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S2 EP205 – Relationships – What is Your Intention?

Episode Summary

Relationships offer us a wonderful arena to learn, grow, and become more loving to ourselves and others, but whether or not this happens depends on your intention. 


Hi everyone, Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding podcast. Today I’m talking about what your intention is in your relationships, and how your intent affects your relationships.

In many years of working with couples, many questions come up about different aspects of relationships, and these are some of the issues I want to address today.

One of the confusions many people have concerns the difference between shutting down and withdrawing in conflict when you are in your wounded self, versus disengaging from conflict from your loving adult. People have often been confused regarding whether they are withdrawing or lovingly disengaging.

The answer is that each action is coming from very different intentions. When you withdraw, you’re shutting down from your own feelings. You’re not allowing yourself to feel the existential pain of the loneliness or the heartache of the situation. You close your heart and then withdraw in an attempt to punish the other person. You’re withdrawing your love, and the message is, “I’m not going to love you if you don’t behave the way that I want you to behave.”  Your intention is to control the other person and your own feelings.

Lovingly disengaging has a completely different intent. When you’re disengaging as a loving adult, the intention is to take loving care of yourself, of your inner child. You’re moving out of a difficult interaction that’s painful to you. It’s like moving out of range from a dart going into the heart, and you move away from the dart coming at you. You move out of range to take loving care of yourself, and you keep your heart open to your own feelings and to the other person.

You keep your heart open so that when the other person is ready to reengage in a loving way, you’re there, you’re open. You’re not blaming the other person. It’s a very different energy than the energy of withdrawal. When you withdraw, you’re generally angry, blaming, and feeling like a victim. Withdrawal from the wounded self has nothing to do with self-care and the intent to be loving to yourself. The energy is a closed, dark, heavy energy. But when your loving adult is disengaging, there’s an energy of love around it. This energy might be saying, “I love you, but I’m not going to engage in this conversation. That’s hurtful to me, but I will reengage anytime you’re ready to be open and loving.” You can discern the difference in intent by how you feel.

You’re not disengaging from the other person or from your loving self. You’re disengaging from the situation and the interaction so that you don’t get the darts in your heart, which is a loving thing to do for yourself if the other person just wants to blame or accuse or be angry. It’s very loving to disengage from a hurtful, unloving conversation. But it’s not loving to withdraw. It’s not loving to close your heart and shut down to punish the other person. It’s not loving to ourselves. It’s actually self-abandoning because it doesn’t feel good inside, and it’s not loving to the other person either.

Many of my clients come to me because they are confused regarding whether to stay in their marriage or leave it. This is the situation Susan faces: (Quote) “My husband is interacting with me mostly from his wounded self these days. He overreacts, gets angry, and dismisses me. He’s constantly trying to control me with his anger. This happens no matter what I say or what I do. Although I love my husband’s soul, all I see these days is his wounded self. The ratio of negative interactions versus positive is too high for me to enjoy this marriage. He’s either grumpy or simply not kind to me. I feel like telling him that I have no idea what’s going on with him, but on my end, it’s unbearable, and that I’d rather live separately. I’m hesitant to suggest Inner Bonding or a couple’s session as he may see it as controlling. Would it be a loving action to do either of these things?” (Unquote)

As long as Susan is worried about how her husband will react, then her suggesting Inner Bonding or couple’s therapy is a covert form of control. She’s more worried about how he’s going to feel about her than she is about what it means to take loving care of herself. She needs to get her eyes off him – off worrying what he’s going to think and how he’s going to be. As long as she’s worried about what he thinks and whether he sees her action as controlling, then her intention is to control him rather than take loving care of herself. Controlling energy may be a subtle thing to tune into with for herself, but it’s likely not subtle to her husband.

His intent is to control her with his grumpiness, and she’s also trying to control him and get him to change if she suggests counseling or Inner Bonding. She needs to focus on her intention and on what it means to take loving care of herself. And then, if she feels connected with herself and her guidance, she can ask him to have a couple’s session or open to learning Inner Bonding if she feels that’s loving to her and in her highest good and has no expectation that he will be open. If she has an agenda, he will likely feel her controlling energy and resist. I generally suggest that a partner do their own inner work to let go of their controlling or resistant end of the relationship system and learn to make themselves happy, and then, if the relationship doesn’t improve, it might be time to leave.

It’s important to understand that there are both overt and covert forms of control.

If somebody’s trying to control with their anger or their blame or any form of attack, it’s obvious because it’s an overt form of control. But a covert form of control can be something like giving yourself up and caretaking and not speaking up because you’re afraid of what the other person is going to say or do, or withholding information or withdrawing or resisting. it’s hard to see it, but it is a form of control. Anytime you hear yourself say something like, “Well, I’m afraid he’s going to think such and such, if I do this,” then you know that your intention is to control.

Every relationship has a system. Some systems work very well because they are not controlling systems, but when people are having relationship problems, it’s generally due to a controlling system – often where one partner is overtly controlling, and the other is covertly controlling.

Are you in a relationship system where you are giving yourself up as a form of control? If you are and you want to change this system, be prepared that things might get worse before they get better. Have you had the experience of starting to take better care of yourself and your partner gets angrier or more withdrawn? The problem is that when we try to change a system, it’s likely that the other person is going to resist our changing the system. So to take loving care of yourself, you have to be prepared to go through a period where your partner is angry at you for taking care of yourself. This often happens when somebody who’s been giving themselves up and caretaking, shifts their intention and starts to take care of themselves.

If your partner feels threatened by it, he or she may get angry or use some other form of control. And your job is to keep on taking care of yourself. Your partner can’t stop you from doing that, but in order to stay firm in taking loving care of yourself, you need to have reached a place where you’re willing to lose your partner, or have your partner be angry, rather than continue to lose yourself.

If your partner is grumpy, why engage? If you’re trying to engage with them when they’re grumpy, you’re disconnected from yourself. If you were connected with yourself, you would say to yourself, “Oh, he’s not open. He’s grumpy. I’m going to go in the other room and read a book. I’m not going to even bother trying to connect with him.” Since he’s not connected with himself, it’s vital to understand that you can’t connect with somebody unless you’re connected with yourself, and they’re connected with themselves.

It’s not easy to reach a place where you’re willing to lose others rather than continue to lose yourself. It took me years of inner work before I finally reached that place. I’ll never forget the day. It was many years ago, and one day I said to myself, “I can’t do this anymore. And if I lose everyone I love, if everyone I love is mad at me or doesn’t like me or whatever, so be it, I’ll be alone, but I’m not going to continue to lose myself to try to connect with others or get them to like me.” It was a profound day for me because I finally really meant it. I had reached that place where I knew that if I continued to lose myself, I was likely going to die, because I was very sick and depleted. I finally knew in my heart that it wasn’t working at all. Nothing good was happening from losing myself. It was a very deep decision for me at that time and everything changed because I knew I wasn’t going to compromise myself, compromise my integrity; that I was just going to focus on being loving to myself and others, rather than trying to have control over getting love. It was a true shift in intent.

I often work with people who have been caretakers in their relationships with a partner or with their family of origin – as I used to be. They wonder what to do when they run into resistance from the loved ones in their life. I received a question from Nora that is typical of the questions I receive about this topic.

(Quote) “I’ve been a people pleaser all my life. I’m noticing as I get clearer about my needs and feelings, I’m speaking up more to people, particularly to my ex-husband and current boyfriend and my mother. And when I do this, they are extremely defensive and feel that I’m coming after them. It starts out okay, but as soon as I stand firm in the face of them telling me I’m wrong, the interaction quickly gets intense. All three of them are used to me doing whatever it takes to stay connected, which has been self- abandoning. This is so confusing to me. I want to be 100% responsible for my intent and behavior, but I also want connection. Is there something I am doing wrong? I feel so broken hearted at the prospect that I cannot be close to them. Please give me some guidance.” (Unquote)

As I said earlier, when you shift a system, such a moving out of caretaking and into personal responsibility, it shakes up the system. And most people who are close to you don’t like it. They want to bring back the status quo. And so they will resist your taking care of yourself. You have to expect that when you change a longstanding system, most people are not going to like it at first, but generally they eventually come around. This is just about their wounded self feeling threatened that the system they have relied on is going away and that a new system is coming into being, and they’re not sure of it yet. That almost always happens when we shift a system.

But the other thing that I hear happening with Nora is that when she speaks her truth and they get defensive, and she then stands firm, is that she’s engaging with them when they are defensive and standing firm as an attempt to have control over them, saying that what she’s doing is right for her at that moment. She’s shifting her intent from taking care of herself to controlling them, and then the interaction disintegrates. I want to suggest that if you speak your truth and others get angry or defensive or argue with you about whether or not it’s right, that at that point you disengage from the interaction. It goes something like this: You’ve spoken your truth. They’re arguing with you. They’re getting defensive, they don’t like it. And instead of saying another word about it, instead of saying whatever it is you say to stand firm, you say to them,” Okay, I understand how you feel,” and you walk away. That’s all. That’s it. And then you go inside, and you deal with your loneliness and your heartache and your feelings of helplessness over them, but you don’t stay there and try to have any control over them hearing you. I know it’s hard to disengage because you want to convince them by standing firm, but they’re just going to go into more resistance. Whereas if you just say, “Okay, I understand that’s how you feel.” and walk away, then they’re stuck with themselves. And if you do that consistently, eventually they will stop trying to have control over how you feel. They’ll let it go because it’s not working for them.

Being loving to yourself and to them is to accept that they are not open and that you have no control over that. Sometimes after you do that for a while, you might be able to say something to them like, “I really would appreciate having your support for learn how to love myself and support my highest good.” Then walk away. You’ve planted the seed that having their support is really what a good relationship is about, rather than them being defensive and trying to sabotage your self-care. It’s amazing what might happen when you speak up and say, “I really look forward to the day that I can receive your support for what is loving to me,” and then disengage.

Another common issue that leads clients to seek my help is when one partner becomes attracted to someone else. When their relationship is boring, disconnected, with a lackluster sexual relationship or no sexual relationship, it’s easy to become attracted to someone else. They are generally conflicted between whether to leave or to work on the marriage.

My experience with people who leave is that they eventually create the same problems in their next relationship, because they take their fears and controlling behaviors with them. If they stay and do their inner work, and if their partner doesn’t, then they are able to leave and create a new, loving relationship.

It’s important to understand that it is often easy to connect with somebody when you’re not in a live-in relationship with them that involves responsibility, such as financial issues, chores, or parenting. Fears of loss are not yet activated in a new and exciting relationship, so controlling behavior isn’t yet evident. None of your triggers are there because you’re not yet deeply invested in the relationship, so you’re not going into all of your controlling protections against rejection and engulfment.

One of my clients consulted with me because she attended a 2-week retreat and quote “fell in love” unquote with a man there. It easy to fall in love at a retreat when you both are so open with no responsibilities. She was thinking of leaving her husband, even though she said she loves him, because the passion had gone out of their relationship. I encouraged her not to confuse what goes on in a connection with someone at a retreat, with what goes on in real life, in a real relationship. I encouraged her to do her inner work to understand her part of what was creating the lack of passion in her marriage.

I told her I could pretty much guarantee that if she were to leave her husband and go with this other guy – who was actually also in a committed relationship, she would end up with the exact same problems, with the exact same relationship because she would take herself with her into the new relationship, taking all her fears and all of her protections and all her triggers with her. And since people come together at their common level of woundedness, that person would be at the same place with all of his fears and protections and triggers, and you would end up creating the same relationship.

I told her that it’s wonderful that she had that experience of feeling alive and passionate, because it let her know what she wants. “But” I said to her, “it’s vitally important that you don’t think that he is responsible for those feelings in you. He did not cause you to feel that way. You felt that way because you were in a safe environment where both of you let go of your protections and opened. That’s what allowed you to feel that way. Now, you want to think that he made you feel safe enough to let go of your protective controlling behavior, but it’s not true to believe that somebody else makes you feel safe. You certainly you felt safe in that environment because that’s what happens on good retreats.

I said to her, “People do feel safe if it’s a good retreat. and they do let go of their protections. But the challenge in real life is to make yourself feel safe, which means developing that loving adult self who will be there for your feelings, who will speak up for you, who will heal the fears of the wounded self, so that you can be alive and passionate and connected in your everyday life. Because you love your husband, there is no reason to leave your marriage, but there is a lot of reasons to do your inner work so that you reach a place of that kind of aliveness and passion within yourself and within your relationship, rather than going to look elsewhere.”

I’ve been working with relationships for 54 years, and I’ve seen people do that over and over again, where they leave a relationship and then regret it. I’m not talking about leaving a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. I’m talking about a relationship where the sex is not great anymore, or there’s distance and disconnection, and they leave thinking it’s going to be better elsewhere. And most of the time it’s not because of what I said – that they take themselves with them and because of the common level of woundedness at which at we attract each other. It’s so easy to say that the other person made you feel alive, rather than recognizing you felt alive because you were open.  

Many relationships can be very challenging, including family of origin relationships. Danielle told me that she had a very good year with much joy, thanks to Inner Bonding, but that due to a situation that happened with her family of origin, she feels she lost the self-trust she had gained, and felt much resentment. Danielle was engaged to be married and planned to go for dinner to her fiancé’s family on Christmas Day, which was also his birthday, but her mother got so angry that Danielle gave herself up and went to her family on Christmas.

Danelle’s inner child lost trust in her loving adult because, in giving herself up to appease her family, she abandoned and betrayed her inner little girl. Her decision to give in to her family came from her wounded self with her intent to control her family. She didn’t tune into what her inner child wanted, or to what her guidance said was loving to her and in her highest good. Her resentment was her inner child letting her know that the decision she made was not the decision that was loving to herself. It was a decision that came from fear of her family’s rejection rather than a decision that came from love for herself. She wanted to go to her fiancé’s family, but she allowed her family’s anger to control her, thereby perpetuating the dysfunction in her family of origin by letting them know that their unloving behavior worked for them.

And because she let it work for them, they’ll do it again and again, until she decides that loving herself is more important than controlling them. They controlled her with their anger, and she controlled them with her compliance. And the resentment lets her know that it was not a loving act.

And if it’s not loving to her, it’s not loving to them. Supporting them in their unloving behavior towards her is not loving to them. It would’ve been far more loving to her and to them to say “No, my fiancé is also my family now, and he is now my number one priority. I’m going to his birthday. I’m sorry that you don’t understand that. What I really need from you is your love and support for what’s important to me. And I hope you can give me that.” That’s what would’ve been loving to her.

Of course her inner child lost trust in her. She doesn’t trust that her loving adult is going to support her highest good in the way she had in this last year. Her inner child is angry with her for not listening to her and not listening to her guidance. To repair this with her inner child, she needs to come to that decision that I shared, that I came to years ago. And that is that she’s willing to lose others rather than lose herself. This is a vital decision to come to if she’s going to be able to stay loving and connected with herself and her guidance. She can’t do this if her primary intention is to control how her family of origin feels about her. As long as that’s her primary intention and she’s willing to give yourself up to do that, her inner child won’t trust her.

And now it is likely that her inner child fears that she’s going to do the same thing with her future husband. Because if she’s going to do it with her family of origin, why wouldn’t she do it with him? And that’s very scary to her inner child to think that she’s going to get married but not tune into herself and her guidance – that instead she’s going to try and control how he feels about her. So she’s got some work to do to heal this and make the choice that she’s willing to lose him or her family or anybody, rather than compromise herself and lose herself to them.

Many people have difficulty understanding that if something that is not loving to them, it will not be loving to others. Danielle thought it was loving to her family to give in, but all that did is support their unloving behavior. It’s not loving to them to give in and support their controlling unloving behavior. It would’ve been far more loving to them to do what was loving to her, which was to spend his birthday with her fiancé. And even though her family wouldn’t see that as loving, in the long run it’s actually loving to them because they will eventually discover that they can’t act in unloving ways towards her – that it’s no longer going to work, and maybe they’ll start to be kinder to her if they want her in their life, which they likely do.

It’s important  to understand that love is love, and that it’s not possible that when we’re truly loving to ourselves, we’re being unloving to others. I don’t mean being self-centered, I don’t mean “I just have to take care of me and not care about you.” That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is being truly loving, kind to ourselves, tuning into what’s in our highest good and the highest good of all. When we really are supporting our highest good, we are supporting the highest good of all.

I’ve been talking about challenges with intimate relationships and family relationships, but there are also challenges with work relationships. Many of my clients complain about colleagues dominating conversations, undermining them in various ways, or being harsh, judgmental, or dismissive, and they don’t know what to do.

When people act this way, they are in their wounded self with their intent to control, and there is nothing you can say to them directly. If you have a supportive boss or you know that HR is supportive, you can ask them for help. But if there is no external support available to you, then likely the best you can do is disengage and not take their behavior personally. If there is a time when one of these colleagues appears open to you, you can open to learning with them, asking them with genuine curiosity why they are doing what they are doing that is distressing to you. But don’t count on this. People who generally operate from their wounded self are often resistant to opening to learning or being accountable for their actions.

You can have empathy and compassion for their abandoned inner child – you don’t have to like them to have compassion for them – and pray for them to open, but if it gets too bad and moves into bullying, you might need to look for another job. And be sure to have empathy and compassion for yourself and accept your helplessness over other people choosing to be closed and mean – you can’t get them to be caring, so disengaging with compassion for yourself is what is often most loving to you. And don’t ever expect yourself to like being around closed and controlling people.

If you have a partner or a friend who’s in their wounded self and you have experience with them that they will open, you can say, “You seem shut down, or angry or grumpy, what’s happening?” Hopefully, they will open to learning with you. But in a work situation with somebody who’s not going to acknowledge that or deal with it, it’s not appropriate to move into the intention to learn. It’s appropriate to disengage.

A common question I receive is “How can I trust someone who I know isn’t always completely honest?” or “How can I trust someone again once they’ve betrayed me, like having an affair, or lying to me about money?”

The real challenge is not about trusting others, it’s about trusting yourself. You need to learn to trust your own perception, your own intuition, your own inner knowing. Many people are not always honest, and if you trust yourself, you can pick up the energy of a lie. Most people will tell white lies at times. They go into their wounded self, and they say what they think the other person wants to hear. If there’s enough good things about the person that you really enjoy, then you take that in stride, while trusting yourself.
You say to yourself, “This person is not telling me the truth right now, and I’m going to honor what I know, what I perceive, what I intuit, rather than what this person is telling me.” And if it’s a close enough relationship, you might even be able to say, “I don’t think that that’s true.” But even in a close relationship, lots of times it’s not even important to say that, but just to know it within yourself, and you base your decisions of what you’re going to do on what you feel is true or not, rather than on what somebody else is telling you. It’s a relief when you finally start to trust yourself and really honor what you are picking up intuitively and then base your choices on what you know, rather than on what somebody else tells you. So I think we all have to accept that people are not going to be honest at times, and to not expect people to be a hundred percent trustworthy. We are the ones that need to be a hundred percent trustworthy with ourselves and honoring our own feelings and our own inner knowing.

It’s only ourselves that we have any control over. You have control over whether or not you trust your knowing or whether or not you don’t, but you don’t have control over whether or not somebody else is honest and trustworthy. So why not focus on where you do have control rather than on where you have none?

As you learn to love yourself, some relationships will end and others will flourish, and those that flourish will be fun and creative and filled with the sharing of love. It’s all about your intention.

If you enjoyed this podcast, I would really appreciate it if you tell your friends about it, and if you give it a review wherever you heard it.

And I invite you join me for my bi-monthly masterclass and receive my live help, which you can learn about at

I invite you to heal your relationships with my 30-Day online video relationship course: Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.

And you can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books and from our website at

If you want to do individual work with me or with one of our many trained Inner Bonding facilitators, please go and look under Facilitators -> Find a Facilitator, or call my office, the number is on the website.

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

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