- Allow yourself to imagine the key people you’ve had in your life, however briefly or far removed, that you really felt safe with and really felt respect for and respected by. If no one comes to mind, as can be the case, use characters from Hollywood movies, cable TV shows or books that you liked (I confess that when I began to explore this concept for myself in my search for healthy female friendships and healthy romantic partnerships, I was so starved for healthy female role models that I clung to the integrity, confidence, self-respect and courage that Angela Lansbury’s character, Jessica Fletcher, portrayed in the “Murder She Wrote” TV series (she’s got serious values and chutzpah, that gal!). In other words, feel free to use anyone that comes to mind as your foil for a respectful, healthy, grounded person.
- Make a list of the characteristics and traits that those people embody in your experience of them.
- If you’re stuck, ask yourself the reverse question: What has been/is present in your relationships in which you have felt unsafe, insecure, and /or disrespected? Now turn that around and that’s what you want, i.e. a past partner of mine would threaten to leave every time – literally – I held him accountable to his commitments (that relationship didn’t last long!). If I were to turn that very unsafe pattern around into what I want, I’d say I need friends/partners who have integrity; who are committed to honouring their word and who are respectful and accepting of the consequences of not doing so; someone who can apologize openly, learn from their mistakes and express their anger or fear in ways that aren’t shaming or blaming but rather bring us closer together and deepen my respect for them. To me, these pieces are fundamental to any healthy relationship.
- Now, add to that list, any additional traits, characteristics, values, and principles that are important to you in order for you to feel safe and respected and trusting of another person. **Notice how your inner critic (the Drill Sgt.) may chime in about what you can and can’t ask for; what you are deserving of; what you are entitled to; what the unlikely chances are of you actually getting this and simply use your Drill Sgt. dialogue tool: What is your intention in saying that? And what is important about that? And what is important about that? And what is important about that? And what is important about that? And what is important about that? And when you get to the end, just thank your Drill Sgt. for his intention, tell him how he could achieve that outcome with greater respect and enhance your self-esteem instead of trashing it. Remember your inner critic loves you, he just is very confused about what love is and how best to show it…remind you of anyone from your past??
- This is your list of traits and values and principles that you need someone to have in order to feel safe, trusting, and respected in your relationship with that person. Regardless of whether you think it’s possible for you or whether you worry that that person doesn’t even exist, this is what you need! No other connection is going to feel safe to you, so don’t settle. We ALWAYS get what we are willing to settle for. Don’t be willing to settle for anyone who doesn’t create a sense of respect, safety and trust with you. (And don’t be willing to settle for anything less in your relationship with yourself either!)
- You may want to add a few additional traits for that special someone….but otherwise, you are looking for people who fit these characteristics and you’re not going to waste your time and energy trying to build a relationship with someone who isn’t capable of these core traits and behaviours, not unless you want to continue to feel insecure and use food to cope that is.