Lifestyle Enhancement #2:
[RELATIONSHIPS] I have honest and supportive relationships and am pleased with how I interact with my significant other, children, parents, friends and colleagues.
The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to relationships is that you have agreed to every single aspect of each one. You are one-half of the relationship and are therefore equally responsible for every element of it – whether good or bad.
For some people, that may be hard to swallow. You might be balking about now. But wait a minute. Consider this – with the exception of your relationships with your children, you have a choice about whether to continue each of your relationships every single day.
If you choose to stay in the relationship even though you don’t like certain aspects of it, you are an equal contributor to this unhealthy and unhappy situation. You are responsible for your life and your happiness.
Now, I’m not saying to end every relationship you have just because you don’t like some elements of it. Quite the contrary. I’m saying that you have the power to change the relationship and help it evolve into one that supports the needs and desires of both people.
Since you have this power, it is unacceptable is to stay in a relationship that is destructive to you, the other person and/or those people around you. Unhealthy relationships impact more than just the two parties directly involved. For example, in many unhappy marital situations, children pay a far greater price than they do in an amicable divorce.
So, how do you know if you are in a relationship that is unhealthy? Tune into your emotions. As humans, it’s normal to experience a variety of emotions during our interactions with other people, but if you find yourself repeatedly feeling negative emotions during your interactions with another person, your emotions are sending you a message that you are not at peace in this relationship.
If you frequently find yourself yelling, becoming resentful, feeling depressed, being spiteful, or experiencing other negative emotions and resultant behaviors, you need to start paying more attention to your life and the feelings you have about it.
Our emotions are simply signals telling us whether what we are experiencing is in alignment with our truest values, ethics, morals, and desires. Negative emotions are warning signals that tell you that you need to avoid or change a situation. Positive emotions are reinforcing messages that you are doing something good for your soul.
Human interactions and relationships are perhaps the hardest thing we have to master while here on Earth. There is no perfect relationship and they all take some degree of work. The secret is to only enter and/or stay in relationships with people who are willing to do their half of the work.
You cannot completely fix a relationship by yourself. You can certainly endeavor to make your relationship better by working on your half of the equation, but ultimately, there is a limit to how much you can accomplish with an unwilling other half. This applies not only to relationships with your spouse or significant other, but also to friendships, parent relationships, and working relationships.
If, while reading this, you have identified some relationships in your life that suck your energy away rather than filling you up, you have a few options. You can approach the other person with compassion to explain what you’ve been experiencing and work with them to make changes in the relationship.
In this conversation, be prepared to set boundaries about what you are and are not willing to accept in terms of your continued relationship. Keep this conversation unthreatening by spending some time to become clear about what you really want before you start talking to them. If you bring all of your emotional fury to the table, the other person will naturally become defensive which will push you even further away from your goal.
If this and future attempts to work it out on your own are ineffective, you may choose to work with a counselor, therapist, religious leader, or other well-trained 3rd party to help you sort through the facts, feelings, and egos.
There are often well-ingrained patterns and relationship dynamics that cloud our ability to see our own situation clearly. Believe me - certified professionals can help you achieve levels of closeness in your relationship that you may never have been able to achieve on your own and may not have even realized were possible.
A second option is to limit your exposure to the person with whom you have a negative relationship. This option applies mostly to your relationships with people with whom you cannot completely break ties and are unwilling or unable to resolve by working with them directly.
For example, your relationships with in-laws, co-workers/boss, ex-spouses who share custody of your children, neighbors, or aging parents are ones that you cannot choose to end in most cases.
These are people who are connected to your life in ways that you do have complete control over, so if you cannot resolve the issues in your relationships, you should limit the amount of time you spend with them. Re-define the relationship in your mind.
For example, if you have a problem with a neighbor and have been unsuccessful in resolving that problem by working with them, you can decide to finally accept that you will not reach a resolution with this person.
Diffuse any of the anger or other negative emotions you’ve tied to the relationship. Let the air out of the balloon and accept the situation for what it is. If you see them in the yard, keep your greeting to a brief “hello” and move on.
You’re essentially making the decision to release the negative emotions you carry with you every day or every time you see this person. It doesn’t mean you’re giving in or giving up, it just means that you’re no longer willing to give so much of your energy to these negative feelings.
And, since you can’t remove this person from your life completely, you are minimizing the impact they have on you and your day when you do have to interact with them. Choosing to release this negative energy is really a gift you’re giving to yourself.
The last option is to end the relationship. Depending on the nature of the relationship, you may choose to skip directly to this step. Obviously, this isn’t an option in regard to your children with whom you are legally and morally obligated to use setting boundaries and/or seeking professional help as your available options.
Regarding all of the other relationships in your life, including those with your parents, your spouse, your friends, and your neighbors, you can choose to end your relationship rather than agreeing to continue to allow the negative impact of it to diminish your enjoyment of life.
But before you do, take note that far too many people jump directly to this step – especially in their marriages - without first making honest attempts to work on the relationship.
Whether in your marriage or in your other relationships, this is a sure invitation to repeat the cycle with the next significant person in your life. By failing to acknowledge and attempting to resolve how you contributed to that bad relationship, you’re sure to repeat the dynamic with the next person to fill that role.
You did have a role in the state of that and every relationship that you are in, so by choosing the easy way out, you’re only prolonging the pain until you go through the entire cycle once again.
That said, there are times that are appropriate for ending relationships. Not every relationship is meant to last forever. We are all evolving throughout our lifetime – some faster than others depending on how much energy we focus on doing so. With this in mind, it’s easy to see how people quite naturally grow apart emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
If you’ve found that there is someone in your life that generates more negative energy than they do positive, and you’ve made efforts to change the dynamic in your relationship to no avail, it may be time to end the relationship. When you do so, tell them why you are doing so by being honest with them.
Share how you feel when you are with them and tell them how you want to feel when you are with other people. If you’ve made efforts to improve this relationship in the past, these messages shouldn’t come as a surprise.
In most cases, they will respond defensively no matter what. But, if you’ve put your focus on sharing your feelings versus attacking their behavior, you can walk away feeling relieved and free rather than guilty.
Remember, you deserve to have a life filled with caring, compassionate, and supportive people who want to work together to make your relationships stronger and happier. If you do your part, there's no reason you should have to accept negative relationships in your life. You're not a passenger in your life - you're the driver. Take responsibility for pointing your car toward a happier future.