Amazing things are happening in the world. We have wonderful research helping to understand ourselves and the world around us and we are learning more than ever before. Despite how much we have learned, however, there is one thing that we still struggle to master ~ relationships. As we attempt to work through conflicts, the potential for hurt and tension is very real and can sometimes be devastating. After all, it has created wars between couples, families and even countries. In our efforts to get along, we often experience barriers, great or small and eventually learn to be more guarded. In most cases, this tension is caused by feelings of vulnerability, a very difficult emotion to manage. In fact, we will do just about anything to avoid feeling it but therein is the problem.
With a strong desire for self-protection, avoiding vulnerability is a huge factor in relationships. So why do we do this? One simple reason is that we do not like to feel discomfort. Relationships take work and as we go deeper, it forces us to see ourselves in truth and that is often an uncomfortable place to be. Another reason may stem from a lack of positive role models in our lives, usually from childhood. Without these positive examples to teach us, we do not know how to react in a healthy way to relationship conflicts. Another possible reason is a lack of confidence. Though we all feel insecure from time to time, low self-esteem leads to insecurity and passivity. These are all barriers to achieving fulfilling relationships.
Here’s the good news ~ you can change that. Here are some suggestions that can aid in finally moving toward the more fulfilling relationships you seek.
A look at the Past: If you have had difficult and painful past experiences, though you may never fully forget, working toward forgiving is crucial. I know we have heard this over and over but there really is no other way around it. A way to work toward this goal is to look at those experiences in a different way. While they were very painful, and I do not want to minimize any painful experiences, they did teach you so much. What did you learn? How are you more aware now than before? Who would you be without those teaching experiences? This shift leads to a new way of thinking and a willingness to focus on the present.
A look at the Present: Unfortunately, a lack of positive examples in your life may have made it difficult to learn how to find and build healthy relationships. After all, they did not show you what a fulfilling and healthy relationship even looks like but that can be different now. There are many examples of good, healthy relationships. Who do you know that has a positive relationship? What does it look like? How do they deal with conflict? Find those positive examples, they are out there. Learn from them and be willing to ask for help.
A look at the Future: Develop confidence by knowing that you can overcome difficult past experiences and poor role models. A lack of confidence often signals insufficient insight into your own unique talents and capabilities. Luckily, confidence is something that you can learn. By developing your intellectual mind, for example, you become more independent and better able to think for yourself. You can still be open to others’ opinions, but you can think critically and make up your own mind. Developing your emotional mind can undo the effect of negative past experiences that color your relationships today. Strengthening confidence makes you less fearful of being vulnerable in future relationships with others. You learn to trust in your own potential and open up to possibilities while at the same time setting healthy boundaries. You will seek out situations and relationships in a positive way and help you grow.
One really is the loneliest number, it’s true. Relationships are a necessary part of life, but a fulfilling relationship is one that helps you become the best version of you and allowing the other person to do the same. You can develop fulfilling relationships by focusing on your own contribution to that relationship. Be wary of focusing on the expectations of others and learn to be just you. Focus on what you can offer. Be the person that others can be themselves with, the kind of person that others love to spend time with. After all, we all want the same things, and that is simply to be accepted and valued for who we are.