Guest post by Dmitri Bilgere
So often relationship problems seem to come down to the question, Who’s the jerk here?
I’m not saying relationships SHOULD come down to that. But often they do. People assemble evidence about how their partner is being a jerk. They gather supporters to back up their point of view. And they create plans and take action to put a stop to this jerky behavior, once and for all.
While it’s certainly true that other people sometimes do things that should not be tolerated, it’s dangerous to jump to conclusions too quickly about who the jerk is in a situation.
I’d like to give you a real example from my life, in a little Holiday Story I call, “Who’s the Jerk Here? A Holiday Story by Dmitri Bilgere.”
JERKY, JERKY FAWN
My wife, Fawn, had been being very unreliable recently (even by her own admission). I’m not going to go into the embarrassing details, but she had been going through a time of frequently saying she was going to do things — sometimes important things — and either not doing them, or putting them off for so long I had to do them for her.
(And by the way, she okay’d me sharing this story. Thanks, Fawn! :) )
Anyway, this unreliability was becoming very upsetting to me. It wasn’t like she was too busy. She had plenty of time to do other things. But when she told me she would do something, she would consistently — and from where I sat, DELIBERATELY — not do it.
Here I was, working my fingers to the bone! And she wasn’t even doing the few minor things she said she would! And it was going on, and on!
And at the holidays, too!
SURELY she was the jerk in this situation.
TIME DO DO SOME HEALING
I decided to do the same kind of healing on myself that I do with my phone coaching clients.
When I’m talking to a client, the first step is always to find out what they want help with.
So I asked myself, “Okay, Dmitri. What do you want help with here?”
I realized that I wanted help holding my wife to account to do what she said she would do.
That led to the second question: Why did I want that? What was the longing in my heart I was trying to fulfill by being better at holding her to account?
I realized that I really, truly, wanted to feel like Fawn and I were on the same team. I wanted to feel like we were standing side-by-side facing the world together, and like I could count on her in our relationship.
And that led to the next question: What was I getting instead?
What I was getting instead was that my wife was being really unreliable. It seemed like I couldn’t count on her.
That’s what I was getting instead of the “team” feeling that my heart longed for.
And that behavior was what I was complaining about.
I think a lot of people would leave it there. “Here’s the behavior I don’t like in my partner. I can prove she’s being a jerk. Everyone agrees. How can I get her to change?”
They’d then set about figuring out ways to “deal with it.”
AND THAT’S WHERE YA GOTTA LOOK DEEPER
While it’s true that not all behavior is acceptable, I think it’s important to look at the state of your heart before responding to a difficult circumstance.
In my case, I had to answer the next question:
“In the face of the circumstance where your wife is being unreliable and you can’t count on her, how do you lose heart?”
This was important, because how I lost heart goverened how I showed up in the relationship.
And I realized that in the face of her being unreliable, I had started to lose heart by believing that I HAD TO EXPECT NOTHING OF HER.
And that’s where things started to get interesting.
JERKY, JERKY DMITRI
Rather than focusing solely on what Fawn was bringing to the relationship, I started to look at what I was bringing, too.
I asked myself: When I believed that I had to expect nothing of Fawn, how did that lead me to treat her?
It turns out that it led me to treat her pretty poorly. I was treating her like she was capable of nothing. Like she wasn’t really competent. Like I’d naturally have to clean up her messes, and take care of everything in our relationship myself.
I saw who I had turned into:
I had turned into a jerk.
TWO CAN PLAY THE JERK GAME
You know, we get so caught up in defending ourselves against the bad behavior of others that we rarely take the time to look at who we become in the face of that bad behavior.
I see this in my coaching work all the time.
When people are upset with their partners, they usually want to articulate what they are upset about so they can figure out “the best way to handle it.”
I was doing that, too: Fawn wasn’t keeping her word. Therefore, I had to figure out a way to make her keep her word. End of story.
But in the coaching I do, I DON’T help people articulate what upsets them about their partner so they can defend themselves better against their partner.
In my work, I help people articulate what upsets them about their partner FOR THE PURPOSE OF DISCOVERING HOW THEY GIVE UP ON LOVE.
Then I help them heal their heart that has given up, so they can put beauty into their relationship, and be a positive influence on their partner — no matter how their partner is behaving.
In my case, I had given up on love by accepting the idea that I had to expect nothing of my wife.
I want to be a great husband — a man who lifts his wife up and builds up the relationship, even when things are difficult.
But instead, I was being a husband who expected her to not keep her word. Who thought poorly of her. Who looked down on her.
Jerk, jerk, jerk.
DMITRI LEARNS A HOLIDAY LESSON
Next I really looked at the state of my heart, by asking the question, “What does it do to your heart to believe you have to expect nothing of your wife?”
When I really looked, I saw that taking on that belief broke something inside of me.
I saw how in the circumstances of Fawn being unreliable, I actually took the step of concluding that I was fated to a relationship where I could expect nothing.
And that belief broke my heart.
TURNING TO THE “BLESSING CURRENT”
The healing coaching I do has two parts: The first is really facing the heartbreaking fate that you’ve accepted as true. I had done that part. I was honestly seeing how, when Fawn was unreliable, I took on the belief that I was fated to having to expect nothing of her.
The second part is acknowledging that when you’re believing in a heartbreaking fate, you are NOT in touch with your internal “Blessing Current” — whatever you might call it — and opening yourself up to experiencing that Blessing Current again.
When I then turned to that Blessing Current in myself, and let that Light begin to touch my broken heart, things started to change.
WHAT I STARTED TO SEE
As I started to feel the Blessing Light touch that hurting place in my heart, things immediately began to lighten for me.
As that place in my heart filled with Light, I started to see that my wife actually NEEDED me to expect more from her … but, just as much as she needed me to expect more from her, she also needed me to BELIEVE in her.
I started to see that she needed me to see her GREATNESS, and expect it, and believe in it.
I also started to remember times of seeing greatness in her, and her inner “solidity.” I started to see that the way to expect more of her was to relate to that great and solid part of her, to “put my heart next to her solidity.”
I realized that I really could expect more of her — not in a judgmental, domineering way, but as the man who truly sees her greatness and solidity, and who relates to her from that space.
And I started to see that, from that space, there was a real route forward for the two of us to be powerful in the world, together.
My heart felt full of love, and very close to her. I was no longer upset. And I returned to our relationship a different, better man.
My heart was healed, and I was naturally able to stop being a jerk.
THE STATE OF YOUR HEART OPENS OR CLOSES DOORS
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that how you expect people to behave influences how they actually behave.
There have been plenty of studies that show that if a teacher expects a student to succeed, the student is more likely to do well… And that if a teacher expects a student to fail, then that student is more likely to do poorly.
When I was expecting nothing of Fawn, I was constantly sending her signals that said, “Go ahead and screw up … I know you are going to.” That environment of expectation made it really easy for her to not do what she said she’d do.
Once I made the shift to putting my heart next to her greatness, and started relating to her from there, my behavior changed. And as a result, I now see her competence — even if she might not. I’m treating her differently, and that’s making it easier for her to do what she says.
And the best part is, I’m not faking it, or pretending to see it, or claiming to expect more, while secretly expecting nothing. I truly see her greatness. From there, expecting more is natural.
SO… HAS IT HELPED?
I’m happy to tell you that things have improved with Fawn. Since I started relating to her greatness and solidity, and stopped treating her like she was going to fail to keep her word, she has become more focused and motivated. It feels to both of us like a door has opened…a door I was previously holding closed.
And that’s more likely to make for a happy holiday season for us both.
THE NEXT CHAPTER IS UP TO YOU
This story is a reminder that when your heart is upset, you aren’t bringing your best self to your life. And it’s a reminder to take the time to care for your heart when other people’s behavior is upsetting you.
I’m not saying you should never confront anyone. I’m not saying that you should never leave any relationship, or that you should just put up with any behavior.
But I am saying that when you see how you lose heart when someone behaves poorly — and heal that loss of heart — you become someone who can act for the best, from a clear place, no matter what you end up doing.
And that will bring harmony and beauty into your life … a great thing, at any time of year.
Wishing you happy holidays and a joyous new year,
Since 1989, Dmitri Bilgere has made his living as a 1-on-1 coach, workshop leader, and writer, helping people care for their hearts so they are able to take the daily, excellent actions that move them toward the life they long for. He blogs at