It is a fact of life that relationships are essential for our wellbeing and success in life. And when I speak about relationships I do not only mean the intimate or romantic relationships we have with our partners, spouses, girlfriend/boyfriend, but I look into all 4 relationship circles to include relationship with our self, our family, other people and the world.
Most of the content of this article refers to our intimate relationships, but it can also apply to the other relationship circles.
Why is it worth writing about relationships? Well, most of our struggles originate in relationships and much of our healing and personal growth takes place in relationships too, so the topic remains current.
In my clinical therapy practice and practitioner research I learned that our way of relating to others is almost entirely determined by the experience of our first 7 years of life, through the programming that comes intitially from our parents and is later on reinforced by the society through the continuous conditioning we are exposed to.
People that let this early programming to drive their lives find themselves all the times in conflicts, uncertainty, distrusts, and are generally wary and anxious in their relationships.
By comparison, those that become aware of their old relational patterns tend to repair the relational deficits and replace the old unhealthy habits with more functional and adjusted way of responding to others and generally being in a relationship.
Most people will probably find themselves somewhere in between on this continuum of relational experience.
The interesting part is that wherever we are in our understanding of the relationship dynamic, we seem to be all affected by the culturally inherited views on what relationship are and should be like.
The most common themes I found in my work experience has been the 7 myths we carry with us about relationships which I am happy to share with you today:
Myth 1: Relationships are complicated. That is only our misconception. In reality, when we get to understand ourselves we stand a better chance to understand the relational dynamic and then relationship are easy to build and maintain. What makes our relationships complicated is usually our poor communication skills, our lack of empathy, compassion and understanding for the other people’s views and circumstances and our egoistic tendencies. As long as we operate from our Tunnel Mind it is likely that we will repeat previous relational patters and escalate the relationship challenges in the way we’ve learned from those around us early in life. What I found very helpful was to set up a relationship agreement with the others and get a sense of clarity around boundaries, wishes and needs to keep the relationship in a healthy space.
Myth 2: It is fine to only get on with some people and others not. When we go through our journey of self-discovery, healing and personal growth we free ourselves from all chains of unhealthy judgement, prejudice and unrealistic expectations from people. We learn to operate from love, care, compassion and forgiveness and we are tolerant and understanding towards the difference and diversity that is manifested in the other. Life feels much more pleasant when we accept and appreciate people around us for who they are we aim to get on well with everyone.
Myth 3: Compatibilities make relationships easier. That is actually false. Even if you have some things in common they do not represent the entire relationship. It is nice to feel comfortable around someone on some levels and share hobbies and views on life, but what we know about our partners and the others and what we share with them early in the relationship is only a bare scrape on the surface of our true and whole self. Moreover, the relationships are dynamic and develop in time as we grow and transform ourselves and what might have been a compatibility years back can become one day a clear point of separation. It makes life much easier to remain attuned to the others as they are and respond with respect, tolerance and acceptance.
Myth 4: We should stay away from toxic relationships. This concept is very trendy these days and it seems to be the reason of many separations and disconnections in all 4 relationship circles. What I see happening often is that people label others as being “toxic” only because they do not like them or do not feel comfortable around them. It is true that some people are negative in their engagement with us and that is not easy to navigate through. However that is not making the relationship toxic necessarily. That relationship that we find challenging is actually an opportunity that comes on our path in life to teach us something. And if run away from it before we grasp the lesson it remains another wasted opportunity for growth and personal development. It is much better to explore that relationship deeply before we take distance to understand what features from our past are replayed in this interaction and what teaching it brings.
Myth 5: Brushing things under the carpet will send the problems away. Unspoken worries and upsets do more damage to your relationships than arguments and manifested conflicts. Unresolved conflicts tend to boil underneath our awareness like a volcano and when they return they erupt and can shatter our lives. Lovers, family members, old friends and work mates stay away from each other, thinking their problems are over and belong to the past. That is not healthy as it keeps the negative emotional charge inside of us and that can make us ill. It is much better to talk, resolve issues when they show up and review consistently our relationship agreement.
Myth 6: Once we finish with someone it is over. Not quite right. Once we create a relationship with someone be it even through one meeting (and even in the virtual space) that relationship lasts forever irrespective of whether we keep in touch or not. The relationship does not only exist in the physical space, but also in our mental space (we can think of them, we can imagine us with them and we can revive memories with them), also in the spiritual realm, because we can still have positive or negative emotions and feelings associated with those people. Lack of contact does not mean the relationship is over. It is actually a sign of maturity and personal growth when we intentionally seek to put an end to a relationship to close it properly for the time being whilst allowing for space to be revisited in the future if we wish.
Myth 7: Once broken a relationship cannot be repaired. That is not true. I see people repairing their relationships every day. Of course, this requires some courage to work on our own individual issues first and then approach the dynamic of that relationship. That needs time and space and willingness to look back into our life script and personal history to understand what shaped both us and those we are in conflict with. When that happens all of the other steps of transformation follow naturraly and we can then accept, let go, extract meaning, forgive, heal and finally transform our relationship. It is absolutely essential for our wellbeing to repair our relationships as we move through life.
These are in short my 7 myths about relationships that I see coming up often in the therapy room. If you want to learn more about repairing your relationships have a look at my 360ᶱ Relationship Attunement programme.
Photo- Matheus Ferrero, Unsplash