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There are two specific phrases that almost destroyed my marriage..

February 23, 2024

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Phrases that the moment I stopped saying them it all changed FAST. (From googling about divorce to scouting lands to build our future children’s nature home.)

“You guys got something going on!..” my wife and I heard upon meeting this woman at a retreat we attended last year.

“Hmmm.. I don’t know what it is but I want it!” she said as we all giggled.

She knew.

We knew.

Last year my wife and I received the most compliments and appreciative comments on our relationship..

And not from our social media audiences in response to our curated content, no.

But from people we met in the streets, at events and wherever we went together.

Total strangers.

Even family members who aren’t very vocal about their thoughts and emotions opened up just to let us know.

We were also often asked:

“How long have you guys been together?” by people who assumed that we were in our first year / honey-moon stage due to how happy, connected and close they saw us..

(“They definitely JUST met! that kind of love doesn’t last past the first 3 years, let alone marriage!” kind of looks)

What a wild ride!

knowing that a couple of years ago around this time we were sitting next to a Glamping on a beautiful mountain yet in tears talking about ending things and going our own way…

Feeling like we had reached a standstill.

Where our relationship was causing more pain and creating more ugliness than beauty.

Nervous systems fried, stress at an all-time-high and the distance between us feeling impossible to reconcile.

So what changed?

I committed to stop using two sentences.

(PS: this is a medium-length read so if you’re in here for quick dopamine hits and low-intellectual engagement I recommend switching to TikTok or IG stories… Otherwise, keep on reading 🙂 )

There were two phrases we stopped telling one another:

“That’s your problem! Your feelings are 100% your responsibility, not mine.”

and/or

“It’s your fault! If you had done / hadn’t done X, I’d feel better right now.”

Let me break it down in simple terms for you:

If your partner often dismisses what you feel..

They judge, avoid or always need to “fix” your emotions..

If they’re often right and therefore you are always wrong..

and you end up feeling like there’s something wrong with you..

Especially if your go-to strategy is to suppress your emotions under the cloak of being compassionate, “Spiritual” or a “good partner”.

It will NOT last.

On the other hand, if you’re always made to feel like your partner’s wellbeing, emotional & mental health and happiness rest on your shoulders..

Perhaps even their finances and social life depends on you..

If you are always either performing or walking on eggshells

Tending to their volatile moods and absent personal & emotional responsibility..

If they are often the victim and you are the tyrant and every pain they experience they trace back to your actions (or inactions).

It will NOT last either.

The problem is that in theory, these two approaches make a lot of sense!

Yet we cannot build a healthy relationship merely based on theories.

The mistake I made with my wife was that I bought into these truths but didn’t know how to use them.

Spirituality told me I am responsible for my own happiness and the creator of my inner experience. (and therefore, so is she!)

True.

Yet experience and life showed me that I am deeply interconnected with others and have a huge, direct impact on those around us. (as they do on me!)

Also true..

Yet these concepts quickly become shields and swords in the wrong hands.

The avoidant partner (myself in this case) often wields spirituality and stoicism (logic) as his defence system against his partner’s codependency, anxiety and emotional entanglement.

“If only I fix how anxious they are and remind them it’s all up to them, they will stop making me responsible for how they feel and everything will be fine!”

And the anxious partner (my wife in this case) often wields interconnectedness as the sword with which they will try to force an expression of care out of a distant, avoidant and uninvolved partner.

“If only I make sure he understands how deeply HE hurt me and how different it would all be if HE changed how he treated me, he would see how simple it is for everything to be better.”

Fights are inevitable.

Yet ones where everybody loses.

So what do we do Nico?

“I’m dating / married to someone who doesn’t pull their weight..

They don’t take responsibility for their own wellbeing..

I feel resentful for having to bear the burden of their inner chaos (on top of my own life’s challenges)..

Always at fault for their lack of self-love and misery..

Burnt out, drained and used.”

Or “I’m with someone who only cares about themselves..

Who is not willing to explore how to relate better..

They don’t take responsibility for their actions, nor measure consequences and how they impact me..

I feel like I’m the crazy one for wanting better treatment

and often judged for having boundaries, standards and expectations..

Like I cannot raise a question about how they show up without feeling guilty about it..

Or even worse, like no matter how strongly I stand on how I want things to be, I rarely see changed behaviour in them..

And feel angry that I have to teach someone what treating another lovingly, communicating properly and even apologizing looks like..”

Well..

The answer is simple:

It is true that we are all 100% creators of our inner experience..

and 100% responsible for how we feel.

It is also true that we have a HUGE impact and influence on the moods and wellbeing of those closest to us..

Our presence & hormones can literally shift the air in a room and either regulate or dysregulate our beloved’s nervous system.

The problem is NOT these truths..

But the fact they’re used to attack or suppress another.

All truths are meant to (first) be lived internally.

They are NOT made to be spoken, especially as means of violence, coercion or correction towards one another.

I stopped telling my wife that her emotions were 100% her responsibility.

And I saw that if 100% of my inner experience is my creation and I am responsible for it..

Then by telling her to “take care of herself” I was unconsciously trying to solve my own grief, anxiety and feelings of failure as a partner.

I tried to change who she was and how she felt… just so I would not have to feel the uncomfortable emotions that came up within me as I witnessed her pain…

I was trying to fix her with advice I was not using myself.

Crazy right?

(women, next time you hear a guy tell you “Just breathe!” or “Calm down! / Relax!” you now know they’re speaking out-loud to themselves hehehe.)

I also started asking myself:

What have I planted in my relationship that bears bitter fruits today? What do I desire to plant given the fruits I’d love to see?

How do my actions impact my wife?

How did I contribute to this situation I really dislike?

What is my role in this chaos I don’t want to own as mine?

This was illuminating.

Because I saw that when she made me responsible for how she felt, I felt annoyed, angry and resentful towards her.

But when I embraced -willingly- the responsibility for how she felt, I felt empowered, excited and generous.

It became MY idea to become more and more the kind of husband that would show up impeccably..

More involved, responsible and attuned.

To become a devoted gardener of my beloved’s heart.

And here’s where it gets crazier:

The more I did this, the more she actually started to own HER inner world – without me having to force any of it.

For example, before I felt she was making a big deal out of a few unwashed dishes in the sink.

I would often reply:

“You’re just angry and frustrated, you need to breathe.”

“How you’re feeling has nothing to do with the dishes and everything to do with your inner state… where else do you feel angry?”

“Have you expressed your anger? have you tried punching a pillow? let’s do yoga and meditate…”

🤢

I’d attempt to coach her through all of it which you can imagine did not go well..

Because it DOES NOT WORK.

It’d just add gasoline to the fire and make things worse!

Now?

This is what one of our exchanges looked like:

“Love, I am sorry for not cleaning the dishes on time. (I looked into her eyes and held her hands.

It makes sense you are frustrated as I can imagine it isn’t nice to wake up to a messy kitchen when you want to cook and still be on time with your daily practices..

I see the effort you always place on keeping our home beautiful and to feel that your own husband doesn’t support you on this probably feels discouraging.. I’m really sorry..

I will do my best to ensure this never happens again.”

Right away I saw her anger melt away as she hugged me and replied with:

“Actually no love, I am sorry..

It’s not really a big deal about the dishes and it wasn’t nice to speak to you with so much anger first thing in the morning.

I know you’ve been working a lot lately and can imagine it was not intentional and just skipped your mind..

I didn’t have a good night sleep and have not been feeling great health-wise and I sense I just feel a lot of anger and fear and took it out on you.

I’m going to explore this, thank you for being patient, understanding and loving.”

(In that moment we hugged as we both intuitively exhaled deeply and softened into recognition of each other’s worlds, without judgement nor expectation, inhabiting a space of love where all is welcomed and all is good.)

We BOTH got what we wanted.

We BOTH won.

She took ownership for her inner world.

I took ownership for my actions and their impact.

No longer out of obligation but out of genuine love.

Those 2 sentences can change your life..

They will make or break your relationship, depending how you use them.

Be wise

🙏🏼