Some thoughts on relationships

Relationships are hard.  At least they are hard to handle.  Even the most committed twosomes clash or find each other annoying.  Maybe worse, you might even find you have lost interest in one another.

Do you notice I haven’t even named the twosome?  Yet you probably thought immediately of an intimate partner relationship.  But the same problems plague all interpersonal relationships.  Siblings, parents/children, co-workers, friends…

It can be helpful to check out your ‘relationship closet’ and see what is hanging in there.  Or maybe what is missing.  Just like clothes, we probably have a lot of some stuff and not much of others.  None of a certain color, or everything matches.  It is a style thing.  But does the style make you feel happy and energised?  Or tired, bored, or sad?  Does your ‘relationship closet’ need a makeover?

In your relationship history, have you been the one who makes the calls, drives to visit, or pays for lunch?  Do you notice what others do for you?  If you receive a kindness, do you tell the other person you appreciate it?  That’s a really hard question, actually.  If you aren’t noticing, how do you know you aren’t?

One thing about style is that we frequently can tell more about what we don’t like than what we do like.  You know you don’t like it when your boss takes credit for your work, or your sister is always late to pick up her kids when you babysit.  We notice those things like a pair of shoes that don’t fit…but my metaphor breaks down here – shoes we can get rid of.  Bosses and sisters?  Not so much.

There is a saying: We teach people how to treat us.  Active responses like appreciation or setting limits can get us more of what we like or decrease stuff that makes us unhappy or uncomfortable.  Passive responses can be ‘sins of omission’ like not telling people when we love them, or taking for granted the everyday efforts of life.  These kinds of carelessness can breed distance and/or resentment between any two people.  Passive acceptance of bad behaviour from others teaches them (even if they don’t realise it) to continue the problem.

Chances are if you are taking time to read this, you might be feeling sad or angry about a relationship.  If that is the case, I’m going to bet that you have a list of wrongs ready at hand.  I don’t think you are imagining these things – things that hurt our feelings really do happen.  What I think might help you sort this out is to look at your whole ‘closet’ of relationships and see if these styles of problems happen with others – now or in your past.

If you aren’t planning to send this relationship to the thrift store yet, you might try these ideas:

  1. See what else you have going that feels good.  The style of those relationships might mean that you are more active in the relationship in a positive way.  Or the person you are in relationship to behaves in ways that enhances your personal sense of who you are.  What are the actively positive things that happen in these connections?  Pump up your active choices in the troubled bond and see what happens.
  2. Look at the discards in your relationship history.  Everyone makes a mistake now and then.  Did you choose something that was cheap and fashionable but didn’t last?  Or did you try to make yourself fit into something that just wasn’t you?  Did you think you had something really cool and it suddenly came apart at the seams?  If there is a pattern to these failed affiliations, do you see any similarities in your behaviour that contributed to the pattern?  Is there a stand out in these situations that mirrors this one that is troubling you?  What would you have done differently if you had the choice?  Is this something you could consider now?
  3. What needs mending?  Only you know if you have some fixing up to take care of.  Remember that you can’t ‘make over’ someone else – only yourself.

Sometimes it helps to get someone with experience in design to help with what’s in your closet.  If you think it would help to get a relationship consultant to help sort this out, call me.  Let’s find out what your style is, and what really fits you.