Welcome to this week’s Relationship Success post.
If you missed last week’s post you can read it here.
This series is aimed at romantic relationships, but as I’ve seen in the therapy room, the materials and topics I talk about with my couples apply as well to clients who come to see me individually.
We are, after all, relational beings, and many issues that come up in any relationship will be similar to those in a romantic relationship, in one way or another…
…or the issues might just relate to the fact that there are two different people, with different backgrounds and ideas about many things, that are living or in close proximity to each other.
It’s normal. It happens. It means we are human!
If you feel you want to discuss this in a session, feel free to book by emailing me or contacting me via this blog’s contact form.
In this post I’d like to talk about communication, and one of its most important pillars, in my opinion – taking responsibility.
It might seem straight forward, but as the title implies, we are sometimes quick to blame someone else, or quick to take the blame for someone else.
Both are detrimental to our selves and our relationships.
I see many relationships suffer due to a breakdown in communication.
I’ve seen it in some of my own relationships, which is why I strive to ask questions and clarify what I meant as much as possible.
Doing this, allows me to connect with the person and to gain a better understanding of them and in turn they gain a better understanding of myself, and any confusion, misunderstanding or animosity can be cleared and life can continue.
Easier said than done, and sometimes the relationship needs to end for one reason or another.
Before it gets to that point, there are things we can all do in our relationships to bridge the communication gap and regain that lovely relationship we started out with.
One thing that I believe is true, and is important to take note of is that we usually end up hurting those that are closest to us. Especially those we live with.
Being aware of the fact that we are prone to snapping or blaming our romantic partners is important, as it might help us stop and take a breath instead of short-circuiting into snap-or-blame games.
Taking time to stop and think is the best thing you can do for yourself and your relationship.
In two words: Take Responsibility.
Stress, anger and other strong emotions need to be processed, but if we can help it, we can work through them without letting them grow into overwhelming monsters that will only hurt us and our partner.
The physical effects of these strong emotions are not good for our physical health, and over-thinking something that could be resolved by asking a question like “wait, what did you actually mean by that?” is detrimental to our mental health.
Asking awkward and uncomfortable questions might be difficult for us – pride or the need to be right and not lose face might prevent us from asking them – but it might be the best thing we can do for the benefit of our relationship.
For support with your other relationships (non-romantic ones) do have a look at my new book, where I give you tips and advice on how to improve your life and relationships by following 20 self-care habits, with an underlying theme of setting clear and healthy boundaries and learning to meet your own needs. Of course, there’s more to it than that, so pick up the book and find out how your life and relationships can improve!
Increased communication and self-awareness – asking those awkward questions or saying those things that put us in a vulnerable position – might be key to growing and improving our relationships.
Getting our feelings “out” rather than keeping them “in” are only going to be beneficial, even if it’s not obvious right now.
The better we feel in our relationship and how we work through arising issues and situations, the better we will feel about ourselves.
It is all about balance.
The better we feel about ourselves, in turn, will also allow us to voice our feelings and needs more clearly. We will respect ourselves, we will honour ourselves and our feelings.
This is “catchy” and when people see how we respect and honour ourselves, they will fall in line and act accordingly.
I call it that “vibe” we sent out.
I see it all the time – someone comes to therapy, realises an aspect of themselves they’ve been neglecting; they start thinking differently about themselves, and things start to change in their environment and relationships.
The vibe has changed.
Earlier in this post I mentioned asking awkward questions and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in order to deepen communication and understand each other better.
I also mentioned taking responsibility as a means to improve communication and our relationship.
Here are some ways in which we can take responsibility and help our partner do the same:
- I am responsible for my own happiness, not my partner.
- My partner is responsible for his/her own happiness, not me.
In a given situation,
- What part have I played?
- What part has my partner played?
- What was my reaction to it and how can I take back responsibility for my reaction rather than placing it on my partner?
- What was my partner’s reaction to it and how can I disengage from taking responsibility for his/her reaction?
In an aim to resolve this situation,
- I need to be assertive and say how a comment or behaviour made me feel – using “I felt” statements rather than “you made me feel”. – Ask the awkward questions, allow vulnerability.
- I need to hear an explanation, an apology, or just feel understood by my partner.
- I need to own what I said or how I behaved and explain or apologise accordingly.
- Do we both need a time-out before carrying on with the conversation? – 20 minutes is how long the body takes to regroup.
Links to the past:
- In an attempt to understand myself and my partner better, it’s important to know whether there’s a link to a situation from their/my upbringing that leads me/them to react so strongly to particular comments or behaviours.
As you can see, it’s all about give then take, and take then give, or both happening simultaneously!
Remember: Both parties have responsibility in keeping the relationship healthy and making it grow.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this first post in the Relationship Success series.
I welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions.
In the next blog post I’ll talk a bit more about communication, compromise and acceptance.