Picture of Joy Wagner, LMFT-IT

Joy Wagner, LMFT-IT

How do I know if I am doing this relationship thing right?!?

We learn about relationships from the time that we are in the womb. We need close relationships as much as we need food and water. We learn how to have relationships from our families, friends, movies, books, etc. Some of the things we learn are helpful and others not so much. Some people have been through very traumatic events and relationships that affect their ability to trust, love, and accept love and trust. No matter what the experience has been a healthy relationship can bring healing and learning.

Sometimes we operate in our relationships from a place of fear such as fear of rejection, being alone, pain, etc. Operating from a place of fear creates a lot of issues in relationships and often looks like anger. It does not bring openness and trust. Fear can feel necessary to providing protection from further pain. That might be true if you don’t mind being alone. However, if what you want is to be in relationship to others, then finding healthier ways to protect yourself by learning about your boundaries, respecting others’ boundaries, and learning to use your voice to let others know about those boundaries respectfully.

Sometimes we can operate in our relationships from a place of self-awareness and awareness of others. This means that we recognize and acknowledge the negative stuff we are bringing into the relationship and we try to seek to understand and respect the needs and experience of the other person.

Whatever your experience level is, all relationships work in a cycle. According to Terrence Real, a healthy relationship moves from harmony to disharmony to repair and then back to harmony. Hopefully we learn how to move our relationships from disharmony to repair in order to bring it back to harmony. It is possible to live with a relationship that remains in disharmony for a time but if it is never able to move from repair back into harmony, the relationship will remain in a very low-quality state or it may even be ended by one partner or both.

One reason for remaining in disharmony goes back to living in that fear state and not wanting to speak our truth for fear of rejection or pain. As human beings, we are constantly growing and changing whether we like it or not. Our relationships must grow and change with us. We must learn to communicate our needs and learn to receive the needs of others. This might cause some disagreements and even bad feelings, however, that does not mean there is something wrong with the relationship or the other person. If you can’t move from the disharmony into repair or if you get stuck bouncing back between repair attempts and disharmony, then asking for help from a professional might be necessary. There is no shame in having sticky spots in your relationships that are difficult to maneuver. Even the best relationships have sticky spots. You can know you are doing relationships right by being able to move through the relationship cycle and asking for help as needed.

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