What is the biggest killer of healthy happy relationships?
The answer may surprise you. As a divorce mediator, I can tell you the biggest problem is the lack of self-awareness?
Let’s explore this topic a little closer. Recently, I posted a meme on my Facebook page that read, “If you desire to have a healthy, loving relationship, you must first be loving and accepting of yourself.
To my surprise, more than a few readers found this meme negative and even selfish. So, if you will allow me, I’d like to take this time to clarify my sentiments behind this meme.
So, what do we mean when we say “It’s important to be self-aware?”
The word “self” often carries with it a negative connotation. If you take time away from anyone else to do something for you, you can rest assured that there is critic who will scold you for it. However, self-care is the most selfless thing you can do. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anyone. You’ll burn out of the energy and motivation you need to extend yourself to others. The same applies to self-acceptance. If you can’t accept you, your own form, the person you spend every single moment of this life with, you won’t be able to accept others, flaws and all, because you won’t have had the practice in doing so.
Now don’t misunderstand me; you don’t need or have to accept all of a person’s flaws. In fact, it’s vital that you know what you won’t tolerate in another human being, as those characteristics serve as red flags which signal that a relationship probably shouldn’t progress. In fact, most people never honestly explore the characteristics in others they can’t accept. They gloss over them, even marry them, and sure enough, you will later resent them.
When you lack self-awareness and self-acceptance, you unconsciously look for the flaw and faults of others, to help soothe your own pain and inadequacy. This negative frame of reference, tells you, “Well, at least I am not as bad as they are. They are a real mess.”
Self-awareness and self-acceptance gives you the internal confidence of knowing the value and positive things you offer, and acknowledges and accepts the flaws that come natural.
Please don’t miss understand, I am all about self-improvement, but only when the pursuit of improvement adds something to your life, rather than pursuing self-improvement as a quest for some unrealistic idea of perfection. Embrace all that you are. After all, if we were perfect we wouldn’t need to learn from and depend on others.
Too many of us are held captive by limiting self-beliefs, or those things we believe about ourselves that keep us from progressing towards our best selves. Thinking that you can’t bear to be alone, or that you’re unworthy of a truly fulfilling relationship, will keep you in that place in life. Those kinds of mindsets become self-fulfilling prophecies, and the longer you put off getting to the bottom of them, the more they are reinforced.
Self-awareness and self-acceptance transforms the negative feelings into positive ones, because you not only know who you are, but you know your value and limits to the people and world around you.
Now, nobody is saying that you need to be a transcended spiritual guru before you are worthy of a relationship. If that were the case, people would never get together. We all need love. We’re all worthy of it. However, we should have the maturity to know that if we’re unwilling to take those hard looks at our self, before we start seriously dating, moving in with someone or getting engaged, then we’re inviting undue strain along with them; strain that could have been avoided, had we just taken the time and had the courage to look honestly at who we are.
When you know and accept who you are you will have the skills needed to see others for who they really are, rather than who you want or need them to be.
To illustrate the importance of seeing others in a more honest and authentic way, I would like to refer to the relationship research done by Dr. John Gottman, in his book, “The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work.” In his book, Dr. Gottman found that couples who aspire to become professional athletes, and whose sole focus was making it to the pros, tended to fall apart, if the goal was not achieved. Alternatively, couples who were more relationship and family focused and the profession was a secondary concerned reported greater happiness and satisfaction, because the dream of becoming a professional athlete was only a small part of their reason for being and staying together.
The key here is that the successful relationships were founded in love, respect and fondness of each other where they are today, and not for what they might have in the future. Happy and satisfying relationships are based on mutual fondness and admiration between two people who see and accept the other for who they really are. Dr. Gottman’s work also proves that in order for a relationship to go the distance, the couple doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to “make” someone into the person they want them to be, rather than loving them for who they really are.
Self-awareness also helps in facilitating a more authentic relationship because you can be honest about what you bring to the relationship. You will also know the areas where you need a little help and support. Not to mention, both of you will feel more relaxed, when it’s just time to chill. All because you are with someone who loves you for you.
So, how do you start the process of becoming self-aware?
Grab a notebook and keep it handy. When you feel said or angry is the most ideal time to begin this hard work. Viewing a frustrating situation as an opportunity to grow is step one. Approach the moment with as much honesty and clarity as possible, and you can learn a tremendous amount about why you react to instances the way you do and how you can better respond. When emotions begin to run high, don’t stifle the reality of that moment. Let your feelings be there. Allow yourself to feel exactly as you do, without judging whether what you feel is inherently good or bad, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Why am I feeling this way?
- What is happening that I wish were different?
- How did I want the other person to respond?
- Why is it important for the other person to respond that way? What am I looking for from the other person?
- How did I learn this is how another person is to show me love and respect?
- Are there other ways the other person shows love and respect towards me?
- Have I told the other person not to do what is making me upset? If so, has this become a bad habit in our relationship? Am I willing to continue with this as being the standard behavior?
Once you’ve answered these questions, take a deep breath. Take two, if necessary. Clear your mind, let the situation go, and get some rest.
In the morning, look back at your answers. Add clarity where it’s needed, and create a plan to map how you can discuss the concerns with your partner.
Most people live in the land of rumination, a place where they never really reach any conclusions. They just play the offense in their minds over and over and over, more often than not, creating stories about the other person’s motives and intentions, which almost always turns into a narrative in which their sinister self was out to get you. Deciding to slow down and watch your thoughts, as opposed to allowing them to control you, is no easy task. However, each time you do so, you are rewiring your response towards grace for yourself and the other person.
Each time you react negatively, you are solidifying your own pride, leaving little room for the human factor to exist in your relationship. That’s fine in you’re dating a robot, but it can never work if you’re attempting to make things work with another human being.
If you’ve never carved out the time to do so before, make it a point, a goal, or a focus to learn yourself. Learn to accept yourself for you are, and if you discover any characteristics that you’re not fond of, begin the hard and mature work of making positive change or making peace with your flaws. In doing so, you learn more about yourself, you find out what you can truly offer to others, and the self-love will overflow.
Well, that’s all for today’s episode, if you would like to ask a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To make sure you don’t miss an episode, please subscribe and visit mediatorinjeans.com to sign up and receive updates and more tips and insights not shared here.
Thanks for listening, and until next time, be fair with each other.