The Secret to Perfect Relationships
The Secret to Perfect Relationships
No matter how few or many relationships we have, it’s no secret that people can be difficult, and certain situations can make it even harder to deal with others. Often, we find ourselves becoming so frustrated with a person that we decide to cut them completely out of our lives. Then, a week later, we miss them terribly. Other times, we become so angry with someone who is stubborn or non-responsive that we end up screaming our lungs out at them. And the next day, we feel guilty. So what’s the happy medium here? How do we balance all of our relationships and keep them in perfect harmony so that we can truly enjoy the company of everyone around us (almost) all of the time? The answer may surprise you!
You have a unique relationship with every single person you know: your relationship with your partner or spouse is very different from your relationship with your mother, and your relationship with your best friend is quite the opposite from your relationship with your boss.
The question then becomes: how do you maintain your relationships, and ensure that each of them are healthy and thriving? Do your relationships last the test of time, or do they fall apart too soon? Do you base your relationships on trust, love, and patience, or do you become angry, intolerant, and spiteful all too easily? If there really exists a secret to perfect relationships, I'm here to teach it to you.
Relationships: A Reflection of Your Self
They say, "Show me who your friends are, and I'll show you who you are," and that’s no coincidence! The people in your life are a reflection of who you are. We associate ourselves with a certain type of people, and we attract them based on what we give off, both subconsciously and consciously. We stick together based on matching mentalities, shared beliefs, aims and goals, and believe it or not, similar physical traits. Think back to high school - the mean but very pretty girls all shared a table, right?
So what does this say about you, in turn? Who do you associate yourself with? Of course, your friends won't be exact clones of you, but chances are that you welcomed them into your life because they share enough in common with you.
Whether we know it or not, we pick precisely those people who serve as a reminder of our issues. This is very unfortunate, because we certainly don't want to pick a partner who reminds us of what we're doing wrong! But this is the way karma works: when we have something unresolved within us, the people we draw towards us will reflect those very issues. For example, if you've always been highly insecure about the way you look, you'll most likely attract a partner who plays up your insecurities. Or, if you've always had friends in your past who borrowed money and never returned it, your new best friend might just display the same behavior. The point is that until we realize what we need to fix within ourselves, we cannot begin to fix our interactions with others.
This is because our subconscious mind can be our biggest friend or our worst enemy. Our subconscious mind has all these desires and dreams, but sometimes it doesn't know how to go about fulfilling them, so it reverts to old memories and unresolved karma to set up patterns of life. This means that you'll attract into your life the same situations – both good and bad – until you resolve your outstanding issues. For example, you want to find your soulmate, but you don't know how to go about it, so you continue to bring in the same kinds of unfit partners. Both your subconscious and conscious minds need to cooperate in order to understand and repair your relationships.
The "Switch" Within You
As the American psychologist William James said: "Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude." Maintaining great relationships is all about attitude, and it involves a "switch." You must switch off two instinctive behaviors within yourself, and switch on three in their place. It's like switching off the lights in one room and switching them on in another. The two factors you have to "switch off" are fear and defensiveness.
Fear sabotages alters your state of being. You might usually be a nice person, but when you're afraid, your worst traits surface as a defense mechanism. Plus, when you're afraid of something, you draw exactly that which you fear into your life. For example, you may constantly fear your partner will cheat, and then exactly that happens. Or, you might be afraid that your partner will abandon you, and then they really do. Fear must be eliminated if you want to live in harmony with others, and you can eradicate your fears with a little bit of introspection. Ask yourself: What am I afraid of, and why? What is the underlying cause of my fear, and where did it come from? Are my fears rational or irrational? With some self-reflection, you can erase your personal fears and never sabotage a great relationship again.
Next, you must switch off defensiveness. Becoming defensive is an inherent trait. It’s part of the "fight or flight" response which we all have, but it can simply ruin your relationships with others! Many times, your loved ones are trying to tell you something to protect you, but you might take their words the wrong way and go overboard in responding defensively. Put your guard down permanently with the ones you love, and keep your ego in check. Keep in mind that when you respond defensively to a trigger, you create automatic conflict. Being overly defensive does not have a place in a healthy relationship.
Now, the three things you have to switch on are self-awareness, patience, and tolerance.
First, be aware of how you come across to others and the way in which you behave towards them. Increase your awareness of yourself so as to change the dynamic of your relationships. If you come across as weak or vulnerable, it’s only natural that you'll attract people who will want to take advantage of you. Or, if you come across as always looking for a fight, don't be surprised if your relationships don't last! It’s crucial that we understand how we come across to others so that we can be in control of our relationships. Only by acknowledging the truth of how we react towards others can we learn to modify our behavior and admit when we're wrong.
The second factor to switch on is patience. People need patience, it’s that simple. Increase your patience level everyday in order to reach a point in which you no longer feel anger towards your partner for a their mistakes, but you actually understand where they're coming from and can offer them forgiveness. Patience is as simple as not hanging up the phone when someone is telling you something that upsets you, but allowing them speak their emotions.
The final factor to switch on is tolerance. Relationships take a certain degree of tolerance. No one is perfect, and sometimes even your dearest ones will disappoint you, upset you, or even betray you. Understand that this is a part of human nature, and strive to be tolerant of their mistakes and forgive as much as possible. When you behave with tolerance towards others, you earn their respect and your relationship benefits.
Twelve Fail-Proof Steps to Perfect Relationships
- 1.) Isolate yourself for one week: In order to discover the truth of your relationship, you have to be without that person for a little while. That way, you can see if you miss them or you don't. Try to spend a week not speaking to or seeing one person you're very close to, be it your friend or significant other. How do you feel? Do you miss your partner dearly or are you actually glad you're away from them? During your week apart, reevaluate the meaning of this relationship in your life, it’s positive or negative impact on you, and what you're both learning from this experience.
- 2.) Write down everything you love about the people around you: Keep a daily journal in which you jot down the names of the people in your life whom you're thankful to have: your kids, your friends, your partner, even an acquaintance whose company you appreciate. Remind yourself of how blessed you are to have so many wonderful people surrounding you.
- 3.) Learn to appreciate: If you want perfect relationships, you have to be the perfect spouse or friend. You have to value your relationships and understand the essential roles they play in your life. Resolve to be more appreciative of the people in your life, even if you don't always get along with all of them. Acknowledge that their presence is essential for your own good and that each person is here to teach you something very important. Each day, say a quick prayer of thanks for the ten greatest people in your life. Include family members, friends, and your partner if you're in a relationship.
- 4.) Show them you love them: Simple gestures go such a long way. What can feel better than receiving a tiny note during the day that says "I love you!" or hearing "You're amazing in every way" when we're doubting ourselves. We often forget to give back to those who give to us, and it really doesn't take much to do so. Each day, pick a random person whom you're thankful to have in your life and do something special for them. Either send them a quick text of encouragement, a hand-written card, or a tiny token of your appreciation for being in your life. As a psychologist, I see couples who are frustrated and fed up with each other, but they swear they want to be together. When I ask them, "When is the last time you told your partner you love them?" they look at each other baffled, as if they didn't know they were supposed to do that! Promise to show a little more love and affection to those around you each day.
- 5.) Forgive their faults: So what if your best friend is terribly stubborn and your husband chews with his mouth full? Aren't they human? If you want to establish perfect relationships, you'll have to give your loved ones a bit of leeway. You can poke fun at their imperfections, but don't place too much stress on them. Be a little more lighthearted, and learn to see their imperfections, the little things that drive you crazy, as being beautifully unique to them. We spend so much time critiquing each other and pointing out what’s imperfect that we overlook the thousands of innate qualities which are absolutely divine.
- 6.) Accept that you can't change someone: You can never change someone unless they want to change themselves. Sure, you can offer advice and encourage them to change certain aspects of their lives, but it won't happen unless it comes from them. If you condition your love for someone and base it on them changing something about themselves, you don't deserve to have them in your life. Their change may be necessary, but consider that it might never happen unless they change their thinking first. So accept that you can't change the people around you; they are who they are and maybe someday they'll be different, but for right now you'll have to learn to love them exactly this way.
- 7.) Don't try to shut them up, shut them out: Arguing us futile; you raise your voice, they raise their voice. You bring up Point A, they bring up Point B. Why go on this way? When you and a loved one don't see eye to eye, simply tell them your point, and tell them to get back to you when they're ready. You'd be surprised how much good a little breathing space can bring. This is especially true in couples – when you argue, you can smother someone to the point that they explode. Instead, take a step back, maybe even a few days, and allow them to contemplate on the point of your argument until they understand.
- 8.) Be a bit more tolerant: My parents experienced different types of relationships than we do today. First of all, when it came to each other, divorce wasn't an option. You stuck by the person’s side through the good and bad, just as they stuck by you. You bickered and you disagreed, you couldn't stand each other on some nights, but you never left your partner. The next day, you hugged it out and life went on, and you were still together as you promised you would be. This is the golden rule to relationships: endurance. This is especially true of love relationships, which require more effort than friendships. I'm a firm believer that every problem can be resolved with a small amount of compromise from both ends, and that we overcomplicate our relationships when we pay attention to every unpleasant detail or annoying little thing our partner does. Try to keep things as simple and genuine as possible.
- 9.) Erase all negative emotions: A relationship which is founded on jealousy, anger, or hatred can never grow to be a positive relationship for anyone involved. The foundations of all of your relationships should be love, compassion, and kindness. Any other emotion which seeps in most likely doesn't belong there. Anger only stirs up arguing, and there usually exists a personal, deep-seated reason for your anger. When jealousy is always in your heart, it’s time to reconsider your own insecurities and understand where they're originating from. When hatred is present, maybe it’s best for you to let go of your relationship temporarily and work on releasing your hatred for your own good. A relationship should be built on only the most beautiful of values because otherwise, it’s not a relationship that will last.
- 10.) See the simple things: Do we ever notice the little stuff anymore? Probably not, especially after we've been with someone for a long period of time. But there are certain character traits which drew you to your partner in the first place: the way they laugh, their intelligence, the way they open the door for you, their outlook on life, their business sense, or whatever else initially attracted you to them. Chances are, all of those characteristics are still well alive in your partner. It’s simply a matter of learning to pay attention to the details again.
- 11.) Remind yourself why they're worth fighting for: If you're in a doubtful relationship, make a list. On the left-hand side, write down all the reasons you love to have this person in your life. On the right-hand side, let out all the reasons why you think you can't stand them anymore. When you've thought everything through, which side is more powerful? If the left side won, tear the list in half, splitting the two columns from each other. Throw away the right-hand side and carry the left-hand side with you. Every time you feel upset with the person, pull out the list and add one more reason why it’s worth fighting for this relationship to continue.
- 12.) Show them support: A relationship can't be one-sided. Your friend, partner, or family member can't do everything for you and you nothing for them. That’s not fair and the relationship will grow toxic over time. Similarly, you can't be expected to do everything for someone else while they sit back and watch. There has to be a balance of give and take. But to know in your heart that you've always done the right thing for the other person, offer to show them unconditional support. Listen to them when they're in need, offer them guidance, and if it’s not too much of a burden, do the favors they ask you of you.
Make an effort each day to banish fear and defensiveness from your relationships and always incorporate self-awareness, patience, and tolerance into the way you interact with others. Rely on the twelve steps to reshape the more turbulent relationships in your life. While the people in your life may not always be easy to manage, the way you behave towards them can make a world of a difference in your relationships in the long run.
Dr. Carmen Harra