Relationships are integral to human life. Babies literally die if they do not have strong enough attachments. When we struggle in relationships we struggle in life. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that most of my clients find that their deepest pain lives within the issues they have with their relationships.
When I say relationships, I mean this in a very broad sense. For the sake of this post, relationships means coworkers, friends, family, roommates, significant others, and anyone else you can come up with that you need to engage with and that have an impact on your emotional state.
During the thousands of hours I have spent with individuals, couples, and families, I have found that there are 4 main themes to relationship issues. When these themes are addressed, relationships flourish. I want to share these with you because I feel so strongly that we all deserve happy, healthy, and fulfilling relationships. I also strongly believe that the ability to have them lies within your the responsibility you can take to create a version of yourself ready for and accepting of them.
4 Steps to Having a Better Relationship
1. Learn the antidotes to the 4 Horseman
But first, learn the 4 horseman. After researching thousands of couples over many decades, John Gottman, has found that there are 4 types of communication that kill relationships – defensiveness, criticism, contempt (belittling), and stonewalling. This is not hyperbole. These 4 styles are very closely linked to divorce rates. Although they were studied in the context of romantic partnerships, I find that they also negatively impact other types of relationships, as well. If you are defensive then you will struggle at work. If you are critical then the relationship you have with your children will suffer. If you belittle, your friends will feel disrespected. Learning to spot and replace these styles increases listening, compassion, and connectedness.
2. Build Confidence
I find that many of my clients that struggle with relationships – social anxiety, feeling unheard at work, being passive in the home – also struggle with confidence. Confidence can be learned by watching others that are confident and mimicking them. I know, this sounds silly, but first we need to practice and feel what it is like to be confident. Later, you will integrate into a natural feeling within yourself. Building confidence includes learning how to use assertiveness skills and building a deeper understanding of yourself and what you have to offer. It also includes setting boundaries.
3. Learn to be vulnerable
Vulnerability begets vulnerability….and strong relationships are built on it. When you are appropriately vulnerable then you give the other person permission to also be vulnerable. The willingness to share creates connection and trust.
4. Deal with your childhood stuff
We all have it. All families have their own stuff. It is where we learn to relate with others and sometimes what worked growing up does not work in adulthood. If you are willing to look at how your development has impacted you and your relationships then you will be released from subconscious patterns keeping you stuck.
It takes hard work, but therapists are trained to support you in all of these of areas. Therapy can help you to develop the skills you need to build happier and healthier relationships.
I support couples in crisis learn to develop communication skills that help them to be heard in a very real way. I also help to develop your friendship, future plans, and intimacy. I also support individuals in building healthier and more fulfilling relationships.