The Care and Keeping of Relationships

Relationships can be hard work. Husband-wife relationships, parent-child, siblings or even employer-employee. Any time two or more humans are engaged in ongoing interaction with the expectation of some benefit or where there’s a personal stake, there’s bound to be conflict from time to time. Or often when there are mismatched expectations. There are ways to minimize conflict, however, if the parties involved have the intention and the right tools to do so. A key tool is recognizing the dynamics that we all as individuals carry into relationships, being fully aware of them and actively working to keep them under control. A new year is the perfect opportunity to look at various aspects of our lives to check for areas of improvement. As we move further into 2018, I would LOVE to explore this topic and maybe leave you with some things to think about.


What exactly causes relationship conflict? Ask anybody and there will be as many responses as there are people giving them. There are for SURE relationship busters that guarantee unhealthy, dysfunctional relationships at best and complete lack of relationship at worst. There are theories behind relationships that counselors and therapists rely on but before we even get to that level, I believe there are basic tenets that can be put in place to lower the conflict quotient and open up the possibility of better success.

There’s a street phrase that was popular some years ago: “check yourself before you wreck yourself.” Self-awareness has become one of my biggest mantras in the last couple of years and I need EVERYBODY to takeaselfinventory.com. SERIOUSLY. To begin with myself, because self should always be the starting point, I know fully well how imperfect I am. I’m impatient at times, don’t like being told what to do (no personal trainers for me!), I can be stubborn, I procrastinate and the list goes on and on, as my husband especially can confirm! I have taken the time to try and identify potentially problematic areas in myself to reduce the number of areas that somebody else would need to point out in me. It is important to me to self-identify to prevent my stuff from becoming issues and minimize the “discomfort” of being confronted with flaws that I never knew existed. We all with our wonderful selves need to take an honest look in the mirror and really be open to the strong likelihood that something, a LOT of things, just ain’t right! We should think about our tendencies, consider our habits and mindsets, and put the work in REGULARLY to keep them in check. I realize it’s not possible, though, even with the best of intentions, to see every single one of our short-comings. So what do we do about those hidden areas?

Do You See What I See?

While I think I have a pretty realistic view of myself, I also realize there’s no way I can see everything in me that could rub others the wrong way. That means that I have to be open to what others see in me that I may not see in myself. It’s reality that the view from the outside looking in is often much clearer than looking out — something I learned a few years ago through the concept of the Johari window…

Image result for johari window

The concept of the Johari window is that there are parts of ourselves that we are already aware of that others see, or don’t see, and parts that have yet to be revealed at all, hidden to us and others. There are also the aspects of ourselves that others see that we cannot see, our “blind selves,” which I alluded to above. If you hear about yourself that you’re self-centered, or arrogant, or a brat, especially if it’s come from multiple sources, it’s probably a good idea to pay some attention. It’s important to have people in your life that will speak truthfully to you out of concern for your best interests. Don’t ignore those voices or the opportunity to target areas for self-improvement when they come to light. Even more, don’t revel in those areas. I’ve heard people basically brag about being spoiled, stubborn, “crazy” or other negative traits but I’ve also witnessed those same people struggle in current relationships or long to have relationship at all, especially romantic ones. It doesn’t take rocket science to make the connection. You cannot be selfish and expect to have healthy relationships. It’s hard to be inflexible, judgmental, mean, closed-minded, unloving, etc., and expect to have good relationships which require self-sacrifice and compromise if they are expected to work. As an employee, you can’t just do whatever you want and be successful at your job. Likewise, you can’t be an overbearing supervisor who lacks understanding and expect to develop positive relationships with your employees. It’s everyone’s responsibility at all times to be looking at ourselves to ensure that what we are bringing to the table is palatable for whomever we’re in relationship with.

We Need One Another

At the end of the day, we all need relationship. None of us lives in a bubble and we all have to interact on various levels in multiple settings with multiple people. It is SO important that we all keep our eyes on ourselves more than on others to conduct regular self-checks so we bring our healthiest selves into any relationship that requires our involvement. It’s a fact that the only person we can control in any two (or multiple) sided interaction is ourselves so pointing the finger and projecting blame is pretty unfruitful. The following quote perfectly sums it up: “If you don’t have a relationship with yourself, all other relationships become shallow. And if your relationship with yourself is so profound and steady then you naturally develop the skill to handle any kind of relationship around you.”  If you think about it, if everyone is putting in the same level of effort to be self-accountable and take self-ownership, relationships on every level would stand a better chance of success.

So what can you do? Get quiet with yourself. Think about your interactions, specifically the ones that have been problematic and full of strife. Then try your very best to make an HONEST assessment of why things played out the way they did, or do currently if it’s ongoing. What could you have done to contribute to the issues? Were you short in your responses? What was your attitude — did you give off positive or negative vibes? Have you been unapproachable or acting like a know-it-all? As I’ve already said, it may not be easy to see yourself right off but it IS easy to at least make the effort to do so. And I belief if the intent is genuine and sincere, you will begin to allow space for the light to shine on those necessary areas ultimately making room for better relationships in your life.

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