How your Life Rules can Damage your Relationships

by Jarrod

Everyone has rules that define what is acceptable in living their lives.

Is it ok to leave cleaning the dishes to later? Is it ok to talk ill about others?

It is our differences in beliefs and life experiences that provide incredible growth experiences. But when we are blind to how we apply our own life rules then we can destroy the very relationships that we otherwise enjoy.

Here’s how.

Our rules define what we believe is correct behaviour and this determines how we act. It is how we live out the standards we set ourselves. We all have a complex set of rules that define what we will and won’t do. We apply this to every situation in our lives.

The problem comes when we generalise.

There is a tendency for us to unknowingly think that everyone else should live by the rules we live by.

For example, you may believe that it is unacceptable to ridicule another person.

Now observe what happens when you see someone ridiculing another.

Visualise the scene in your mind and then notice what you are thinking and how you feel.

It would not be surprising that you see that persons behaviour as unacceptable. Also you will probably believe to a certain degree that they are not living up to the standards that humans should.

When someone acts in a way not aligned with how we live or want to live we often feel disconnected and a sense that they are lesser.

Apply Your Rules Only On Yourself

When your spouse doesn’t live by your rules and you believe they should then you will no doubt experience pain.

Think back to the last time you got upset about something someone close to you did.

It was probably because they acted in a way that you would not.

This is the pain of believing that others must act according to you, indeed that they must be like you.

It is a very inflexible approach and is based on focusing on yourself.

Chances are that when reproached they defended themselves. In actuality they are living by their rules.

To have harmonious relationships we must accept and come to understand the rules that each of us live by.

Now imagine a time when someone you care about acted in a way that you yourself would not. However this time you let them act that way or even better, you asked why they decided to act how they did.

If you can release your hold on forcing others to live by your rules then you can learn about others. Then by learning about others and learning how to live with the worlds of other people you have opened yourself up to personal growth.

In your future interactions, when you notice yourself upset about someones behaviour, remember these few things:

  • I am experiencing this feeling of upset due to how I feel about the persons behaviour, not the person themselves
  • What is the standard that I live to that I feel this person is violating?
  • Accepting that we all have our own set of life rules from our life experiences. How can I let go of my expectations on them and inquire about the purpose of their behaviour

In the freedom we give to others we to find our own freedom increasing.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Hulbert Lee June 7, 2010 at 8:39 am

Hi Jarrod, thanks for sharing these tips. I have some trouble sometimes dealing with people in my family because I do generalize and try to change their behavior in some way. I realize that the person I need to understand first is myself and why sometimes I get upset. To live in harmony with others, we have to learn how to let go of expectations and also learn to understand things from their point of view.


Jarrod June 7, 2010 at 5:02 pm

@Hulbert: Well summarised Hulbert. This change of focus and increased awareness can definately help.

Sibyl - alternaview June 9, 2010 at 11:14 am

Jarrod: I found my way to your blog because you recently commented on a guest post I wrote for CYT. Thanks for that comment by the way. I appreciated it. I also thought this was a good post and it is so true that we have to look at the expectations we are holding other people to. When we can release them of these, we really are able to see them and their actions in a different light. Great post.


Jarrod June 10, 2010 at 8:34 am

@Sibyl: Nice to hear from you, releasing our preconceptions of the world is really where we need so much focus.


hesbon kerongo June 28, 2010 at 6:43 pm

This is great. We can get through it by raising our awareness and not being rigid, thanks for the wonderful messgae


Jarrod June 28, 2010 at 9:35 pm

@Hesbon Kerongo: No worries, glad it was useful.

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