How rigid beliefs affect relationships

I believe you should always be on time. I get angry when people are late because I believe it is disrespectful.

Joe does not believe being on time is important. He has said so. He is usually late.

So who has the problem here? I do.
Why? Because I am angry. Joe is happy.

Joe doesn’t even know there is a problem, because I haven’t told him yet. Let’s say I never tell him and stew in my anger believing everybody believes you should be on time and that everyone believes being late is disrespectful. I will be angry with Joe and Joe will have no clue why I am angry because I have assumed he believes the same things I believe about punctuality.

Now let’s say I have told Joe that it makes me angry when he is late, but he is still always late and doesn’t understand why it is such a big deal. He doesn’t believe it is a big deal.

Joe is not going to change his belief in punctuality. He has demonstrated that. I can’t change Joe’s belief, only he can.

So what can I do?
I can choose to change my belief that Joe should always be on time and that will in turn change my belief that I have been disrespected and then I won’t be angry at Joe anymore.


I can stop making appointments with Joe.

As you can see…
Joe doesn’t make me angry…
I make myself angry because my beliefs don’t allow me to accept Joe as he is.

Once I put this in print, the whole concept appears absurdly obvious. But in all honesty, I didn’t truly comprehend the concept until yesterday when someone close to me had a problem in her personal relationships.

6 thoughts on “How rigid beliefs affect relationships”

  1. Interesting. You may change how you react to Joe but I think your core belief is correct. It may be possible he just doesn’t know better but this doesn’t mean you cannot express to him how it makes you feel. What you seem to be missing is communication with your friend. Openness and honesty are sometimes points of contention but in the long run this could help him in other situations where there is the same problem and he doesn’t understand the other parties animosity. I have the opposite condition – I’m never on time but always early – sometimes this is also not well received – my ex was always making me circle the block until the exact time a party was to begin and even then she wanted three more laps… I miss that girl_but only when I’m not sober.

  2. Brilliant Steve!! What you’ve clearly explained is something that very few people seem to know (or at least practice). Two thoughts I specifically want to add:

    1. Many of us haven’t consciously chosen our beliefs. We live out inherited beliefs that may or may not fit what we truly want in our lives. A belief from my family, though not directly articulate in this way, was “When you’re good at something, you’re valued.” I was a perfectionistic people-pleaser when living out of this belief, so I would make myself crazy trying to fulfill this belief. Many sad stories.

    2. Life is as it is–neither good nor bad, black nor white, up nor down. We humans put meaning on it. Even when we have plenty of justifications for our judgments, they are still simply judgments (or beliefs). Though I encourage my coaching clients (and endeavor to personally practice) to maintain standards that fit their personal values, like you demonstrated, if we’re feeling miserable, we might re-evaluate if our beliefs are helping us or hurting us.

    Thanks for sharing this important info in such a clear way! Peace.

  3. It does seem pretty simple now, doesn’t it?
    That means you got it right.

    But don’t worry, you go on down this path and you’ll eventually hit things that are just as simple, yet for some reason fiendishly difficult to write down.

  4. It is simple, you’re right. We can’t change other people, we only have control over ourselves and how we choose to react to things. Very Buddhist. Just found your site this morning, I’ll be back.

  5. I find this funny – I find people who are so strict for such trivial stuff do have a problem – with themselves. Life’s so much better when you’re always running late, catching up with people along the way – less stress, more honesty – and you do always find the ones you want to anyway.
    But a sad self abused bunch of people think their way is somehow better. Go figure…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *