Catriona Futter – Equip For Life Coaching Becoming your best self and living life to the full – 07713 974138

Tag Archives: Relationships

Choosing to care – or learning to pay attention to your feelings.

Hard stuff happens.

Life is full of it – just tune in to the news of recent weeks. We are oftPaying attention to your feelings.en surrounded by horror, tragedy, suffering, grief, loss on a grand scale. And it can be overwhelming and difficult to absorb. But each of us on an individual level in our normal, run-of-the-mill every day life also experiences a whole gamut of feelings in response to smaller day-to-day hurts.

Rejection. Loss. Failure. Sadness. Anger. Disappointment.

Sometimes, the temptation is to avoid difficult emotions like that because they are too painful.

Folk develop different strategies for this. It is possible to develop a hardened exterior, a tough outer crust that seems impenetrable, as a means of avoiding the pain. To choose to not care, to not get too close. Keep your guard up, keep your distance, keep your heart safe.

Or you can become a stuffer. A coper. This has been my default defense mechanism for many years.

I am a getter-on-with-it. Hard stuff happens, but hey I am strong and capable and self sufficient so acknowledging those hurts, fears, anxieties is not what I do, so deal with it and move on – on with the next thing. Dear goodness, why would I pay attention to those inner feelings, let alone allow them to surface so that I could deal with them? Far too painful and means I would have to be vulnerable.

Strike a chord, anyone?

But over time, this has a tremendous cost – those feelings don’t go away, they are simply repressed waiting and biding their time until they erupt at the most inopportune moment.

I am straying into the realm of counselling here.

But I am learning that taking time to pay attention to what I am feeling is important. Because those feelings are are indicators of what is going on inside me, and often point to what I care about. Taking time to pay attention to them allows me to learn more about myself, and what is at the root of my reactions.

And that I most definitely do care. Because paying attention to our feelings, and what they are telling us, enables us to understand ourselves better.

When we learn to ask ourselves:

What am I feeling? What do those feelings point to? How am I wanting to respond to them? What do I need?

….we can also learn to take responsibility for our response to those feelings, and show that we do care. We can seek to see things from the point of view of another, to get inside their shoes. We can reach out to them with more empathy, and make deeper connections in our relationships. Feelings can point to when we need to forgive, and when we need to say sorry. They can be indicators of when we need to stop and recharge. Or when we need to get off the busyness-treadmill and offer some TLC to someone in need.

And when we harden ourselves to feelings, or stuff them inside, we tend to do that with ALL feelings. And thus we can miss out on the joy of connection, happiness, celebration, exuberance, achievement.

Seems like no way to go through life.

Learning instead to pay attention to our feelings allows us to show that we do, most definitely, care.

 

The power of letting go – choosing to forgive.

Thinking back over thLetting gois past week, how many people have you hurt, intentionally or not?

Wham – that got your attention.

Let’s get stuck right in this week, no beating about the bush.

To how many of those people have you apologised?

Another thought – how many people have hurt you – through what they have or have not said or done?

In lasts week’s blog, I talked about the importance of choosing to say sorry. To swallow pride, and let go of fear and instead choose humble courage  in making that first move towards restoration of a hurt relationship. Saying sorry and asking for forgiveness is hard. But this the route back to reconciliation and healing, no matter how trivial or monumental the original wrong.

But when we are on the receiving end of hurt, that creates a whole different situation.

Someone causes us real pain through an unkind word, a betrayal, a lack of understanding, a thoughtless act. If that person comes to us to apologise and seek forgiveness, we have it in us to release them and – crucially – release ourselves from the impasse created.

The problem lies when there is no apology forthcoming, especially if it appears that the other person is gloriously oblivious to the hurt they have caused us and seem to be going about their life quite free whilst we are trapped in seething hurt, anger, resentment, bitterness, rage.

Not a pretty picture is it.

Think back again over the past week, and the people who have hurt you in some way. Now imagine the cumulative impact of each hurt building on the last. Hurt on hurt, crushing and constricting your very soul, leaving no space for hope or freedom or happiness.

As someone (there is debate about who) once famously said,

Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

I have spoken about this before, and will no doubt do so again.

Because I, like you, am a very flawed human with a short memory for the important lessons in life. It is easy to nurse our hurts because it allows us to feel justified in thinking or speaking ill of the one who hurt us. We want them to have their just desserts and for everyone else to know how much we have been wronged.

But we have power to choose – to choose to let go and thus choose release, peace and freedom. It may not bring about restoration of the relationship because we can only be responsible for ourselves and our own reactions.

There is so much more that could be said about this – as a coach, my role is in part to help people take stock of where they are and move forward to where they want to be, and that sometimes involves identifying hurts and letting go of both them and the person responsible. This is a complex and difficult process, and not one to be taken lightly.

I feel the weight of this as I write, as I think back on the week that has past.

Because what strikes me most forcibly about the central importance of letting go of hurts and forgiving the responsible party is this –

Life is too short and people are too precious.

In another week of horrific world wide events that have suddenly and shockingly cut short the lives of many, it seems such a staggering waste of time and energy to hold a grudge. And such a tragedy when people are suddenly lost to us without reconciliation.

Don’t wait to forgive someone and let go of that hurt. Life is short and unpredictable, and both you and they are too important and too precious.

Choosing to say sorry – the power of apology.

What power is there in saying sorry?

What power is there in saying sorry?

Talking about pride inevitably leads to the need for saying sorry – after all, it is one of life’s biggest clichés that pride comes before a fall. The child learning to walk that we thought about last week falls repeatedly, but generally gets back up again and has another shot. Perhaps with a few tears, perhaps needing some reassurance from a nearby provider of TLC.

But falls over, realises the need to get back up, and is not afraid to try again. How willing are we to take the same approach? When we get it wrong, how often does our pride keep us flat on our faces in our mistakes, unwilling to say sorry and seek to make amends?

We all make mistakes – to err is human after all. None of us is perfect, and saying sorry is about taking personal responsibility for our actions. We get it wrong in so many ways – by what we say and do, or what we fail to say and do. Sins of omission or sins of commission both.

Imagine a situation where two parties have fallen out.

Years have passed, but there have been no words exchanged between them, despite a previous close friendship. The cause of the fall out is so far in the distant past as to have been forgotten, but pride keeps both parties walled up behind an unwillingness to make the first move towards apology and reconciliation.

Strikes me as being desperately sad, and a tragic waste.

Even sadder when this happens within families, and loved ones go to their graves embittered with unspoken hurts and resentments, too consumed by pride or fear to break down barriers and regain love and hope.

The 1970 film Love Story contained the famous line,

Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

The idea behind this is that unconditional love should enable us to make allowances for people to an unlimited degree, despite their failings. To me, this is not only wrong, but very damaging. The toxic combination of hurt, resentment, unforgiveness and bitterness that can ensue in the absence of true repentance and forgiveness can literally poison someone from the inside, eating them alive. [Of course, herein lies a different choice – choosing to forgive when there is no apology forthcoming – more next week.]

What do we want to be known for?

Admitting we got it wrong and saying sorry takes courage and humility. A willingness to accept responsibility for our own actions.

Perhaps it is easier to apportion blame onto the other, to play the victim, to seek to excuse our behaviour with endless mediating factors.

But who does that make us? What example are we giving to those around us?

When we have been the cause of hurt, of whatever magnitude, the route back to healing and restoration comes through those two most courageous words

I’m sorry.”

Followed by the equally humble,

Can you forgive me?”

It can be tempting to add qualifiers and justifiers to excuse ourselves or try and save face. But a simple, unconditional apology has the potential to powerfully unlock an impasse of hurt and prevent it escalating into resentment and bitterness. It allows the wronged party to offer forgiveness, releases them from hurt and potential bitterness.

When have there been times in your life that you have missed an opportunity to say sorry? What situation did that lead to, and what difference would a humble apology have made?

Is there a situation of hurt or disconnect that you find yourself in just now that is of your own making?

Perhaps a little self reflection: What is that relationship worth – more or less than your own pride?

Picture that relationship restored and healthy. What would a good outcome be?

Then make a choice – to let go of pride and fear, and say sorry.

Choosing to say ‘I will’….

Choosing to say "I will".No, it’s not what you think.

This is not a treatise on getting married, although that might be more along the lines of choosing to say “I do” rather than “I will”.

Anyway, I digress.

Someone asks you to do something. Might be your boss, a friend, a family member. How often is your response, “I’ll try”?

Nothing wrong in that, I hear you mutter. And to a certain extent, I agree.

My children have heard me say often enough:

It’s ok to get it wrong, it’s not ok to not try”

…usually as they squirm uncomfortably on the receiving end of a lecture about music practice, maths homework or Biology revision. We learn by trying, getting it wrong, trying again, making mistakes, trying again and eventually succeeding. Thomas Edison famously said that he didn’t fail 10,000 times to make a light bulb, he simply learned 10,000 ways that wouldn’t work.

So, if we define ‘trying’ as having a go, stepping out of our comfort zone, not being afraid to learn from our mistakes, these are all important aspects of growing up, learning, maturing. Essential elements of life.

But what of a more negative way to define the same phrase?

Because sometimes, “I’ll try” is simply a way of getting ourselves off the hook of really committing to something. A safe on-the-fence-response that suggests willingness initially, but allows for an opt out at a later date.

Imagine the scenario. You are asked to get involved with something that will require time, energy, and some effort. Perhaps a colleague asked you to help with an organisational event, or a friend with some fund raising. The cause seems a good one. There is kudos in being asked. It would be good to be involved, and might be quite fun. These initial responses run through your head, and then you are aware of an inner stirring in your gut that points towards the cost. How whatever it is might start to suck time and energy from your very bones, become a drain or a bit of a millstone.

But an early admission of these concerns is not de rigueur, and saving face or trying to please others, or not letting someone down motivate you to say – “I’ll try”. Then, when further down the line the cost hits home and we want out, our identity is less at stake. It is easier to opt out, justifying to ourselves and others, that “I did only say I could try, I didn’t commit to anything.”

I am aware I am on thin ice, and there might be daggers being drawn even as I write this. Bear with me.

Same scenario, two alternative options.

Firstly, the request comes. Again, it is a good cause, good to be involved, you don’t want to let folk down. All valid and important. However. There is then a brave choice – to weigh up the cost of saying yes, measure it against other commitments and your values, take your own boundaries into consideration….and say a straight out

No I can’t”.

Of course with grace and an apology, but without a string of qualifiers and disclaimers. No shame in this. But not always an easy thing to do, and takes a strong internal awareness of values, priorities and good boundaries.

Alternative option, is to give the answer “I will”.

You take a little time – how often do we say ‘yes’ too quickly before we give ourselves time to think, let alone discuss the situation with others who might be affected?

You weigh up the merits and costs of the request, and consider it against your strengths, time and energy availability, and values. A frank inventory of your other commitments allows you to see clearly what you will be saying ‘no’ to by saying ‘yes’ to this. The summation of all these reflections then enables you to see that this is important, and fits well with who you are and what you can do.

You say yes to the request – “I will”. And in so doing, give yourself and the requester an understanding of your full commitment.

This is a perspective shifter – in saying “I will” rather than “I’ll try”, you are choosing to give your best commitment, and will apply perseverance, discipline, and probably some bravery in your quest to fulfill the request.

Having courage to say no to a good and valid request can be hard, as none of us like letting people down. And if we are honest, there can be an element of pride in thinking we can do it all, and we like to be needed. But being aware of our finite energy and time requires an element of humble acceptance of our limitations – we simply can’t do it all. Choosing not to be too proud is where we will go next week.

But meanwhile, choosing to say “I will” – where might that change things for you this week?

Where there are values, there is conflict.

Values and conflict.

Values and conflict.

Ever found yourself in a situation of stress and turmoil that is entirely of your own making? Where you feel that there are two different voices inside you pulling you in different directions? Neither voice is wrong, but the fallout of trying to honour them both equally causes internal stress and external ramifications.

Until we understand what is going on here, it can be hard to reach a sense of peace. Decision making is more difficult, or reactionary, as we started talking about last week.

What am I talking about?

Values and conflict.

Specifically, conflict within our own value set. When two things that are important to you seem to clash.

An obvious example of this might be if you value both career success and family. Both are important, and this is not about judgement. Self-acceptance is about just that – accepting that what is most important to you is valid, and a part of who you are. Not the person next to you, you. There isn’t a hierarchy of values, ranked in order of worthiness or societal merit. Many people value success in their career, often linked to other values such as fulfilment, responsibility, achievement, hard work, inspiring others, mentoring, to name but a few.

But I digress…conflict can arise when we value both career success and family because there is going to be a huge two way pull on our time and energy.

Career success takes time, commitment, study and development, but the cost of this is likely to be time and energy for your family. If our workplace or career, or those we engage with outside the home get the very best of us in terms of energy, commitment, time, engagement, what is left for those at home? We have finite amounts of time and energy, so how do we decide who gets the best of our energy? And who do we disappoint?

For me, I value both authentic relationships and efficiency. Problems arise when I am a bit frazzled, my mind is over cluttered with stuff, and the house is a mess.

What do I want to do most?

Regain control of my environment and restore efficiency to bring order and calm to my mind. Nothing wrong with that. But…the problem is that in my often crazed-tasmanian-devil whirlwind of tidying up and regaining efficiency, I trample all over my nearest-and-dearest.

Those authentic, precious relationships that I say I value so much. Hmmm.

The result is not pretty, often involving angry words on my part, huffing and hurting on the part of other household members. Unhappiness and disconnect pervades in the home, the exact opposite of what brings my soul peace and conveys to my family that they matter to me.

Perhaps you value both harmony and accuracy. You might be asked to do a task or project for a friend- you don’t want to let them down but you have insufficient time to do the project well. Or take efficiency and excellence – when asked to do a task, is it more important to do it well, or to do it quickly?

And therein lies the answer as to how we learn to prioritise our values.

In that situation, at that time, what is more important?

With the harmony and accuracy example, if you know you have insufficient time to complete the task to the level that is important to you and reflects who you are, perhaps on that occasion the right decision is to kindly and politely say no to the request. Equally, if the consequences of saying no would be too serious in terms of the ensuing disappointment or potential conflict in that relationship, saying yes to the task but accepting that time implications might be the right way forward.

But until you know what is going on – what the internal dialogue needs to be – it is very hard to make decisions clearly and proactively.

Arranging our values in order of priority enables us to understand how to move forward when there is a clash that impacts our behaviour or decision making. With me, I am learning to warn the family first when I am about to have a mad half hour of tidying so they can stay out of my way and avoid emotional fallout. They understand why this is important to me, but I am learning that it is not fair to dump my stress and frustration on them.

So this week, as we continue to dig around under the surface and gain understanding of our values, a few considerations – where might there be conflict between your own values? How is this playing out this week in your decisions, behaviour, emotional well being? What is most important?

Be aware of the Relationship lie – the first step to change.

Beware the relationship lie

Beware the relationship lie

We only start to change ourselves when we change the way we see. That is where we left off last week, as we consider how to move forward in improving and strengthening our relationships.

Believing a relationship lie is common, and not about guilt or failure. Until we recognise how we see ourselves and our partner, it is hard to move forward. What does that mean for the remaining 3 common lies that can pervade and undermine our relationships?

Relationship Lie No 3: It is my partner’s role and responsibility to meet all of my emotional needs.

  • what are your emotional needs? When you accept that you have them and they are valid, how does that change your understanding of where and how they can be met?
  • when you change your understanding of how many and how varied your emotional needs are, how does that change your expectations of your partner’s ability to meet them all?
  • change your perspective on other areas of life, and other relationships, and other sources for having your needs met
  • consider the behaviour of your partner that you find difficult or negative. If you start to look at how it might tie in with your partner’s needs, how does that change the way you view their behaviour? How might that therefore change your behaviour in response?

Relationship Lie No 4: I am owed by my partner for all I do.

  • if you start to change the way you view who does what in your relationship, how does that affect your need to keep score?
  • try noticing more of what your partner does do, and see how this changes how you view them
  • try changing the way you see your partner to be more in line with what you first were attracted to. Practice being grateful for who they are
  • perhaps try changing the way you see the relationship from a business contract to a loving relationship. Where can there be grace and love demonstrated in doing things for each other?

Relationship Lie No 5: I shouldn’t have to change who I am to make our relationship work.

  • look long and hard at yourself. Who you are now compared to 10 years ago, but also who you want to be in 10 years’ time. Be realistic, honest and fair. What changes would start to move you more towards the future self that you want to be?
  • what if you were to look at yourself and your behaviour traits through the eyes of someone close to you – what would they change? What therefore could you take responsibility for?

If you are going through a challenging time just now, it is likely that a relationship lie or lies are undermining both you and your partner. Change is possible, and part of that is changing the way you see progress or failure, and choosing to be realistic. There will be forwards and backwards movement, frustrations and encouragements. Accept this is a process that takes time.

But the first step is to accept that change is possible. As we change the way we see ourselves, we can take small steps towards changing our situations, behaviour, responses and choices.

The relationship lies that I have covered here I first came across in a marvellous – if hugely challenging – book called The Lies we Believe by Dr Chris Thurman. If you want to explore the whole idea of internal negative scripts and the lies we tell ourselves, in the whole of life not just in our relationships, this is a great book. There is a faith perspective to it, but still hugely helpful whatever your starting point.

I leave you with this thought – awareness of who you are and who you want to be enables you to make choices based on appropriate and positive thoughts, which then leads to responses that build connection between you not distance.

Awareness – choice – response.

How do you see yourself and your relationship? What relationship lie might need uprooted, exposed, dealt with and changed for a positive truth?

To Change ourselves? Change the way we see.

For the past few weeks, we have been working our way tentatively through a series of common lies about Relationships. Insidious views and beliefs that oh-so-commonly work their way into our internal scripts, and express themselves in our behaviour towards our partners.

Change the way we see

Change the way we see

With all of these lies, there is no quick fix. No easy or magic solution. And as we have discussed before, the key is awareness. It is only when we understand what is going on that we can start to make changes.

Awareness of ourselves and our partners is so important. To consider such issues as –

  • we are different and therefore will have different attitudes, beliefs, personalities and characteristics. This is so staggeringly obvious, and yet how often do we make allowances for our differences when it comes to our behaviour responses?
  • it is wrong to assume that our way of thinking or doing something is the best and only way
  • we become more rounded, complex individuals when we are prepared to be challenged about our black and white right/wrong views and see another perspective.

This, I believe is key –

We can only start to change ourselves when we change the way we see.

So, for these final two instalments, let’s recap the lies we have covered, and apply that principle to each one. Perhaps in so doing, we can challenge ourselves to take that first step towards making positive, relationship-enhancing changes.

Relationship Lie No 1: The problems we are having in our relationship are all my partner’s fault.

  • what does that say about how I see myself?
  • if I took the courage and objectivity to see myself as my partner does, how would the way I see myself change?
  • what might that then prompt me to do in terms of what I take responsibility for?
  • what could I choose to do to address my own behaviour towards my partner?

Relationship Lie No 2: A great relationship with the right person should be easy.

  • what are my expectations of our relationship?
  • what if I change the way I see our relationship and have more realistic expectations?
  • if I change the way I view the relationship and how much it means to me, how does that change my willingness to work hard at it?

We only start to change ourselves when we change the way we see. What does that mean for you this week?

Learning to walk in a new behaviour path

As we continue our exploration of common lies that can undermine or affect our relationships, we reach an interesting point.

Putting all this into effect takes

self awareness….courage….openness and honesty with each other….time

…and lots and lots of practice.

We have to learn new ways of responding and behaving – create new patterns. When we are so used to following a certain behaviour path, learning to get off that path and then taking the time and effort to create a new path is difficult.

Learning to take a new path?

Learning to take a new path?

Near us is a meadow, with a very well established, trampled-down-to-the-earth path diagonally right across the middle, from one bordering street to the other. Walking across the meadow, one’s feet automatically follow that well trodden, much compressed path.

The path is there. Right in front of us. No effort is required to follow it. It is something we have done repeatedly before.

To walk a different route would require stopping, stepping off the path, and picking a way through grass, weeds, and possible dog poo. There would be hazards, it would require more concentration and engagement on our part. But if the end point of our newly-chosen path was a good one, and we repeated that new path over and over, we could create an alternative route to an alternative goal.

So too with our behaviour.

Generally, the internal process goes something like this:

  • This negative or difficult event/conversation happened.
  • I feel like this…..
  • I therefore react like this….

In this model, our behaviour is tied to our feelings about the event or conversation in question. And we know in our heads that our feelings can be spectacularly inaccurate. It is at this point that we need a trigger or prompt to get us to stop, pay attention to our feelings and engage our minds to prevent us continuing down the well-trodden path that our feelings are likely to dictate.

To start to try out this model instead towards a different behaviour path:

  • This negative or difficult event/conversation happened.
  • I feel like this…
    • I stop….
    • I recognise this familiar path, what those feelings are and acknowledge them
    • I pay attention to what those feelings are prompting me to do and why
    • I realise that the behaviour path I have learned and am likely to take is unhelpful and potentially destructive
    • I choose to create a behaviour path towards a more positive outcome, based on more grounded and thought-through self belief
  • I react or behave differently, based on my thoughts not my feelings
  • My feelings eventually catch up, as this process is repeated, and I start to replace negative emotions with more positive ones.

Believing that events make us feel and therefore behave in a certain way is to fall into victim mentality. Events happen. They can be devastating or mundane. And this is not to negate the valid and real emotions we feel as a response.

However, our reactions to the events are a choice we make that stem from an awareness of our emotions. This is not easy, and represents a simple explanation of complex behaviour that warrants serious consideration and investment of time.

All I offer here is a starting point, some questions that might create more awareness of the behaviour path we most commonly walk in, and perhaps give us the opening to a new path.

  • What am I feeling here?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • What is most important here?
  • What are my choices in response, now that I recognise how I am feeling?

And, my favourite question, and one borrowed from a Jesuit priest –

Who are you becoming in this decision? More or less like the best version of yourself?”

It’s all about awareness

It’s all about awareness. Or at least, that is probably the most important starting point. Because until we are aware of

…what we think

…how we feel

…our gut reactions

how we react

…what triggers those reactions

…what underlies those reactions

…we are not in a position to make appropriate choices. Because that is the next step. We choose our response, and in so doing, are in a position to radically alter the reality that we are in.

Let me give you a staggeringlyAwareness trivial example from my own world, but one that you might identify with.

One of my Nearest-and-Dearest leaves a pile of generic household items (…? you know, glue sticks, scissors, chargers, boring random stuff) that have been used for something by that individual, but are now finished with, in a pile in a place other than that to which they belong.

I find them, and notice that they are still there some while later.

First step, I become aware of how I feel:

I am an organised person, who likes to complete a task and do so efficiently. And I can’t stand clutter. So this presses many of my buttons – not finishing the job, not tidying up, not taking responsibility, creating mess, not being aware of other household members.

I feel irritated and annoyed that this has happened again.

Now, that awareness then presents me with two main choices of response –

Choice Number 1 –

Those feelings of irritation start to quickly escalate. How could they do this to me? Do they think a tidying up fairy lives in this house? This triggers more deeply buried negative tapes: I have to do everything round here. No one else takes any responsibility. It’s not fair. I feel taken for granted again. I am not appreciated for what I do, no one notices all that I contribute yet if I wasn’t here this place would grind to a standstill.

My response is to yell and scream and rant and rage. The person in question gets it in the neck. And then things turn really nasty – lots of past misdemeanours get raked up and cast at other, entirely uninvolved, family members, as I storm about tidying up to make my point. The atmosphere sours, everyone is miserable and it takes a while to recover equilibrium.

Notice several issues here – my own emotional needs for appreciation, respect and attention; blaming the other and not seeing my own issues; keeping score of all that I do. And if this is a repeating pattern, not seeing my own need to change. All relationship lies that we have talked about over these past weeks. It is interesting to note how quickly they all come into play, within a matter of seconds.

The challenge is to take time to stop and breathe and pay attention in the moment of awareness to what is going on under the surface.

And that makes Choice Number 2 possible –

I stop and take a breath, and realise what emotions are surfacing and what emotional needs are being triggered. I also am aware of the potential for imposing my own expectations and values onto the rest of the household, who do not necessarily share my love of organisation and efficiency.

I recognise that this is one isolated incident, and is not very important. My needs are valid, and there is an issue of tidying up. But it does not represent a global lack of appreciation of me, nor a global failure on the part of the individual. I recognise that if I start down the ranting-and-raving route, I will be as miserable as everyone else, and that is not what I want. And therefore my response is key, as I have full responsibility for that.

I go and find the individual, and ask if they have finished with the items in questions. At this point, I could also choose to calmly express my frustration and encourage them to take responsibility for their part in keeping the house reasonably tidy. If practical, I ask them to clear up immediately. If they are in the middle of something (homework for example – I don’t want you thinking that MB is always the individual in question here!) ask them to clear up within a reasonable and agreed time frame.

This whole process takes only a matter of minutes. And yet, the outcome is utterly different.

This is a trivial example of a complex process. You will have situations that spring to mind that exemplify this process within yourself.  Learning to respond like this takes time, effort and lots of practice – but who said that good relationships were going to be easy? We start to become aware of our emotional needs, negative tapes, internal scripts and repeated behaviour patterns, and realise how they play out in our interactions with others. The steps are clear –

Awareness : choice : response.

This week, try applying some of this to your own interactions with your nearest-and-dearest, and see how your awareness grows.

Relationship Lie No 5 – I don’t have to change who I am

Where is change needed?

Where is change needed?

This is a subtle lie, one that is easy to misinterpret –

I shouldn’t have to change who I am to make our relationship work.

Or, as Gloria Gaynor so powerfully put it, “I am what I am!” Now, I am not saying that we should diminish, hide, or conform who we are to suit our other half. As a Life Coach, my passion is to encourage people to understand who they are – unique makeup, strengths, character traits, values – and embrace and celebrate living as the best version of that person. Not living in the shadow of someone else, or trapped by negative internal dialogues that diminish our true self, or playing the comparisons game to destructive, exhausting effect.

BUT ….

….and it is a big BUT

….none of us are perfect, and knowing and understanding who we are also means accepting where change is needed.

If we believe this lie, that we don’t have to change to make the relationship work, we could be saying one of a number of things:

  • I am who I am and that is it, accept me or tough – I am not willing to change
  • I’m happy with who I am, and therefore all the problems in our relationship are your fault
  • I don’t need to change – either I don’t have any bad habits, or I am quite happy with them and you have to accept them
  • Who I am is as good as it is going to get
  • I know that there are aspects of my character that are not great, but it is too hard to change

As ever, I am polarising things somewhat to make a point and get you thinking. But if we are really honest with ourselves, can we relate even the teeniest bit to any of those statements?

How many of us are perfectly aware of our own character flaws but choose instead to point out those of our partner, to avoid having to do the hard work to change our own attitudes and behaviour?

We might be fully aware of our short temper…tendency to criticise…lack of self discipline…stubbornness…emotional unavailability…[add your own]. But we choose to not address those issues in ourselves because it is too hard, too painful or requires too much time and effort. So we stay as we are, and expect the other to accept us.

If we think we are content to stay as who we are and don’t need to change, we are essentially saying that there is little in us that needs to change. We are completely happy being who we are, including bad habits that we are ok with and therefore expect the other to accept.

This might be seen as perhaps a little selfish, and that we are making unrealistic demands on our other half?

It is important to note that this is not about conforming or becoming a wet blanket to try and please the other. This is about

  • recognising what aspects of our character are hindering intimacy and deep connections within the relationship
  • facing up to and owning that
  • being willing to change.

Being in the right relationship is about being the right person not finding the right person. The question isn’t “should I change to improve my relationship” but

What should I change to improve my relationship?

Expecting our partner to change but not being willing or seeing the need to change ourselves is going to lead to disconnect, discontentment and disaster. Perhaps the bravest question you could ask your partner or spouse this week is

“If I were going to change one thing about me that would make our relationship better, what would it be?”

[wpsos_year]