The most important ingredient that we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are ~ Stephen Covey
Relationships are the core of who we are, they matter to us in a very big way. Good relationships don’t happen overnight. They take commitment, compromise, forgiveness and most of all — effort.
Even though every relationship has its ups and downs, successful people learn how to manage the bumps. They hang in there, tackle problems, and learn how to work through the complex issues of everyday life. If we recognize ahead of time what those relationship problems might be, we’ll have a much better chance of getting past them.
Psychological Research suggests the healthiest and happiest people are those who have supportive and loving relationships. Relationships form the foundation of the quality of our life. Ironical, but true, our education system teaches us laws of physics, mathematics, geography, technology etc. to help us navigate through the world but does not teaches us how to navigate through our relationships which are so important to us. No branch of study or manual teaches us how to become a better parent, husband, wife, child or a better human being. Thus, we end up learning to navigate through relationships by our own experiences, our own understanding and at times, then, there is a heavy cost attached to it.
As people, we need people. We define ourselves through our relationships. Relationships form the core of who we are. We all want supporting and loving relationships around us. When we have supporting relationships, it adds lot of value to our being, adds quality to our life too.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross, a swiss born psychiatrist suggested that the ultimate lesson in life is learning how to love and be loved unconditionally and that’s where the crux of relationships lies.
What is a relation? How do we define it? Relations are nothing but a give and take dance between two people. It is a beautiful balance of fulfilling each other’s needs. Crucial is to understand these needs. In a relation, there are 3 kinds of needs –
- Physical Needs – Food, Cloth, Shelter etc.
- Physiological Needs – Love, Care, Empathy, Concern etc.
- Psychological Needs – These are the needs that generally in a relation that are either ignored or not even acknowledged. And these needs are –
- Need to be seen – I, as a person, should be acknowledged for who I am and what I contribute to in a relationship.
- Need to be heard – Need to be listened to, disagree with me but did you hear me?
- Need to be valued – Need to know that I matter, I make a difference, I am worthwhile.
As humans, we are happiest when our needs are satisfied/met. When they are not, it creates issues, one becomes unhappy, sad, disappointed, isolated & hurt. Stronger the need, greater the pain. Closer the relations, greater are the expectations/needs and if they are not met, relationships get sour.
To transform a relationship for better, we also need to understand the hurt cycle that gets inflicted in relations –
When our needs are not met, our emotions get triggered and we get upset, feel hurt, get disappointed and feel angry. From the space of these emotions, we pass judgements on our counterparts and reach out to them emotionally. When we reach out from a space of anger and hurt, the communication between the two is bound to break down and because of this lack of communication neither we are able to express our needs nor are able to understand the other person’s needs and hence get into the vicious loop of hurt cycle.
In a relationship, consciously or unconsciously, we all play psychological games with each other. All humans operate from emotional space and do not respond or react from a space of calmness and understanding. Let us understand these EGO games.
- DOMINATE – When we feel threatened, when our needs are not met, we start protecting ourselves. This protection for self stems from asserting control through aggression. The weapons used are – raised voices, not listening to others, accusing tone, hitting below the belt, sarcasm, criticism & trying to prove our point forcefully. We try to dominate the situation unconsciously so that we don’t feel being walked over.
- REFUSE TO BE DOMINATED – A game is generally played between two, so when one is playing ‘DOMINATE’, the other person automatically plays ‘refuse to be dominated’. The weapons used are – power of silence, total shut down, withdrawing emotionally and mentally, avoiding communication, stonewalling resulting in communication barrier.
- I AM RIGHT – Feeling of having an upper hand at all times. Weapons used here are – complete disconnect with other’s feelings and emotions, not understanding other’s perspective, start imposing self-perspective, rigidness, inflexibility. The ultimate motto is to prove that ‘I am right’ and the others must follow me because I am always right.
- YOU ARE WRONG – Focus here is now not on proving oneself right, but in proving that the other person is wrong. This generally happens when one feels that s/he cannot prove him/herself right. Weapon here is to pull down the other person, making him/her feel small, tarnish the other person’s image, shattering his/her confidence, simply refusing to be open to ideas and all this is just to prove the other person as wrong.
- WEAR A MASK – One of the most dangerous and extensively used game is ‘wear a mask’. The weapons used here is hiding your own feeling, denying or not showing your own hurt, pretending it does not matter and settling down and accepting the disappointments in a relationship. The giveaway in such situations is “I am not bothered by the situation”. Many a times here, one is making peace with the situation without resolving it which later becomes a mine of emotions that is bound to explode at some point of time.
Now, what can be done to improve relations? Simple strategies –
Strategy # 1 – Overcome the Addiction of Being Right
John Gottman, a psychologist and a researcher suggests 3 simple things to ponder upon –
- Is it necessary to prove ourselves, right? – Before getting into an argument, think thoroughly – Is it important to be sitting on a high horse all the time and justify that you are right? Is it important to have an upper hand always? Would you rather be ‘right’ or ‘be happy’?
Dwell on it….
- Is proving ourselves right is worth it? – Knowing that it might cost you a relationship and in turn will make you unhappy, is it worth it? Is being right is above my peace of mind, my relationship, my happiness?
Think about it….
- Understanding Perspectives? – Can two people not be right? Can there not be two perspective to look at things? 6 from your side can be seen as 9 from the other end but that does not make either you or the other person wrong.
Learn to understand other’s perspective too….
Strategy # 2 – Overcome the Expectation Trap
We pin our happiness on unfulfilled expectations. We are happy only when our needs are met, and we get hurt when they are not. Having needs is not an issue, issue is that we feel that getting our needs fulfilled is our birth right. These needs generally become our expectations and from one single person only. Lovers, when fail in a relationship commit suicide because for them their expectation of love can be fulfilled only by their partner and they tend to forget that they have a whole family behind who love them immensely. Always remember that ‘hurt cycle’ also gets initiated with needs/expectations not met.
3 Magic Steps to overcome the EXPECTATION TRAP –
# Realize that people may know your needs, understand them and may fulfill them too but not all the time. They might not be available for you all the time and most importantly not always as and when you need them. And when they are not, we get into the hurt cycle not realizing that others have a life of their own despite their relations with us. No one can humanly meet ALL our expectations AT ALL TIMES.
## Forgive them if your relations do not cater to all your needs or not all the time. Let go of these needs and hurts. Carrying these burdens will hurt and trouble you and no one else. FORGIVE and LET GO. Don’t carry the burden of past hurts.
### BUILD a good SUPPORT SYSTEM around you that ensures that you don’t depend on only one person for meeting all your needs and expectations of love, support and care.
Strategy # 2 – Invest energy in building the most important relationship
According to Louise Hay, the most important relationship that we will ever have is with self and if that relationship is filled with love, care and support, that is where transformation starts. When we learn to accept ourselves unconditionally and love the way we are without any inhibitions, we accept the other relationships in life too more easily. Our own relationship with self, mirrors our relationships with others. If one is harsh with self, how can s/he would be gentle with others.
4 points to consider –
- Stop criticizing / judging yourself
- Accept yourself just the way you are
- Rejoice in your imperfectness
- Take care of yourself the way you would for someone you really love.
Human relationships both personal and with others are as real as one makes them, dealing with love, care and concern. The choices we make affect not only ourselves but the people we have relationships with. The emotional struggles that are encountered within are often acted out with another. Hold unconditional love, and the ability to accept all for who they are in your consciousness, and you will see it reflected in your reality and relationship.
Don’t be just a taker; healthy relationships require balance. Give with your words and be extra generous with your deeds ~ Steve Maraboli