The Key to a Healthy Relationship

Self-awareness starts with a simple but powerful shift in questioning.

Most of us are familiar with the now famous commercial: Jake, from State Farm. Jake (actor, Kevin Miles) is helping a married man (actor, Justin Campbell) get affordable insurance through State Farm in the middle of the night. His bathrobe-clad wife, (actress, Melanie Deanne Moore), grabs the phone from her husband’s shocked hand and with air quotes asks:

“What are you wearing, ‘Jake from State Farm?’”

The dumbfounded Jake answers honestly, “Uh, khakis.”

What is it about this commercial that we find funny? A wife’s assumption that her husband is getting stimulated by some form of infidelity when the audience knows he IS getting excited, but by State Farm’s insurance policy.

Off screen and unscripted, we make assumptions in our relationships. Those assumptions are based on our inner dialogue, our inner stories. The key to rewarding relationships, whether intimate or work-related, is self-awareness. 

But what does that mean? What does it mean to be self-aware of our inner dialogue and inner triggers? 

According to psychologist and author (INSIGHT), Tasha Eurich the key to self-awareness is a shift in questioning: Ask WHAT, not WHY.

So, if we were to take the wife who happens upon her husband at 3am talking in hushed tones to Jake from State Farm, her current inner dialogue seems to be assuming the worst. We can see this when she yanks the phone from her husband; we can hear it in her clipped, accusatory tone and her anger disguised as sarcasm. Her inner dialogue goes something like this:

“Why isn’t my husband in bed with me? Why doesn’t he love me?”

Instead, this fictional wife can ask empowering “what” questions such as:

“What is making my husband speak to someone in a hushed tone in the middle of the night? What can I learn from his body language? What can I learn from this moment? What can I learn about myself from my reaction?

The shift from “why” to “what” paves the way from victimhood to insight, from a sense of failure to a sense of purpose.

The most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves. So, it behooves us to understand ourselves and our reaction to others. Relationships offer a spiritual mirror to who we are. When we get into an argument with a loved one or a colleague, we are given the opportunity to learn who we are. When someone “rubs us the wrong way” or makes us feel uncomfortable, we need to ask, “What is this feeling trying to teach me?”

Asking WHAT instead of WHY fuels our growth, dispelling anxiety and depression while strengthening our inner compass. We can’t change others, but we can work on ourselves. And when we are in a place of greater self-awareness, our relationships become healthier.

The Gift of Discomfort

            When we allow ourselves to experience pain, true healing and growth begins.

My friend *Camile cried to me over the phone this past weekend. She suspects that her new husband is cheating on her. If her fears are correct, this would be her second marriage strained, if not destroyed, by infidelity.

Fact: Camile husband keeps an extra cell phone for his work as a doctor. 

Fact: Camile is not allowed to know the number or have access to this additional phone.

Fact: The two haven’t been intimate since COVID began…

Flash back to three years ago when Camile discovered her first husband (now an ex) sexting with his nurse. Once Camile caught him red-handed, her ex said he “wanted out anyway.” 

It’s worth noting that for month’s prior to Camile’s sexting find, she’d wanted to confront her then husband. But each time, the mere idea of broaching the topic made her queasy with discomfort.

Within months of Camile’s split from her ex, before the divorce was even finalized, she started dating the man who is now her current husband.

Tonight, as Camile broke down to me, I could hear the familiar tinkle of a glass that had accompanied our talks back in 2017.

“What are you drinking?”

It was a rhetorical question. My dear friend’s imbibing companion was always the same: Riesling.  While she isn’t much of a drinker, she does become a fan of the white grape wine whenever heartache arises.

Camile chooses wine in lieu of facing her pain. I tend to go for the chips and ice cream. Some of us choose inedible comfort food when a challenge of the heart grows imminent: gambling, smoking pot, retail therapy.

The last time I heard Camile drinking her beloved Riesling was during her divorce proceedings. Once her current husband entered the picture, I can’t recall her enjoying the beverage.

To avoid pain and suffering is human nature, but sometimes, the very thing we are trying not to experience actually prolongs if not worsens it. Camile never truly mourned the end of her marriage, never honored her feelings of anger and betrayal. Tonight, those lessons are knocking on her door again. 

What lessons are knocking on your door? What pain and heartache do you run from and subsequently continue to experience?

There is a gift in acknowledging everything from discomfort to heartache. If we don’t pause long enough to accept the gift, we run the risk of repeating pain in merely a new guise.

 While it sounds counter-intuitive, when we allow ourselves to experience pain, true healing and growth begins.