Are your relationships the kind you really want or just the ones you have?
It’s a great question, and the answer may not be as simple as you think. In fact, just thinking about the question—and the potential consequences of answering it—may be terrifying. But if you don’t own up to what you really want, how are you ever going to have it? And, if you admit your relationships aren’t fulfilling you as much as they could, you open the door to realizing how they can.
This year, instead of creating a list of easily forgotten resolutions, create a new tradition of taking the time to review the most important part of your life—your relationships.
- Who—Make a list of your closest relationships: partner, parents, children, friends, family, co-workers, etc.
- The Feelings–Note how you generally feel when you are interacting with each person, such as happy, sad, fulfilled, anxious, bored, worried, taken advantage of, angry, resentful, in turmoil, afraid, etc.
- Why—Think about why you feel what you do and detail the thoughts or actions (theirs and yours) that create those feelings.
- The Math–For each relationship, list five positive and five negative aspects that each person brings to your life. Then, list five positives and negatives that you bring to each of theirs.
- What’s In It for You?–What do you get out of the relationship? Be honest. If you get the sense of feeling needed, appreciated, being looked up to, being validated—or simply not being rejected—admit it. If maintaining the relationship gives you some kind of perks, such as money, belonging, sex, security, whatever, admit that as well. There are no “bad” answers, so don’t shy away from the question. Honor all the thoughts that come up–ones that make you feel good and especially the ones that don’t. The fact is none of us will do anything unless we get something out of it—it feels good or fills a need in some way. It’s not wrong or something to overcome, it’s just the way we are, and working with it instead of fighting against it is the way to create mutually fulfilling relationships.
A healthy relationship must be a two-way street, and if any of yours aren’t, you need to do something about it. You know you can’t change anyone else, so you have to do it. Use the understandings you gained from answering the questions above to determine where your relationships need to change.
You don’t have to keep talking to and interacting with people who make you feel bad. You can change the dynamic so you don’t have to replay the same old dramas. However, be aware that for some people to be happy they have to be miserable—and they need people to support them in it. If you don’t continue to indulge their victimhood, they may not want you in their lives—and that’s okay.
In a mutually fulfilling relationship, each person is giving and getting what they need and want. Positive relationships energize and support each person to the benefit of both. Negative ones suck the life out of you on every level. It’s your choice which kind you have in your life.
The good news is that once you bite the bullet and admit what you really want from your relationships, you’ll know what you need to do to get it. You’ll automatically see ways to enhance positive relationships—and different options for dealing with negative ones. Make the conscious choice even when it isn’t the easiest or most comfortable. Do the tough work now. It’s the only way to get what you really want!
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Paula Renaye is a tough love media expert, certified professional coach, empowerment speaker and award-winning author. Her acclaimed self-help book, Living the Life You Love: The No-Nonsense Guide to Total Transformation, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2012 and is recommended by many health and mental health professionals with endorsements such as, “All the benefits of serious therapy in one book!”
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Note from Paula: I’ll be heading back to Arkansas in a couple of days. My month in Florida has been fabulous on so many levels. I’m still processing it all, but I have a lot to talk about, so stay tuned!