There are a million books out there on relationships – every conceivable kind of relationship. Many were probably written by authors about what they think should work. Some books are written by professionals based on the stories from their clients. Fewer still, like Dr John Gottman’s Love Lab, are based on scientific research.
On top of that, everyone has an opinion on what you should do to fix your relationship problems.
So what do you do and where do you turn?
In my experience, the people who have been where you are now and have found what worked for them and what didn’t, often have the most useful suggestions. Experts working in the field have seen a lot and may have lots of ideas to try. They also have insights, which can help you see your contribution to an issue.
Take something that you feel you can try, and with discernment and trial and error, take those suggestions that you find most useful and apply them to your situation. Chances are good that you will mess with the status quo. Something will shift in your relationship – better, worse or just different. Learn from the experience and make adjustments from that new relationship dynamic. Keep trying things until it is clear that the relationship is improving, is not likely to change, or it shouldn’t be continued.
An Inquiry: How was Mother’s Day for you?
Our first relationship is with our mothers. As humans we spend 9 months attached to her and then are traumatically expelled at birth. We know that the mother’s emotions during pregnancy affect us: are you wanted and lovingly conceived or are you the result of a less than loving union? Were you welcomed into this world and cared for, or were your needs not adequately met?
A very young child has a survival instinct. It takes its cues from the world around it. Being self centered the child assumes everything must be its fault. So very quickly it develops a view of the world that helps it survive the dependent years. If you are reading this – you are a survivor! Congratulations!
Now that you are no longer dependent in the same way you were as a small child, the rules have changed, but may be your beliefs about the world haven’t.
Example: As a small child you probably heard, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Well, if that still applied, you couldn’t survive as an adult: couldn’t hold a job, go to the grocery store, go to the bank or get your hair cut. We are surrounded by strangers. What we need instead is a way to discern who to trust with what: don’t trust your banker to give you a good hair cut; don’t trust the panhandler to choose your investment portfolio for you.
Do you trust that your mother loves you? Either she is capable of loving or not. Either she expresses it in a way you find loving or not. The book “Safe People” by Dr. Henry Cloud teaches us to see how our actions are sometimes safe and sometimes not safe for others – and what to do about it. He encourages us to find relationships that are good for us and do our best to make our existing relationships better. There is lots of useful advice in the book.
In the book “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, Randy tells his daughter some useful advice that may apply here. He tells her that when she is dating a guy, carefully observe his actions and his words. If there is a difference, always trust the actions – not the words. But I would take it a step further. Communicate. Ask: “you told me this but I observed that your actions seem to be saying something else”. Give him a chance to explain and tell you the truth, so that the words and the actions match. It is possible he wasn’t aware or you didn’t understand because of your different understanding about the world.
So, if your mother treats you differently than you think she should, watch her actions and her words, try to be open-minded and ask why she does what she does, and ask for changes you can both live with. Be willing to change as well. Above all, communicate, communicate, communicate.
Call to Action and Why This Matters:
Take time to reflect on your primary relationships or a relationship you most want to heal. Often we treat those we love most, the worst. They don’t deserve that from you and you don’t deserve that from them. Consider learning the skills to talk about those things that make your relationship less than what it could be. What’s it worth to you to have truly loving relationships in your life? How would life be different if you felt loving and loved, and truly appreciate others and are appreciated by them?
Barbara Brennan, author of “Hands of Light” said during a workshop I attended that healing the relationship with your mother is one of the foundation pieces to healing your life. Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life” devotes a chapter to how she not only healed herself from cancer but also healed the relationship with her mother.
Taking it Farther:
If you really want to change your life for the better, learn how to be a non-blaming communicator and a non-defensive, curious listener. Have boundaries for those who violate your desire for healthy relationships. These skills are not easy to learn. They take know-how, courage, time, and practice. It is best to practice first with people who already have these skills, who are understanding and non-judgmental while you find your way. Over time, the results will amaze you. Know that you deserve to have healthy loving relationships in your life.
Want more help? I’m here for you. Tired of flunking Relationship 101? Get tutored! Call to get coached and learn in a non-judgmental setting how to create healthy relationships. We’ll go at a pace that is right for you. Call Edith at 847.913.3900