Quality relationships take work.
Marriages where partners are unwilling to mature and learn new ways of communicating will have a hard time thriving or even surviving. We may find that we can boss compliant kids around when they are little (not recommending this) but as they grow up these old patterns of communicating or relating need to go if we desire healthy, mutually respectful relationships.
Even in our best and easiest friendships there may come a time when feelings get hurt or we need to work through an emotionally-charged issue.
So relationships (especially healthy, calmer relationships) take work. And this work is worth it.
“You must first get along with yourself before you can get along with others.” -Anthony D’Angelo
And though this isn’t my topic of discussion today, I believe that the best thing we can do for all our relationships is to take responsibility for our own crap. To do the work of becoming who and how we want to be in the world. To come as a whole and healthy human being to our relationships. This, of course, is a never-ending journey (we are all works in progress) so in the meantime…
3 Tips To Help Us Enjoy Calmer Relationships:
Assume Positive Intent
Assume the best about others. Assume they didn’t mean to offend you or ignore your needs and they don’t all of a sudden hate you. Especially in your closest relationships – has your husband shown you over the years how much he loves you and how invested he is in your marriage? Then why assume the worst?
Even if your partner keeps doing that thing that you hate but they have told you many times they are trying to change this habit, the assumption should be that they are human and it is hard to change our ingrained habits… not that they are lazy or insensitive. (If your partner has betrayed your trust in the past then seek appropriate counselling to help you set boundaries for this relationship).
If your friend hurts your feelings, assume she didn’t mean to and when you are in a calm state, and if the issue is significant enough, ask if you can set a time to discuss what happened. Or just forgive and move on! If your daughter keeps leaving messes even after you have reminded her countless times, do not yell and assume she is purposely disrespecting you (ahem!); go to her and communicate WHY having an ordered environment is important to you and how you feel when she doesn’t support you in this.
And I highly recommend learning about personality typing and just how much our unique personalities affect our relationships and all the ways we move through life.
When someone on the phone or at the grocery store acts like a jerk, assume they are human and having a bad day and not out to ruin your life. If you are in pain or walking through grief and someone makes an unhelpful remark to you – assume they are doing their best with what they know. Offer forgiveness or grace – something we all need at times in our lives. Which brings me to tip number two…
Give Away That Which You Need
Sometimes we have need of encouragement, a hug, some quality time (or whatever!), and feel frustrated, let down, or even angry that our primary relationships are not adequately meeting these needs we have. We may feel that everyone is too busy with their own lives or a family member doesn’t like us… we tell ourselves many stories. Rather than moping or ranting or feeling rejected, we can step out and give away that which we ourselves need.
Look for ways to offer genuine encouragement to others, to be a kind and compassionate friend yourself, to set aside your own desires for a moment and truly listen to what others are saying. If you feel disconnected from a family member, send her a text; if you need more healthy touch from your spouse – reach out and offer a massage; if you feel distant from your son, enter into his world by playing a game he loves or talking about the newest graphic novel he’s excited about. And, PLEASE, actually communicate your desires (when you are calm and without judgment or blame); no one can read your mind!
We all mess up and want others to be quick to forgive, quick to see the beauty in us (rather than always pointing out our failures), ready to assume the best about us. We ought, therefore, also offer this to others.
Disentangle Yourself Emotionally (A.K.A. let others carry their own baggage)
When issues arise, do not fall into people-pleasing mode or make decisions that feel disingenuous just to keep the peace. This is also about not letting others push our buttons and about not blaming or judging others or coming under blame or judgment from others (we do not have to receive everything that others throw our way).
When I find myself getting tangled up in someone else’s anger, worry or negativity, I picture myself handing that ‘baggage’ back to them. You might also picture yourself setting down a heavy load and taking a step back from it. You can be present for the other person (as long as they are not being abusive) but you do not need to carry their baggage for them.
So, for instance, maybe you know someone who is struggling and you have offered a listening ear, advice, and encouragement to seek help but nothing ever seems to change. You can love this person but recognize that you may need to set limits on your time together or allow him/her to carry their own load. Or, perhaps you have a grown child who is forever making unhealthy decisions and then expecting you to pick up the pieces for them. You can love them (your heart may even break a little), and listen with compassion, but not step in and take ownership of their problems.
You may have a family member who gets into pouty moods and this affects the energy of the entire home or Christmas gathering. You may need to take some deep breaths and remind yourself of your own Core Desired Feelings and consciously choose to disentangle yourself from their choices. They have a right to a bad mood but you don’t have to jump on that train.
What do you think? Can you identify areas or moments in your relationships where using these tips might allow you to build healthier and calmer relationships?
Perhaps you recognize the need to set aside time to do the work of becoming a healthy and whole person yourself. (I can help!)
*photo by magpie3studio