One day the Sun and the Wind were having a bit of an argument about who was more powerful. Finally, they decided to have a contest to end the disagreement. The Wind noticed a woman wearing a light overcoat and said “Whoever gets that coat off the woman is the most powerful and wins.” The Sun agreed and suggested the Wind go first.
The Wind blew and blew but the woman just pulled her coat a little more closed. Finally the Wind nearly wore himself out blowing as hard and as mightily as he could. The woman clutched her coat and pulled it tightly around, tying it firmly shut and bracing into the wind. The Wind told the Sun to give it her best shot.
The Sun smiled and just hung out. That’s right. Just being herself and doing her own thing, not really trying to change anything but being her very best self. The woman started to get warm. She untied her coat, then she opened it and finally she took it off, walking down the street with a smile on her face. The Wind conceded that the Sun was the winner.
Power Struggles and Change
In relationships, we often set it up to be winners and losers. That’s really too bad because ultimately “The Relationship” ends up losing out in those cases. It’s also pretty common to work REALLY hard to change the other person in a relationship; sometimes that’s even about proving our own power. Unfortunately, too often, that can make the other person just dig in deeper and hold on tighter to whatever it was we were trying to change in the first place.
As a marriage therapist and relationship coach, I usually encounter couples coming in and talking about what the other person really needs to change. Often there is a kind of a stand-off as neither wants to change something in themselves until the other one changes first. This never works. That’s not to say that identifying behavior that’s not helpful in the relationship is wrong or can’t be done. It’s normal to make complaints and requests. We just want to steer away from criticism and demands.
How It Works Best
Instead of blowing a mighty wind to force someone to do something or be different, it generally works best to be more like the Sun. Focus on doing YOUR own work. Being yourself is important but it’s also important to recognize you contribute to both the good and the bad in a relationship too. What can you do to create change in the relationship by focusing on yourself?
Another important part of the Sun’s story is acceptance. The Sun accepted that the woman might not take off her coat. Sometimes one of the more important parts of a great relationship is accepting your partner, even with his or her flaws. Psychologist Dan Wile, Ph.D., often says that when you choose a mate, you are choosing a set of problems. If you had a different mate, you wouldn’t have no problems, you’d just have different problems than the ones you have with your current mate. So what are you supposed to do with that?! Well, accepting that your partner has some flaws but also many good points and it’s all a package deal is a good place to start.
In fact, the things that drive you crazy about your partner just may be connected to what attracted you in the first place! One of my favorite quotes from Dan Wile is: “A relationship is, in some sense, the attempt to work out the negative side effects of what attracts you to your partner in the first place.”
Imagine what would be possible if you acknowledged that there are some things about your partner that make you nuts but they are simply part of the overall package you love. In some ways, this is a version of the advice to pick your battles. Before deciding the relationship is a bust or your partner is too much trouble, look over the set of problems you have and determine if you are really ready to throw out the good parts as well only to exchange them for a new set of problems with someone else.
What might acceptance and love (flaws and all) combined with respectful requests to work on the bigger deals do for your relationship? How does it feel when your partner accepts the messiness that is you? I’d love to hear from you so feel free to share your thoughts below.
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