Here then, is my first post on Healthy Relationships...
Are you in a relationship? When we hear this question, most of us assume (probably rightly) that it refers to whether or not we are in an intimate partnership. In Western culture, it seems, marriage or lifelong partnership is the ideal core relationship to which most adults aspire. I will be writing about intimate relationships throughout this blog, however to start, I would like to suggest that all of life takes place in relationship. We are interacting with people (and animals)--individually and in groups--nearly every day.
“Wherever You Go, There You Are” We have probably all heard this quote, which has been attributed to a variety of authors, from Thomas Kempis ca. AD 1400 to Buckaroo Banzai. The premise, of course, is that we bring ourselves into every relationship. Parents will tell you that every child is different, seemingly coming into the world with their own personality partially formed. On top of that, every relationship, especially in our formative childhood years helps to teach us a myriad of ways to be in the world.
We learn our own unique communication styles; how to handle and respond to our emotions and stressful situations; our sense of humor; what issues are appropriate to discuss, and with whom; whether to be a risk-taker, vulnerable, courageous, and what level to allow intimacy, and so much more. Additionally, we all get wounded, carry varying degrees of “baggage” or “issues” from those wounds, and run the gamut from denial to healing those pains from past relationships.
All of these lessons and more help form our perception of the world and how we fit within it. We each enter every relationship with the underlying belief that the world is generally benevolent/friendly or a dangerous place. Is your glass half-full or half-empty?
Your perceptions have profound effects on every friendship and intimate relationship you create, as well as how you behave in “unequal power” relationships, such as parent/child, teacher/student and boss/employee.
One of the first steps to consciously creating healthy relationships begins with self knowledge. One way of becoming more self-aware is by journaling about your values/the things that are most important to you, as well as situations that “trigger” you, or make you feel defensive. Understanding these issues help you make more clear choices about who you choose to allow into your life. Discovering these insights can also set you on your way to healing fears or patterns of reacting that keep you from experiencing freedom and joy in life.
A huge key to remember: The only person we can change is ourselves. If we all take 100% responsibility for the quality of our relationships, we can choose in each instance to improve, deepen, maintain, back away from, or release relationships appropriately.
Relationships will wax and wane. A very few will last a lifetime. Most will not. If we choose, we can glean gifts and life lessons from every relationship that nourish and propel us forward, so that each subsequent interaction benefits from the ones before.