Well, it is February after all, so, I thought I’d make this next series of articles dedicated to the top of how to have a great relationship.
I am guessing that you have at least one relationship in your life? And I’m guessing that you might like to know how to feel more confident, secure, trusting, open and intimate in that relationship?? And maybe you want to be able to know the difference between what is your “stuff,” i.e. what you have responsibility for and what you have control over, and what has nothing to do with you at all?
What about learning how to discuss sensitive issues with the greatest ease and to the highest possible resolution? That would be a good thing, no?
What about learning how to know when you’ve truly done your best and how to let go of relationships that can never meet your needs without feeling guilty, bad, like a failure, responsible, ashamed or at all uncertain that you’re doing the right thing?
Yes, it’s possible. In fact, when you follow these basic steps that we’re going to explore over the next few weeks, you’ll see how there is a method to being successful in relationships. It’s not a secret. You didn’t miss the class where everyone else got shown how to do relationships. We all need to be shown this one way or another. And there’s no time like the present, right? Right!
We’ll tackle each of the above core relationship issues as we go through the next month or so, and by the end of it all, you’ll know exactly how to create and maintain the relationships you seek in all areas of your life. It may take a little practice but you’ll at least have a lay of the land, know what you’re shooting for, and what to do to reach your goals.
And in case you haven’t put this together for yourself yet, let me reassure you that when you begin to work with these tools you will also naturally be building your self-esteem and sense of equality with others as well as naturally loosening the stranglehold that food and harmful all-or-nothing thinking has on you.
For this week we’re going all the way back to the beginning of any relationship, back before there were two, to just you.
Now, I realize that you’ve already likely got a couple of connections in your life if not many, and I’m not suggesting that you abandon them and start from scratch. I’m suggesting that until you step back from your connections for a moment and get very clear with yourself about what it is that you are looking for from others and what it is that you bring to the table, you can’t even truly begin to assess the quality of the connections you’ve got now, let alone begin to do your part to make them as strong and healthy as they can possibly be and hold others accountable in the same way.
So, for this week, to make the best use out of this series and start creating the relationships you desire, there is a little time and energy required of you. It will pay you off in spades, I guarantee you.
- 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.
So, a few things to deepen your awareness once you’ve made your Healthy Traits (HT) list:
First, now it’s your turn. Take a look at your HT list for what makes a person feel safe, trustworthy, respectful and just plain downright cool! And…..take a nice deep breath…..and ask yourself honestly which of these traits you can say that you embody towards the people in your life, including the grocery store clerk, the bus driver, the server at the restaurant, your parents, partner, siblings, friends, co-workers, etc.
Yes, you! It’s never appropriate for an adult to expect things from others that they aren’t first willing and able to do for themselves. In fact, I have discovered over the past few years that when I am feeling a wee bit resentful or annoyed with someone, if I just ask myself what I’m needing from them/expecting from them, and if I’ve offered them that, I find the answer is usually, “Ummmm, well, no, actually.”
The act of getting clear on that in myself and then committing to offering first what I’d like from others usually takes care of my need entirely because in holding myself accountable to be the person I expect others to be, a funny thing happens. First, I feel instantly less resentful, more open-hearted and strong. And guess what? The other person responds in kind and naturally starts to open their heart more, and very often, to meet the need that I am now meeting for them. It’s quite remarkable actually and flies directly in the face of the co-dependent training to just get bitter and resentful and make snide comments or freak out (or binge!) when people don’t read our mind and meet our needs without us having to ask!
It is important to acknowledge the characteristics and traits from your HT list above that you already bring to bear to all of your connections and give yourself a hug of appreciation for this. Then make a list of the traits on your HT list that you are asking for / wanting from others that you don’t embody fully yourself.
In what ways and with whom can you begin to challenge yourself to be for others the person you would like them to be for you?
And, the last piece I want you to do this week is to make a list of the key connections in your life (partner, friends, family, co-workers, etc.) and identify any of the traits from your HT list of things you need in order to feel safe, peaceful, trusting and respected, that are currently missing in this connection (or seem to be) from that person towards you.
Okee dokee? So now, you have a list of the Healthy Traits in a relationship; the things that allow you to feel (or you imagine will allow you to feel) safe, trusting, respected, and peaceful in your relationships. You have a sense of where you’re at in your own safety, trust, respect and peace meter and where you need a little support or focus in order to hold yourself accountable to the standards you’re setting for others. And you have a sense of the connections in your life that need a little work (or a lot) and what specifically needs to change in order for you to feel happy in them.
That’s a great piece of work!
Tune in next week for the next instalment. And don’t worry about it if you don’t get it all done this week. Do what you can / feel ready for and just keep on reading. You’ll do it when you’re ready. In the meantime, gather the data, and help yourself to see more clearly what’s working and what’s not. I’m here (and so will this series of articles be) when you’re ready to dive in.
Have a fabulous week.