"Your relationship with YOURSELF determines your relationship with
EVERYONE in your life."
Take some time to identify each of your closest relationships and how they feel to you, relationships like your spouse or partner or siblings or children or step-children or parents or friends.
Begin by making a list—write down the names of the people whose relationship you care about and deeply value—and after you've gathering those names, read this profound passage from The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown:
"A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all men, women, and children. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong.
When these needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We grow numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick. There are certainly other causes of illness, numbness, and hurt, but the absence of love and belonging will always lead to suffering.”
So, in order to live a life where your irreducible needs are met, I invite you to find out how you can take steps to improve the relationships that you value.
You have your list now, yes? It’s probably a long list, so focus on just 2 for now—the 2 relationships that you most want to improve. Rate these 2 relationships. Use a scale of 1-10, with 10 meaning, “this relationship feels really, really good to me.” Be honest with yourself. Write down the number by the person’s name.
Let’s say one of these relationships is a “5” right now on your scale. What would have to happen to shift this relationship up the scale by just 2 or 3 points, for starters? Take these steps to begin to shift each relationship that it important to you.
1. Decide how you desire the relationship to feel.
Take time to truly answer this for yourself: how do you want it to feel? What’s your ideal? Do you want the relationship to feel easy and fun and supportive and mutual? Claim it. Imagine what it would feel like if this relationship were functioning optimally. (And, just observe your inner critic piping in to say, “oh, that’ll never happen,” and ask that voice to go silent. Blocking what’s possible before you’ve even tried is a sure way to stay exactly where you are in this relationship.)
2. Ask yourself, “what can I shift in me to create what I desire?
Here’s the truth: you can only change yourself. You cannot make another human do anything. And, truth also is, you don’t want to make someone be in relationship with you if they are not as committed as you are to nurturing the relationship. So, determine what you can do differently. Examine the situations that you leave you feeling that your needs are not being met. Look closely at your own behaviors. Note your patterns of thought about that person and about your relationship. Get really clear on your perspective about the dynamics that are creating the relationship stress. This step is NOT inviting you to blame another person. It’s inviting you look at the relationship from as many angles as possible to see it more fully, more clearly, and more completely.
3. Communicate how you feel from an “I” perspective.
You are not responsible for others’ happiness and they are not responsible for yours. But, not giving people a chance to show you who they are and how they value you is a way you limit the potential richness of the relationship.
So, you must communicate your feelings. If this feels fearful, it’s likely because you haven’t had experience with this important communication strategy. In our unaware state, we tend to use language that points the finger at people. "You make me so angry," or, "You make me feel stupid," are examples of some of the things we say to others when we don't feel things are going our way. These are examples of “you” language. Instead of taking responsibility for our own emotions, we blame the other person for the way we feel.
When we use “you” language, it tends to fuel the anger rather than extinguishing it. Julia T. Wood, Professor of Interpersonal and Organizational Communication at UNC Chapel Hill, says, "Although how we interpret what others say may lead us to feel certain ways, we can't hold them responsible for our feelings."
Therefore, you must speak using the word, “I,” as in, “I feel like I have to nag about the chores when you don't complete them. I don't want to be a nag. I don't understand what I can do to help when it comes to asking you to do things." Or, "I don't like the feeling that I am comparing you to my father. Can we talk about why I feel that way?"
Do you notice the difference? Rather than blaming the other party and accusing them of something - which immediately puts them on the defensive - you are owning your feelings and taking responsibility for them. You are also expressing your needs to the other person in a healthy way. Many times we want to blame the other person so that we don’t have to own the power we have over our emotions. When we change our “you” language to “I” language, it gives us the authority to control our emotions.
Communicating in this way may be new for you, so be willing to practice. Be vulnerable. You may need to communicate, first, about this new communication style by letting your partner or spouse or children know that you are committed to communicating your feelings in a healthy way. This will give them an opportunity to show you who they are, helping you determine what this relationship brings to your life.
You are solely in charge of your happiness, and you have the power to create relationships that offer a deep sense of love and belonging.