Having ended the last session by concluding that we need to know ourselves better, that is where session two began. We first discussed what unique attributes we bring to a relationship. Why would I choose you as a potential spouse/ friend? This question proved to be a little difficult. As a psychologist, I am well versed in talking about behaviour and what makes you, well you. It turns out others are not so used to being asked this…
The responses we received were almost textbook and showed a real need to better understand ourselves. “I am kind”, “I am a good friend”, “I am religious”. All fair responses, but all also such generic responses that they don’t really tell me anything about the real you. After all, given the context of the gathering (Muslims gathering to talk about marriage and relationships), who is ever going to say that they are not kind, or striving to be more religious.
I am not pressing this point as a criticism. Just as a way to highlight the journey we could all benefit from going on. In the marriage game, we are so quick to judge every detail of another person’s personality, habits, behaviours and values but do we really know our own. Do we know how we are showing up? We talked about dating and how correspondence rarely makes it past a few weeks. Our response to that – what is the common factor here (it’s you). What behaviour are you repeating? Why? What are you making it mean?
There are several tools available to gain better insight into your own personality. They are all useful in their own way. I was never a believer, but after 15 years in the industry, I have learnt there is more than a little truth in what these assessments have to say. So be brave, take a test. At the very least it will give you a starting point. If you don’t agree with the results, fine, I know it’s hard to hear about yourself from a test, but try to imagine if even 1% of what you are being told about yourself is true – what could that mean for you?
Also, it is important to recognise that for every seemingly ‘positive’ attribute you have, there will be a flip side that others may not find so positive. E.g. ‘I am a perfectionist’, could easily be flipped to ‘I take forever to make decisions because I do not want to make the wrong one’.
After looking at how we show up, we peeled back a layer to explore why. I.E. what values and beliefs do we hold that drive our outward behaviour. This of course is an even more difficult question to answer, but nonetheless important to consider. We all have outward behaviours that may shift based on context. But we all also have a true north. Those fundamentals that drive everything. One of mine for example is integrity. This is not just a trait for me, but something that runs to the very core of who I am. If I don’t do what I said I was going to do it eats at me. This means I will always show up. However, looking at the flip side, it means I hold others to the same standard and am uber-sensitive if I feel a whiff of inauthenticity. The point here is in order to know what you would like from another person, you first need to know yourself.
The final question we explored was ‘who do you take advice from’?. We asked this question after years of seeing individuals seek advice from sources that were doing more harm than good. For example, in so many instances I have seen individuals blindly follow their parent’s advice and in wanting so much to make them happy, often suffer themselves. I am not saying that parents don’t want the best for you, of course, they do. But they don’t always know best. The same goes for anyone you seek advice from. Yes they love you, yes they want the best for you, but only you and Allah know what truly is best. I know this is quite controversial, I am not asking you all to start a rebellion, but what I am asking you to do is consider the limitations of your advice-givers. Any one person can only give advice based on their own life experiences. Any one person will have a whole host of biases and lenses through which they are viewing the world. So, all I would say is, take advice, as much as you like, but make the final call yourself, and if you get stuck, ask the big man, no really. I truly believe that if you open your heart and authentically ask for help it will come. Never in the way you wanted or expected it, but it will come and you will get more than you could have ever imagined.