World balance

Someone shared an interesting thought the other day with me. He believes there are two kinds of people in the world. The reasonable and the unreasonable ones. And he considers that good people compensate for the unreasonable ability of the latter group that enables relationships to survive.
This idea got me thinking about a few things. As a therapist, I work with people day in and out who primarily seek therapy for interpersonal difficulties. I work with couples, and over the years, I found one partner to be more flexible and understanding or trying to understand than the other. He or she would be willing to give in more, and I would notice them walking on eggshells around their partner or spouse, trying hard to make the relationship safe.
This brings me to another point, which is what reasonable means. The literal meaning is someone having sound judgment, fair and sensible. Someone who can introspect and look within before looking outside. Introspection means that we can explore ourselves and embrace our blind spots, and be open to understanding what we bring to relationships without getting defensive. That we dare to accept that we can be wrong even with the best of intentions with grace.
An unreasonable person, on the other hand, in my opinion, has a character structure that gets triggered easily, and his defenses blind him to anything that is not self-serving and fits his view of himself. He will look toward blaming the other as a habitual mode and will play the victim card. I know that the character structure is a product of primary relationships with parents and siblings, and our personality traits emerge from that.
But whether one seeks therapy or not, relationships are a great teacher. Yet an unreasonable person in an intimate relationship with a reasonable person will not change. He remains rigid in his stance and, although consistent care and understanding of his pattern, will continue to take his significant other for granted.
I find that reasonable people enable the unreasonable one by lack of boundaries or excessive care and letting the other walk all over him. They continue to take a back seat and, in an attempt to have a harmonious relationship, creates unrealistic expectations in the partner. This continues until the other’s behavior is beyond their window of tolerance.
So those of you who are in relationships need to do an internal audit. Are you the one always giving in? Saying yes to reasonable and unreasonable demands? Do you self-check before saying anything, afraid that there will be a reaction? Is your partner reactive and gets triggered easily? There are many more questions, but if that’s your position in your relationship, it’s time to stand up for yourself. Your attempt at always being reasonable to avoid conflict and argument will not make your relationship stronger. It will further strengthen the dynamic of a good and understanding partner with an unreasonable one, and that dynamic will continue to make the relationship unsafe. Being adaptive continuously and avoiding conflict is not the promise of a strong relationship. Being authentic to oneself in a relationship, even if it causes friction, will make the relationship safe. And I am not endorsing permitting oneself to fight, but conflict can be confronted assertively. Because reasonable human beings who continue to be passive give room to their partners to be aggressive, holding the silence only encourages their partner to bully them. Be flexible in relationships and practice tolerance and compromise but also be fair to yourself and draw those boundaries at the beginning of the relationship.
Relationships take two to tango, so stop taking responsibility for others’ unreasonable bad attitudes because you like identifying yourself as a fair and reasonable person, and it’s your habitual position in life. It will neither serve you, your partner, or the relationship. It’s not your responsibility to create balance in this world.

The writer is a BACP (British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at or her official website.

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