“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~Carl Jung
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Char Elle En
I once heard an hilarious quip on Saturday Night Live that said:
“I want to save the world for my children, but not for my children’s children,
because I don’t think children should be having sex.”
Sometimes when I’m working with couples, whether they’re married, in a committed long-term relationship, heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or whatever, I feel like I’m working with children.
Couples often says things like:
- Well, he/she started it!
- I’m not doing anything different until (my partner) changes!
- She/He can’t tell me what to do!
- She/He is not making me happy!
- They promised to be a certain person when we got married (or got together), but now they’ve changed! They can’t do that…can they?
- I’m leaving, and I’m not coming back till they give me what I want!
- They hurt me, and I’m going to hurt them back!
The fact is, we cannot do a successful long-term adult relationships if we behave like children!
Four vital components need to be present for successful adult relationships, whether those relationships are ones we have with another adult, or are relationships we have with our children.
These essential components include trust, respect, lightness/humor, forgiveness. There are other important components, but these four are the subject of this discourse.
If we don’t trust, we can’t develop closeness with others. I believe that trust is a decision we make about how we respond to others. It’s not something we do only when we already know the other person will be trustworthy.
When I hear people say they have “a trust issue” because someone treated them poorly, I think back to the scientific process. If we have a sample size of 1, 2, or even 10, is that a sufficient sample size to provide validity to the results of that experiment? Of course not!
And yet, if one person shows themselves to be untrustworthy, we often jump to the generalized conclusion that we can’t trust anyone!
It makes more sense to begin with the decision to trust someone, on a one by one basis, and wait to see if they will decide to be trustworthy with us.
And just because someone messes up and is not trustworthy in a specific situation doesn’t mean we can’t give them more chances to get it right!
We are all human and flawed…we all make bad decisions about how we behave sometimes, and we can learn to be better only if given opportunities to practice.
Relationships works better if we keep these things in mind and show compassion for the fallibility we all share.
When we’re angry, disappointed, or hurt, we’re often thinking more about how to get to a place of feeling better rather than how we’re treating the person we believe caused us to feel bad.
This is one of the ways in which couples fall into the pattern of disrespecting each other. We also may feel, at these times, as if we’ve lost power and position in the relationship. In our attempts to regain our sense of viability and power, we may believe that lowering the other person’s position or sense of power will make us feel better. This strategy, of course, never works well!
Respect is essential in any relationship, and especially important in close, intimate relationships with significant others.
We need to feel safe and valued by another person in order to allow ourselves the vulnerability to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually close with them.
If we feel psychically and emotionally harmed by them through the process of being disrespected, we will never allow ourselves to be close and intimate with them, for fear of being further harmed.
So let’s talk a minute about integrity. When we speak of integrity, we refer to our ability to remain who we are, even in proximity to someone or something that’s very different from us. It’s about remaining true to our values when faced with difficult choices and situations.
A drinking glass has molecular integrity because it doesn’t take on the properties of the water poured into it, even though the water molecules are in close proximity to the molecules of the glass. Similarly when we are in close relationship with others, we need to maintain our sense of who we are, and how we choose to behave and respond to others. We must maintain our own valued principles of behavior, even when our beliefs differ from
the other person’s beliefs and their own level of integrity and maturity.
Life is too important to take so seriously. When we lose our perspective and focus, and think everything is serious and intensely personal, we lose sight of how important it is to enjoy life and each other. We need to have more fun in our relationships!
We often confuse seriousness with an awareness of something being important. These concepts aren’t necessarily the same thing. Things are important just because they’re important. We can know that without having to be really, really serious about them all the time.
Humor is fun and is very important to help us keep things in perspective in our relationships. Our lives our important and sometimes serious, but our lives are also suppose to be enjoyable and fun.
Our relationships are healthier and closer when we enjoy each other rather than competing to be right or better than each other.
Find the humor in situations and in the foibles we’re all guilty of. This will help remind you each day of all the stuff you thought had to be handled “in no uncertain terms,” often does not need to be handled at all! We often discover, in fact, that this too shall pass.
Everybody makes mistakes. Through the course of our lives, we all make many mistakes and let ourselves and others down.
If we are not willing to forgive each other, we become heavily burdened with “stuff” we are holding on to. It weighs us down and keeps us from having quality relationships.
You’ve heard the quote, “Be sure to remove the log from your own eye, before trying to remove the speck from your neighbor’s eye.” Refusing to forgive someone is a very superior position to take in our relationships. It implies we’re better than they are and are in a worthy position to judge them for what they do.
We do not have this right, nor are we really superior to the other people in our lives.We all need forgiveness…and often! If we would like to be forgiven for the mistakes we make, we need to be willing to forgive others, and in our close, personal relationships, it’s difficult to feel close to someone who is not willing to forgive us.
Take a look at your relationships. Are they as close, loving, and enjoyable as you would like? If not, are you practicing these four essential principles on a daily basis? Where do you see yourself as most vulnerable to trouble in your primary relationships?
Please share in the comments how you have created a healthy relationship through trust, respect, humor, and forgiveness.
Char Elle En is a certified life transition coach and a marriage and family therapist. She writes about her work at Next In Life Coaching.
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