When you are learning how to improve your relationship it’s important to know how to assess quickly, safely, and respectfully, who is a fit for you and who can’t be. While you’re working on this you need to also think about who you and the other person are at this time and then list the boundaries and unhealthy behaviours in a relationship.
Relationships 101 Week 2: How to Improve Your Relationship
Okee dokee then! How’d last week go? We had some interesting discussion on our web program forum, as the assignment really hit home for a few members. I love hearing how people are working with these tools and beginning to understand more about why things are the way they are and, most importantly, what to do to make things different.
Last week, I ran you through a basic process of identifying what you’re really looking for and what criteria (definition) you would use to identify if those traits were present in someone you were considering for a friend, partner or a peer, etc.
Then I asked you to consider yourself in relation to that list and identify as best you could, which of those traits you already embody and which need a little tweak in you in order to bring you up to the level of that person you seek as a friend or partner.
The key point being, and this is key: You cannot reasonably expect anything from someone else that you are not first prepared to offer yourself.
If you have identified some traits or actions in yourself that you are expecting of someone else but struggle to provide to yourself or others, that really is the first and most important place to begin.
However, it might be hard to focus on those pieces in yourself that need a tweak when it feels like your relationship is so triggering.
If you’re in a relationship now that you feel needs some help, I suggest this.
- Identify (through the use of the handouts attached to this article) if this relationship is abusive or if it is simply a typical, dysfunctional, co-dependent connection that truly can heal if both parties are willing.
- If the relationship is abusive, I suggest you remove yourself from it asap. If you and/or the other person involved really want the relationship to work, you will do what you need to do to become a healthy partner for the other, and if that doesn’t happen, you have much better things to do that be harmed emotionally, verbally or physically in any way. And in case you’re wondering, there is no way to be in an abusive situation without needing a coping strategy like using food, drugs, alcohol, or watching mega TV to numb you to the stress of the situation. So, recovery from your coping strategy requires that abusive relationships end.
- If the relationship isn’t abusive but is truly just misguided/co-dependent (e.g. you feel obligated to meet the other person’s needs and/or they yours, even if that creates resentment and a burden for either of you), don’t need to do anything yet within the relationship except to perhaps tell that person that you’re going to be doing a little work on your part (resist the natural temptation to suggest, hint or otherwise imply that the other person should do the same). Instead, get the tools and support you need (some one-on-one support, our web program, book, etc.) to make sure you’re doing your best with your side of the Healthy Traits (HT) list. Trust me, many relationship issues resolve when one person begins to behave the way they wish the other would. People typically are drawn towards the highest behaviour being modeled around them, they just need to be shown what that looks like and that it’s safe to do so. (That’s what I’m here for, and once you’ve identified some pieces you need to address in yourself, you will be providing that guidance naturally to others).
For this week, I want to encourage you to pick 2 items from the HT list that you want to work on and identify a small step you could take towards this goal. This is easier to do when you imagine what it is that you’d like someone else to do for you and then just commit to doing that for others, even for a day.
For starters, this will help you to have greater empathy for what you have been expecting from others and for their difficulties in offering that to you. But again, I assure you, your own modeling of this creates huge trust and safety and respect on the part of the other and generates a healthier connection naturally.
This process also demonstrates intention to do your part to the other person involved. This also generates greater trust, safety and respect. These are the key pieces of any healthy relationship. When we have safety, trust and respect, the relationship has a natural integrity. It is solid. It just purrs and requires just a little maintenance every now and then. When we lack any of these things in a relationship, it becomes a chronic source of disease if not downright anxiety, which, as you’re all too aware, leaves you needing to over-focus on food and body image in order to check out from the present moment.
In addition to this project, I also encourage you to practice, in your head, assessing the potential quality of a connection through your conversations with others.
Using your Healthy Traits list (from Week 1 of Relationships 101), practice noticing the words and actions of people you meet or observe and identify if they, as you observe them, would meet the criteria of what you need in order to feel safe, trusting, respected and happy in that connection. I’m not suggesting you try to establish a relationship with these folks, just observe them, have a conversation if it naturally occurs, and whatever you do, don’t move forward in any connection that gives you any cause to wonder if your HT list is going to be realized with this person.
Next week we’ll talk about ways to address what I call “red flags” and “yellow flags”. Your ability to know what you’re looking for and your commitment to not settle for anything less than all the goodies on your HT list is the first piece of being able to know what you need to clarify, ask questions about, set boundaries around, or walk away from.
So, have fun!! You’re creating the life of your dreams, you know.
Have a fabulous week.