Want To Improve a Relationship? Here’s a Simple Formula That Works Every Time.

Sometimes we can't see ourselves or others clearly. Take off those glasses! Model: Jonny K.

Sometimes we can’t see ourselves or others clearly. Take off those glasses! Model: Jonny K.

Want To Improve a Relationship? Use Algebra.

Even if you don’t get math, this one is easy. Let’s say you know that:

1 + 2 = 3 (Right? I’m assuming that global warming has not effected math, yet.)

So in algebra, you can write that with letters: A + B = C.

But if we just change (A) or (B) we get a different answer.

That’s how it goes with relationships. If we change ourselves, no matter what, the end result changes. The relationship changes but we have to be willing to change first.

The other day, I met an older woman who was holding onto a resentment toward her son-in-law. She just couldn’t let it go. When I suggested that she change how she acts toward him, the woman said sharply, “No way! I’m not going to be the one to change! He should change!”

Pride keeps us from apologizing first. Pride keeps us stuck in self-justification or self-righteousness. Sometimes we wear glasses that make us blind to our own defects.

What’s so bad about apologizing first? Humbling ourselves? Reaching out? Admitting we might be wrong? Too often we’re so busy looking at the other person but as the saying goes, “If you spot it, you got it.” Meaning, if we spot annoying behavior in someone else, chances are we own that same annoying behavior, only we don’t wanna see it.

That woman refused to budge about her own stuff. She’s living in a swamp of negativity. And after I heard her story, and then heard it again, I didn’t feel like hanging around with her anymore. I prefer to stick with people who are open-minded, willing to change, to grow, to learn.

I heard another story about a woman who wanted a number of things from her husband: common courtesy, respect, and non-sarcastic comments. Her friend suggested, “Why don’t you practice those things with him first?”

TA-DA!

She was willing to do that. She tried practicing courtesy (the highest form of grace) and stopped being sarcastic. She changed herself (A) and not only did the end result (C) change but along the way, her husband (B) started being gentler, and more respectful to her.

It has to begin with us. We can’t force anyone else to change. We can’t convince anyone else to change to our liking unless we are willing to look at our own behavior and change as well.

“A man can detect a speck in another’s hair, but can’t see the flies on his own nose.” Mendele Mocher Seforim. (This is the pseudonym of a late nineteenth-century Yiddish writer named Solomon Abramowitsch. His pseudonym in Yiddish means, Mendele the Bookseller.)

Thought for the day: If we want something to change, we have to change.

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About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is a writer living in northern Israel whose novel, A Remarkable Kindness, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in August. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, and other publications. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker) was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.
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