“What’s wrong with my relationship?”

I can still remember asking this question over and over again when I was having a really big argument with my boyfriend one year ago. At that time, it seemed that all one could do was to cry, waiting for things to get better, or worse.

But is there a way out? If yes, how can we find it?

In his groundbreaking work “On Becoming a Person”, the American psychologist Carl Rogers raised many questions for readers to evaluate their relationships. Here I have picked 7 key questions that may be useful.

Even though we may not know where we are going, it helps at least to know where we are in our relationships.

1. Am I being myself? Or am I acting as though I were something that I am not?

“Do I accept myself as a decidedly imperfect person, who by no means functions at all times in the way in which I would like to function?”

Sometimes we have the pressure to live up to someone else’s standard, to fulfil a certain social ideal. Sometimes it feels as if, if we do not perform, we will let people down, and things will start to fall apart.

If you are having this feeling, then perhaps it is time for you to pull away from your relationship, take a rest and ask yourself, “Who am I?”

It is easy to act according to someone else’s expectation for a while, but trust me, you cannot pretend forever.

2. Can I be expressive enough as a person that what I am will be communicated unambiguously?

“When I am experiencing an attitude of annoyance toward another person but am unaware of it, then my communication contains contradictory messages. My words are giving one message, but I am also in subtle ways communicating the annoyance I feel and this confuses the other person and makes him distrustful, though he too may be unaware of what is causing the difficulty.”

We have all experienced that struggle: something is not right in the relationship, but we don’t want to talk about it directly. Nevertheless, telling the other person how you feel does not necessarily mean that you would hurt the other person. In fact, when you are looking forward to a long-lasting relationship, it is important for you to build consensus, to know the likes and dislikes of each other.

So perhaps it is time for you to truly ask yourself, “What do I really want?”

3. Can I be strong enough as a person to be separate from the other?

“Can I own and, if need be, express my own feelings as something belonging to me and separate from his feelings? Am I strong enough in my own separateness that I will not be downcast by his depression, frightened by his fear, nor engulfed by his dependency?… When I can freely feel this strength of being a separate person, then I find that I can let myself go much more deeply in understanding and accepting him because I am not fearful of losing myself.”

People all say that two becomes one in relationship: It is in relationship that we complete and depend on each other. But is that true?

The fact is, if both persons depend completely on each other without finding their own passion and meaning of life, then the relationship would start to become stagnant, weak and hollow, and both persons would gradually drain each other of their strength and energy. So two doesn’t become one in relationship. Two cannot become one in relationship. It is precisely because of love that we have to be independent and strong to support each other.

4. Can I fully accept the other person as who he is?

“Can I be acceptant of each facet of this other person which he presents to me? Or can I only receive him conditionally, acceptant of some aspects of his feelings and silently or openly disapproving all other aspects?… Do I feel that he should follow my advice, or remain somewhat dependent on me, or mold himself after me?”

If you are asking, waiting, hoping for the other person to change lately, would you still accept him as who he is even if he doesn’t change?

5. Can I step into his private world so completely that I lose all desire to evaluate or judge it?

“Can I let myself enter fully into the world of his feelings and personal meanings and see these as he does?… Can I enter it so sensitively that I can move about in it freely, without trampling on meanings which are precious to him?”

Understanding is risky. If we let ourselves really understand another person, we might be changed by that understanding. And we all fear change. Do you then have the courage to put down yourself and to truly embrace the one you love?

6. Is my relationship static? Am I afraid of change?

“Real relationships have an exciting way of being vital and meaningful… I can also accept the changed experience and the changed feelings which are then likely to occur in me and in him. Real relationships tend to change rather than to remain static.”

Are you facing changes in your life? Has your relationship changed because your partner has a new hobby? A new job? A new plan for his life? What are the things that hinder you from facing those changes?

7. Can I meet this other individual as a person who is in the process of becoming, or will I be bound by his past and by my past?

“As I try to listen to myself and the experiencing going on in me, and the more I try to extend that same listening attitude to another person, the more respect I feel for the complex processes of life. So, I become less and less inclined to hurry in to fix things, to set goals, to mold people, to manipulate and push them in the way that I would like them to go. I am much more content simply to be myself and to let another person be himself.”

All in all, we are imperfect. Love is between imperfect people.

So take a rest, pull yourself out from the relationship for a while, spend time with yourself, sleepover at your old friends’.

The future may not be clear to you. But in time you will know.

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