Do you love to play amateur psychologist, probing your partner’s childhood story for the causes of behaviors that you consider detrimental to your relationship? Or probing your own story for explanations of your own behaviors in your relationships? It can be fascinating and intriguing…and it’s quite common.

But what you determine to be the causes of your behaviors often serves only to justify those behaviors and your view of them. You and your partner may become resigned to being helpless victims of past circumstances. Alternatively, you may work on trying to fix yourselves and make it all better. But that serves only to keep the explanations and the past circumstances in control of your actions.

Now look. In your relationship, are you really confined to the boundaries that you imposed upon yourself in order to be safe when you were a child? Or when you were a teenager frightened that you would blow it in your first attempt at a relationship with another teenager? Is a 13-year-old’s decision to be safe, made with imperfect information and little experience, an appropriate basis for interacting with your partner today?

Perhaps you can (1) see that obviously everyone had incidents in their past, (2) acknowledge that you had some, (3) put them to rest, (4) retire from being an amateur psychologist, and (5) leave it to the professionals to play the game they were trained to play. Then, having retired from being an amateur psychologist, you can attend to designing your future with your partner.

One of the best features of marriage is the promises that you make to stay together through good times and bad. Those promises support you in placing your past incidents into the past, rather than having them determine your future. They provide the opportunity to let go of the past, produce new futures, and enjoy yourselves as you adventure out together.

Enjoy your retirement!
Carol Herndon and Paul Bennett

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