How to Improve your Relationships
In Part 1 of this blog, I talked about the negative roles we can all play in our relationships and how it can become a pattern which endlessly repeats itself. It’s only too easy to fall into the roles of victim, persecutor or rescuer. These roles may be part of our past, from our childhood and adolescence or maybe from previous relationships.
All of us bring baggage into our relationships. The first step towards letting go of that baggage is recognising that it is there in the first place. Once we have that awareness, the second thing we need to do is accept ourselves as we are. This is not all that easy, as none of us like what we see as the negative aspects of our nature. However, it is an essential part of the process as the more we fight who are, the more we become stuck in a negative cycle of low self worth and self-loathing.
When I see couples for therapy, I’m more conscious of the two individuals in the room, rather than a couple. To treat a couple as a unit in the therapy room, is to deny each person’s individuality and their personal issues. When relationships run into problems, one of the major causes tends to be a breakdown in communication. In my couples therapy, I focus on helping each partner to become a better listener. This is really important, as when we are feeling hurt and rejected, we stop listening and tend to become inward looking. We are only interested in getting the other person to hear how they make us feel.
No one can make us feel anything. An important step in therapy is when each partner stops blaming the other for the problems in their relationship. We all have the power to choose our response to any situation. We all contribute to the positive and negative aspects of our relationships. Another crucial part of therapy is to encourage clients to take responsibility for their own feelings and behaviour.
The Winners Triangle
It’s often the case that when we feel like a victim in a relationship, we stop trying to change the situation for the better. It feels as if the world is against us, so what’s the use of trying. However, you don’t need to be a victim. If you change the word victim to vulnerable, it makes quite a difference to how you see yourself. Vulnerable people are more self aware and can tune in to their feelings in an adult way. They are also willing to engage in problem solving. This may include admitting that they need help and if someone says no, they will explore other options to get their needs met.
Are you persecuting your partner? Do you find yourself punishing them, in order to get your needs met. Sometimes, we do do this unconsciously, without realising. Maybe you discount their feelings in order to do something which pleases you. It’s about striking a balance between asking for what you want, saying no to what you don’t want and giving feedback on situations which are causing you distress. This may mean negotiating a workable plan with your partner.
Caring people differ from rescuers in that they won’t try to help without being asked first and unless they are willing to. They use their self- awareness to check on their own needs and feelings. It is ok to say “no”, without feeling guilty, if helping someone is going to compromise your health and wellbeing. This avoids that feeling of being put upon, which results in you feeling resentful and bitter about giving up your precious time.