Relationships are an integral and valuable part of life. Relationships include those with family members, friends, roommates, colleagues, classmates, neighbors, teachers, bosses, authority figures, and others. Perhaps one of the most important relationships is with yourself. Some of these relationships are active and current, while others may be in the past.
To have healthy relationships we must do three things:
- Attend to our relationships. Attending to, or maintaining, relationships is important in order to prevent problems from building up, to address issues or disagreements directly, to end hopeless relationships, to resolve conflicts before they become overwhelming, and to repair relationships.
- Maintain our self-respect. We must act in our relationships in ways that increase or keep with our self-respect. This includes balancing priorities and demands, and wants and shoulds. We must respect our own values and beliefs and act in a way that makes you feel moral, capable, and effective.
- Be assertive. To have healthy relationships, we must feel like we can express ourselves (our thoughts and feelings) effectively and be able to ask for things we want or need. This includes getting our objectives or goals in a situation met, obtaining our rights, getting someone to do something, saying "no" to others, resolving conflicts, or getting our opinion or point of view taken seriously.
However, five hang-ups often get in the way of healthy relationships:
- Lack of skill: You actually don’t know what to say or how to act in order to meet your goals, keep with the relationship, or maintain self-respect. You don’t know what will work.
- Worry thoughts: You have the ability, but your worry thoughts interfere with doing or saying what you want. Here are some common worry thoughts: Worries about bad consequences or negative outcomes, “They won’t like me,” “She will think I am stupid.” “This will turn out very badly.” Worries about whether you deserve to get what you want, “I am such a bad person I don’t deserve this.” Worries about not being effective or calling yourself names, “I won’t do it right,” “I’ll probably fall apart,” “I’m so stupid,” “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
- Emotions: Your emotions (anger, frustration, fear, guilt, etc.) get in the way of doing or saying what you want. Emotions, instead of skill, control what you say and do.
- Indecision: You have the ability, but you can’t decide what to do or what you really want. You are ambivalent about your priorities. You can’t figure out how to balance asking for too much versus not asking for anything or saying "no" to everything versus giving in to everything.
- Environment: Characteristics of the environment can make it impossible for even a very skilled person to be effective. Skillful behavior doesn’t work when: Other people are too powerful, other people will be threatened or have some other reason for not liking you if you get what you want, or dire circumstances are involved. For example, you need to keep your job in order to feed your family, so you do not address sexual harassment issues with your boss and thus your self-respect is damaged.
Restructuring our thoughts or using positive affirmations can help us overcome these factors by giving us courage, motivating us, preparing us for action, and by fighting off untrue thoughts.
Here are some examples:
“I am okay!” “I will be okay!” “I can do it!” “This is my choice!” “I am strong.” “If they say 'no,' it will not kill me.” “Saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean I’m selfish.” “It doesn’t mean that I’m dumb if I need to ask for help.” “It’s okay if I ask for help.”
Personal reflection questions:
Do you feel like your relationships are healthy? Which relationships may need some tending to?
Which of the five hang-ups or factors get in your way of having healthy relationships?
What specific thoughts do you say to yourself that get in your way? Write down three examples of restructuring those thoughts.
Here's to building healthier relationships!
Questions? Thoughts? Comments? Leave them below.