As human beings, we naturally have strengths and weaknesses, distorted perceptions, and a lack of full understanding of the “truth.” All people are clearly flawed. Once you understand this, you have a good dose of humility, and humility is one of the keystones of healthy relationships.
If we start by acknowledging our own areas of weakness and subjectivity, we won’t assume that we are necessarily right in arguments, and our partner is wrong. We will be much more curious to try to understand the other person’s perspective. We will ask questions and hear the answers with an open mind.
Another essential part of humility is to take responsibility for our negative feelings and not project them onto someone else as the source of our unhappiness. Having negative feelings is part of being human, and being fully human breaks down defensiveness. We know that we are we not better or more right than our partners. We don’t need to defend and prove anything.
When you find yourself being defensive, you are probably feeling criticized. Your shortcomings are under attack and then you reciprocate with equal attention to your partner’s shortcomings. This is not very productive. Instead, try humility. Try allowing yourself to really be in relationship and to be interested in another’s perspectives. Allow for rich dialogues and a basis for healing. Being “perfect” and “right” creates systemic patterns in families that are always difficult and dysfunctional. Healing begins when people meet in their humanness.
Stephen R. Treat, DMin, LMFT, is the former CEO and Director of Council for Relationships. He is a Senior Therapist, Speaker, Teacher and regular contributor to TV, Radio and Newspaper programs. He can be reached at 215-382-6680 x3123.