When trying to repair a relationship—even with yourself—take these intentional steps.
In my last blog, I shared the 5 stages of relationship demise that we tend to unintentionally engage in when we encounter challenges in our relationships. The good news is that there is an alternative. Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems from the same mindset that created them.” Doing the same ineffective thing over and over again, does not lead to success and most of us haven’t been trained in a process that allows us to easily access a different mindset. In essence, we need to go deeper than our minds, into our hearts and souls, in order to see circumstances differently and handle problems differently.
When trying to repair a relationship—even with yourself—there are steps that utilize a more effective approach.
Step 1. Consciously acknowledge what is happening. When we are in denial, we ignore that something needs to be done. When we ignore, we neglect—and nothing improves from neglect. Acknowledging the necessity of change is an imperative first step. You have to admit you are unhappy, or unhealthy, to seek a resolution.
Step 2. Take responsibility. This is when, rather than looking outwards at our problems and outwards for the solutions, we instead turn our gaze inward so as to harness our personal power of responsibility. When we take responsibility for our choices, our words, thoughts, actions, we are able to see our part in the situation— and our part in the solution. This may include taking responsibility for making the wrong choices in the first place, or for staying too long or not long enough, or for the way we have treated the other person that contributed to the way they treat us. Responsibility is not about self-blame, rather this is about tapping into our power for change. When we take responsibility, we stop behaving like a victim of our own choices and, instead, begin to explore making more powerful choices in alignment with what we are trying to create.
When taking responsibility there are three primary areas of focus that can guide us back to a healthier relationship: practicing acceptance, changing our perceptions or changing our behavior.
Acceptance: There are some things within ourselves, others and circumstances that just simply are the way they are. As long as we are in resistance to what is, we are suffering. A core part of the Serenity Prayer is “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” As soon as we accept what is, we free ourselves to either move on more calmly and wisely or make more powerful choices in response to what is. We make ourselves crazy, or “sick and tired,” when we try to change that which is either not changeable, or not our responsibility to change.
Perceptions: Sometimes all that needs to change in a relationship is how we look at it. I have found repeatedly that people are reacting to their own stories and this causes more of the problem than does the actual truth. For instance, jealousy is a perception that may not be based in any truth, but when you act on that perception you create a problem in the relationship that may not have been caused otherwise. I remember as a young wife questioning my husband’s loyalty. He finally got fed up and said, “If I am going to be blamed for something I am not doing, I may as well do it.” While I didn’t like his response, I had to admit the truth of it. I needed to change my perception or my relationship was going to be destroyed by it.
As this relates to our relationship with ourselves, perception also plays a huge role. Someone who perceives that they don’t deserve love is both not going to believe they are loved (even when they are) and may allow themselves to be treated poorly. A simple change in perception can hugely change their reality.
I was recently working with a client who perceived she was fat, when she actually wasn’t. Her body didn’t need to change, but her perception of it did.
Before you seek to change your partner, or your relationship, examine your perceptions of yourself, the other person, and your beliefs about what is happening. Look at these thoughts like a “hypothesis,” your perception, instead of the truth and examine them for reality.
Behavior: Whether this is changing our own behavior, our response to other people’s behavior or even the attitude we hold when thinking about others, we become powerful when we claim self-mastery over our words, actions and thoughts/beliefs. When we take action in alignment with what we are trying to create, we discover how powerful we are. People won’t generally change because we try to make them, but they do change in response to what we do.
Step 3: Awareness + Action = Transformation. In order to bring about transformation, we need to do something more wisely, more consciously, and more responsibly. If we don’t take action nothing changes, but if we take wrong action, things could get worse. We need to combine the steps we take with an awareness of who we really are and a bigger picture of what we are trying to achieve. This mindfulness will guide our steps intentionally into healthier relationships.