Saturday, June 09, 2007

Relationships Part 3

How do we see ourselves?

That’s not an idle question. How we see ourselves often determines the quality of our interaction with others.

If we see ourselves as helpless, we are going to cling to defense mechanisms that may get in the way of a healthy relationship. We aren’t likely to ever risk the kind of discussions that would give the people in the relationship a chance to actually work out issues between them. We are likely to look for caretakers (which rarely results in a healthy relationship!) and we are unlikely to recognize our own strength.

If we see ourselves as the rescuers, we may never stop talking long enough to hear the wisdom the other person has to share.

If we see ourselves as unlovable and/or unlikable, we won’t trust people who say they care about us. We won’t risk the kind of honestly that allows a healthy relationship to grow.

If we see ourselves as doing everything for everyone else, we may never recognize the ways that we are selfish or what others are doing for us.

If we see ourselves as...

Well, you get the idea. We need to make a conscious effort to step back and look at the roles we play in relationships and how we see ourselves. We need to recognize that we can rewrite those roles for ourselves. We can choose to ACT AS IF we are how we would like to be.

We can also choose to throw away the old filters through which we have been seeing the people around us. If we do, we give ourselves, the other people, and our relationships a chance to grow in new and wonderful ways. Or we may finally realize that the best thing we can do is walk away.

---What if the person we thought we had to protect doesn’t need protection?
---What if the person we thought was arrogant and powerful is really shy or a scared kid inside?
---What if we have been making assumptions that aren’t at all true any more—if they ever were?
---What if the person we’ve been pretending to ourselves is wonderful and loving isn’t?
---What if the person we thought was smarter than us isn’t?
---What if the person we thought was a fool is actually very smart?
---What if....?

The most powerful tool we have is questioning things we’ve taken for granted and assumed were true.

---What if we don’t have to continue to play out old patterns?
---What if we don’t have to repeat past mistakes?
---What if it’s okay to want what we want and the other person not agreeing doesn’t make either of us bad people just different?
---What if we neither we nor the other person have to be perfect for a relationship to work out?
---What if we can learn to recognize and walk away from unhealthy relationships because we can be happy on our own AND there are other people out there who will love and/or care about us?
---What if we can survive the loss of relationships we wish could go on?
---What if the new relationships in our lives can be healthy?

If we change our assumptions about ourselves and the people in our lives AND we change our behavior, we will inevitably change our experiences.

I’ve made more than my share of mistakes in relationships. Sometimes I was well intentioned and/or didn’t know better. Sometimes intuitively I knew I was making a mistake and chose not to listen to that inner voice. Sometimes I knew darned well that what I was doing wasn’t a good idea but at the time couldn’t do anything else. Sometimes it was the other person doing some or all of these things. And sometimes the situation was such that either inevitably the relationship was going to come to an end or it was best that it do so. Sometimes I still catch myself acting from the fear that knowing me will cause people I care about to get hurt.

We are doing the best that we can. All of us. We have a choice when something goes wrong in a relationship—to choose to focus on blaming SOMEONE (ourselves or the other person or both) or to focus on what good could come out of what’s happening. We can ask ourselves how we can use the experience to grow. We can choose to focus on recognizing that we—and the other person—were doing the best we could and on whatever was good in the relationship for as long as it lasted.

I know I’m repeating myself and I know this kind of change doesn’t happen instantaneously. It’s a process. It takes time and it takes consciously choosing to do things differently than we always have in the past.

My marriage ended after 28 years. I’m the one who filed for divorce. I could have been angry and at times I was. It would have been easy to wrap myself in a cloak of victimhood—and there were times I fell into that trap. But because I was able to step away from that trap—for at least small stretches at a time—I was able to work out a settlement with my ex that left me in far better shape than most women who go through a divorce under these circumstances. Because I was able to set aside my anger—most of the time—our interactions go better than most people would think was possible. This does NOT mean I ever want to get back with him! It was not a relationship that could or should have been salvaged. It does mean that I choose to take the energy that could have gone into anger and use it to create a new life for myself.

I’m spending so much time on all of this—relationships—because connection with others is such a profound need for us as human beings. It affects health—emotional and physical, it affects how we see ourselves, and it affects our opportunities in life. Finding a way to trust enough to form relationships and work to make them healthy ones is an important part of the healing process.

There is also tremendous power in realizing we are not helpless. There is tremendous power in knowing that we do have the power to choose to stay or go and what we will and will not accept in our relationships.

It begins with choosing how we see ourselves. It begins with choosing to recognize that we are strong, resilient people who have the ability—and the right!—to have healthy relationships in our lives.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),


keepers said...

you said a ton of important things here about relationships! they are quite a handful, weighing, determining, risking, accepting, gut checks, it all comes into play. sometimes what we try to save we should not have, sometime we lose what we end up missing so much, and sometimes we just have to wait it out and see where it takes us.

peace and blessings


Marj aka Thriver said...

You are cordially invited to join us for the first anniversary of the blog carnival against child abuse. Shoot, April, you've got so much good healing stuff here, you could submit at least two!

jumpinginpuddles said...

The real release to healing in relationships is to balance good with not so good. If you only see the bad in a relationship then the plunge to take another will be minimal, but if you can observe the good things as well as the not so helpful then it lessens you chance of repeating the same steps again.

The observer

April_optimist said...

Thanks everyone. Breaking old patterns is what healing is about and that's what prompted me to write all these posts--the need to look at how I handle relationships, too.