overcome the terrible habit of prolific lying is to delve into the why and change your inner dialogue. Unless, of course, you are okay with being considered untrustworthy and being held in poor regard.
The upshot of all this, is that pretty much everything we think, say, or do in our lives is a reflection of our internal dialogue. You will NEVER have a healthy relationship with anyone as long as you are plagued by thoughts of inferiority and self loathing. If you can change the way you think about yourself, then you will perceive everything differently and consequently, behave very differently. It is very freeing to recognize when your ego is getting the better of you or when your thoughts are simply not serving you. My coaching practice is all about helping you change your relationship with yourself. I have developed several unique ways to help my clients accomplish this. While we're at it, we also set goals and get things done, because once you change your thinking, anything is possible!
Are you tired of wanting things to be different? Do you accept that your thoughts sometimes hold you back? Would it help you to have an accountability partner? Would you like some help setting goals and getting things done? Ask about my new flat fee accelerated coaching program. For a flat fee of just $997 you can access unlimited one-on-one coaching for a full year. My Action Focused Express Coaching program is revolutionary and guaranteed to get results!
Renée Cormier is a certified coach and facilitator on a mission to show people how changing their thinking changes their lives. Contact Renée to learn how to quickly move forward and achieve growth in business and all other areas of life. Renée happily shares her business and personal development expertise through a variety of training and coaching programs that create unsurpassed value for her clientele.
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