How to Maintain Healthy Relationships with Your Close Friends and Family
Maintaining healthy relationships can be a challenge.
Reflect, for a moment, on the importance of having healthy relationships with your loved ones. The relationship could be your partner, sibling, parent, husband, wife, or child . . .
As you think about it, you may find that there’s always room for more flexibility and more acceptance.
And as we’re all facing the relentless pandemic, it may make healthy relationships even more challenging. Maybe you’re unable to see your grown child who lives in the next state over . . . and so a big hug every now and again is missing from the picture.
A long-distance relationship with family and friends may be easy these days . . . but is it fulfilling?
Creating a relationship is a natural occurrence, but maintaining a healthy relationship requires mutual trust, intention, and communion. It’s a lot of work! That’s why many lovebirds end up divorced.
In a healthy relationship with your partner, your children, and your friends, you want everyone to feel safe and “at home,” right?
(Don’t feel like reading this article right now? Watch my recent interview where I discuss the importance of maintaining healthy relationships–especially during a global pandemic.)
This seems very logical, but it is not always that easy. Without being aware of it, we often adapt to the other’s needs. That can be very much OK but sometimes, and even without you or your partner being aware of it, these needs can be quite dominating. In the Sense of Self Method, we call them Ego-References. Because by living up to the requirements of these Ego-References we’re looking for approval; we want someone to think we’re smart, talented, helpful, kind, and important.
This behavior can go so far that we lose ourselves and become an unsolicited version of ourselves, which we hope the other person will love!
And now, in 2020, we have been given an extra challenge: COVID-19!
The coronavirus ensures that we are more confined to home. Maybe you and your partner are locked up for days in a small house, where you both have to work from home?
The children were not (or are not ) allowed to go to school or daycare, and you rarely see your friends . . . So you depend on each other more than ever! And you both have the added stress of financial uncertainty and the fear of another significant outbreak . . .
All this can benefit your love relationship, but it can also entail more (negative) tension.
But there is also something you can contribute yourself. It may sound a bit contradictory, but before you can start a good relationship with someone else, it is essential first to have a good relationship with your Self!
I capitalize the word Self here because I mean your True Self, the one that you are deep down inside and not that self that has adapted to other people’s wishes and interests.
See yourself for real, listen to yourself, and really hear yourself, really feel yourself, and you will be able to see and hear your partner, friend, or colleague.
Seeing and hearing yourself can begin with becoming more aware of and dismantling your Ego References. Be honest with yourself and face your own (ulterior) intentions with what you do or want. What are you really after when you hold on to a disagreement or argument?
As you become thoroughly aware of your own thoughts and behaviors, you will also increasingly understand that you seek approval from others with these Hidden Agendas. As your Sense of Self grows and becomes healthy, you will see that it is no longer necessary.
This behavior may have served you as a child or even as a growing teen or young adult. But now you have become your own person, and your Sense of Self does not depend on anyone else’s approval; or at least, it shouldn’t. Learn to admit this to yourself honestly.
Take a good look at yourself. Look inside yourself and learn to see and embrace your Real Self as YOU are! You are someone already. You don’t have to do anything or give up anything for that. You already have everything you need to be accepted and seen by others, but that starts with really understanding yourself. And that also means that you recognize and honor your own needs and interests.
Know that you don’t have to “earn” yourself or slavishly “serve” others to get that approval. Who you are is enough. When you have genuinely established (or restored!) your Sense of Self, you have the freedom to let go of your Ego-References completely. Then you are a free person! When your partner arrives at that point, too, love will flow back into your life.
I have a good friend with a high reputation and morale. However, both he and his wife had quite a few strong convictions, especially about how to raise their kids.
They disagreed a lot, especially on the issue of religion. My friend’s wife (let’s call him Espen and call her Eileen) wanted the children to be free to explore the world in their childish way, while Espen thought it would be better to introduce them to church life.
Espen and Eileen kept fighting about it to the point that the marriage became unbearable. Only after they realized that their strict beliefs were actually Ego-References with which they still wanted to earn the approval of their own parents were they able to dismantle them.
Espen found that his idea of parenting had a lot to do with his mother. (His mother was very religious and he didn’t want her to blame him for not following the family tradition.)
Eileen, in turn, realized that she had very strict parents. This had made her the person she didn’t want to be and she was adamant in her plan to do things differently for her own children! She had an extra point to point out to her parents that they were wrong!
They realized that their sense of being worthy did not depend on fulfilling these self-imposed conditions or beliefs. In this way, they learned to accept each other (and themselves) better as a person and as a partner for the other.
So, Espen and Eileen, two people in a relationship with a completely different view of the world, found out that their view of the world (and in this one on parenting) was not their own view at all, but that of their parents!
To restore the relationship, they had to look very carefully and honestly at oneself and turn it upside down. Once they were able to dismantle their dependence on realizing their Hidden Agenda’s they found out that what they really thought about the topic at hand wasn’t so different from one another.
Why do you do what you do? And why do you choose what you choose? Are these really MY thoughts? And do these thoughts really fit with what I want and feel?
WHAT DO I THINK ABOUT IT?
Dare to look into that deeper layer of yourself, put your ego aside and really get to know your own Self! Only then can you develop a better relationship with yourself, so that relationships with someone else will be much sweeter and fulfilling.
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