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Tips on Cultivating Healthy Relationships.

Updated: May 31, 2020

Many of us will have friends that leave us joyful and others that leave us drained. Healthy relationships are where we thrive; we can be ourselves and not feel small.

Healthy relationships are clear on issues over money, sharing physical, sexual and intellectual boundaries. Boundaries can be disturbed if there is an underlying power struggle, conflict or “blame game” and a lack of honesty and emotional self-responsibility.

Self esteem and love are inextricably linked; often those with low self esteem tend to lose themselves in the other person. They consistently look to others for opinions to determine a sense of their self worth and this can lead to them relinquishing their power and making them vulnerable to abusive relationships. Some may also have a role in the family as “the caregiver” and as a result will often find it difficult to identify their feelings or needs as so often they put the needs of someone else above their own.

Dr Robert Glover's book No More Mr.Nice Guy gives a succinct definition for caretaker / caregiver, "focusing on another's problems, needs, or feelings in order to feel valuable, get one's own needs met, or to avoid dealing with one's own problems or feelings." There is a difference between healthy care giving and unhealthy care giving. The unhealthy dynamic thrives if one is powerless and the other has power it is an imbalanced relationship that leads to increasing resentment, anxiety or frustration on both parts.Unhealthy relationships succeed on a mixture of poor boundaries, people pleasing and comparing to others.

First step towards gaining a stronger sense of self is to start identifying your needs and placing boundaries. Initially, people admit to feeling selfish for taking time out to self care. This is a process and takes practice and patience, for example have a friend that you talk to, they always have a drama, seeks your advice, time and then you wonder why they are still in same situation? Feel resentful? This feeling of resentfulness is information for you to listen to, what are you not attending to in yourself. Try not to be in place of giving advice, its a hook. Notice how you get hooked into someone else's drama.

Don’t be surprised if people have a reaction to you placing a boundary it is confirmation the boundary was very much needed. Also people struggle with change. If YOU change this will inevitably shake things up!

Notice the committee of internal critics and "shoulding" language. "Shoulding” yourself or comparing to others will compound your sense of worthlessness and self doubt.

Using the "I" Language and saying "I feel x y z" ... and focus on what you are feeling and learning to not feel responsible for how the other person is affected.

Practice saying “No” and not having to justify or explain your actions. Remember “No” is a whole sentence.

Listen to people without giving advice. Offer empathy and say no more - its way of unhooking yourself, or getting tangled up in someone else's business.

If you say “you make me feel” this is avoiding taking emotional self responsibility as no one can make you feel anything. Similarly "I am sorry you feel that" is passive aggressive as it places blame and steers clear of cultivating the language of self responsibility.

Take time to reflect and ask yourself what age do you feel around your Parents? Partner? Children or boss? Healthy relationships allow growth and can be resilient to change.Can you fluctuate from being in child to adult mode and feel heard and respected?

Different relationships affect different parts of us - our “defiant teenager” can be provoked and feel defensive around authority types. Are we seen as equals and feel adult to adult relationship; where we can change our mind, speak freely without self censoring. Or do you silence yourself around certain individuals?

Unhealthy dynamics thrive if we are in a victim place and use blame. Resentment and anger are commonly mistaken as “bad / negative emotions” and in therapy there is dedicated time that is taken to explore what type of anger is it, where is it felt in the body, and what is our anger telling us?

Allocate time out for for fun and relaxation, notice if you get lost in work or other people's dramas. This is avoidance of attending to your own needs.

Finally - YOU are not responsible for anyone but your own happiness.

Further reading check out:

Pia Mellody

Melanie Beattie

Google your local CODA meeting

If you would like to know more email now: umaa.counsellor@gmail.com

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