Chances Are, It’s Not About Me

by Barbara Casey
May 13, 2014

On a recent trip to Germany, my husband and I were in constant close proximity for two weeks. There were no fights, no arguments even, a very compatible time. One morning, however, I remember some tension between us around something insignificant – what time we’d go to breakfast? Who was to carry the kindle? Some small seed of discord that you can never remember an hour later.

Taking our morning walk, it suddenly came to me: Don’t take it personally. And on the heels of that thought came, Chances are, it’s not about me. Hardly a new idea, but I don’t believe I had ever been able to use it this way with my husband. With him, my strong tendency is to automatically think whatever is troubling him is about me, what I have or haven’t said or done, and then to react and engage with the issue.

And it is so rarely true, with anyone, close or not, that it is about the content of the argument or even about the other person. Mostly we live in our own world, dealing with our own ideas about things, how we think either me or the world is falling short of our expectations. The safety of being with someone in a long term, committed relationship sometimes means you can let out your disappointment to them. Unfortunately, much of the time we instead lay it on them, mistaking our feeling as being caused by them, by the situation we are in with them in that moment.

We have this belief that another person can make us happy, that if they are a certain way then we will be compatible and all will be well in our world. We really think that our happiness lies out there with someone else, with external conditions. When in fact we carry the seeds of discord and harmony within us, and whether we are happy with our partner or not depends mostly on getting right with ourselves and finding our own peace and happiness.

As soon as I realized that his grumpiness, though directed at me was not about me, my heart opened. I could let go of the armor around my heart, stop defending myself, stop engaging in the story. Seeing my beloved as hurting, I was able to be fully present to him. And often that open, caring presence of a loved one is all we need to bring us back on track, to help us see that life is okay as it is, that we are surrounded by miracles.

Not engaging in the story allows us to take care of ourselves and each other when our hearts are hurting. It gives us the freedom to acknowledge life’s tiny disasters and to move on. We can choose to focus instead on the beauty that can be found in every moment. Learning to offer this kind of open-heartedness to our loved ones is the ultimate gift of love. It is compassion as presence. To learn to live together like this is a good use of a life.