Finding the right person has less to do with finding “the one” and more to do with exploring ourselves. In the book The Two Truths About Love: The Art and Wisdom of Extraordinary Relationships, co-author Jason B. Fischer, MA, LPC, writes: “The real question is not how to find the right person, but how to find the right relationship. How can you do that? By becoming the right person yourself.”
The same is true for improving your relationship: “You have 99 percent control of every relationship,” writes Fisher, also a therapist with a private practice in Austin, Texas.
Focusing on ourselves, he says, means that we can change our thoughts, our actions and the way we communicate. We have the power to learn effective ways of relating to others and creating meaningful and healthy connections.
We also have the power to cultivate our own joy, instead of expecting others to do that for us. “Your joy is your job (and no one else’s).” Fischer defines joy as “any emotional state that occurs in the absence of suffering.”
Cultivating your own joy creates more satisfaction and ease in your life, Fischer writes. And your joy carries over to your interactions with others. “In this way, being joyful is actually an act of generosity, freeing others from trying to do this job for you.”
Just as we are responsible for our own joy, we also are responsible for our emotional reactions. So our suffering – feeling a way you don’t want to feel, or feeling out of your comfort zone – isn’t the result of other people or external circumstances. Instead, suffering happens when we don’t give permission to something to be what it is or someone to be who they are, including ourselves.
“Giving permission is the single most important thing you can do to be joyful and build extraordinary relationships,” according to Fischer.
Giving permission doesn’t mean accepting unacceptable things. In fact, giving permission is different from acceptance and approval, he says. Giving permission is about you, not anyone else. It “is the process by which you transform your emotional state from suffering to nonsuffering.”
So how do you give permission?
According to Fischer, it involves five steps.
Recognize that you’re outside your emotional comfort zone. Once you do, simply say to yourself, “Oh, I’m not giving permission right now! If I give permission, I’ll feel better and respond in a healthier way.”
Pause, giving yourself “a moment to gather your thoughts and weigh the choices available to you.”
As you inhale, say, “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.” As you exhale, say, “Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.” This helps to “bring your mind back into connection with the body, the breath, and this present moment.”
Understand that giving permission soothes your suffering and helps you respond in constructive ways. Also, giving permission is fair, because everyone deserves to be given permission.
For instance, Fischer notes that all of us are doing our best. Here’s one example: Your wife comes home after a week-long business trip and takes a conference call that very night.
Initially, “you might think, I haven’t seen her for a week and she still wants to work rather than be with me! Or you could remind yourself, after breathing and pausing, She is doing the best she can to create a work-life balance. I’m glad that she is so motivated to excel professionally.”
We’re also the sum of our experiences. So, if your partner gets upset that you’ve quit your job to pursue your passion, it’s not that he’s unsupportive of your dream. It might be that he was raised to believe that financial security leads to happiness.
5. Finally, give permission.
“Give permission for yourself, others, and your circumstances to be as they are. This will restore your calm, allowing you to pursue change in intentional and effective ways,” Fischer writes.
He explains that it can be helpful to ask yourself about the type of permission you’re not giving. Maybe you’re not giving permission to your spouse to say what they said or do what they did. Maybe you’re not giving yourself the permission to be imperfect.
We cannot change our significant others, and we’ll likely never find the “perfect” partner. What we can do is focus on ourselves.
We can choose to think, feel and act differently. We can choose to give permission to another person to be who they are. And we can choose to give permission to ourselves to be who we truly are.
In The Two Truths About Love, co-written with Sabrina Kindell, Fisher also shows readers how to take responsibility for our actions, communicate constructively and ultimately have extraordinary relationships with our romantic partners, others and ourselves. You can learn more about The Two Truths About Love here.