We've tried everything
Updated: Sep 15
Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying "We cannot solve the problems we face using the same thinking that got us here in the first place" Apparently these were not his exact words, and he was talking at the time about the atomic bomb and wars, but this quote has come to me in so many ways over the years and is relevant across many spheres of life.
When I was involved heavily in fundraising for The Hunger Project, an organisation committed to the sustainable end of hunger through the empowerment of the people who are poor, especially women, to solve their own problems rather than waiting for the world to give them handouts (an idea I am still really passionate about), this quote was often discussed. And no matter what Einstein was talking about at the time he said it, it really rings true for me.
I remember an ex-partner of mine. We owned a restaurant together. I put up the collateral and worked full-time in a different job. He was the one with all the industry know-how and did the work of designing the restaurant, managing the construction, purchasing everything, employing the staff and getting it all started, with me doing all that I could at nights and on weekends. It was a first 'own' business for both of us and we both had a lot at stake in many ways. I was afraid of losing my money, which was a small inheritance from my grandfather, and he was afraid of not making any money and staying broke. We got into a pattern - I didn't totally trust him to know what he was doing and he felt I was being obstructive and unsupportive. We argued constantly and things got pretty ugly. The relationship ended, I lost my money (I signed something I shouldn't have) and he went bankrupt several years later, had to sell, and still then had a lot of debts to repay.
We tried to make it work but just couldn't see how. I tried giving up my job, doing what he wanted, supporting him in every way I could. But there was no trust and no way of knowing how to bring that back. We couldn't see another way because we were stuck with thinking we 'knew' the other person. I 'knew' he was difficult, insecure, secretive and aggressive, that he impossible to reason with. He 'knew' I was obstructive, argumentative, overpowering and unsupportive From this place, there was no way we could ever find a solution to our problems. So I left.
Many years later, he contacted me to apologise. We had a great conversation and were both able to forgive each other. But that only came with time and other experiences that helped us both see a different perspective - a different way of thinking. I had already done a lot of work to let go and move on from my anger and upset - choosing a different way of seeing him and myself and what had happened between us that enabled me to heal and his contacting me was the icing on the cake.
Changing our thinking about the person we love is not easy. We form patterns of behaviour and make the mistake of thinking we 'know' the person we are in relationship with. But people grow and change; we have different wants and needs as we move through life. Relationships change too, as our life circumstances change - and thank goodness! 'Anything that doesn't grow, dies' - its a law of nature. It's a constant game of learning more about yourself AND your partner, no matter how long you have been together.
What could you do to start thinking differently about your partner and your relationship? What are the patterns of thinking you have at the moment? What thoughts do you routinely have about your partner, yourself, your relationship? What do you say about yourself, your partner and your relationship? And then, what DIFFERENT thoughts could you have about those things? What could you say that is not the same as what you have been saying?
If you think you have tried everything to make your relationship work, perhaps it's not the lack of trying but more about the underlying perspective that needs to change. It is said that Edison tried 99 times to perfect the lightbulb (still can't find anywhere that confirms that statement, but the analogy makes sense!) - you can be sure he didn't succeed by trying the same way each time! In the end, it's all about trying something new, something different, something fresh to bring back the love, understanding and trust. If Einstein is right, what would be your version of a new level of thinking to have the relationship you want?