By Ellen Borowka, MA
When people usually think of what is needed to have a good relationship, whether romantic or a friendship, many will list out what they want in a lover or a friend. That is always important, but what we bring to a relationship is just as important.
Understanding the other person
First and foremost, empathy is vital to a lasting relationship. We have noticed through working with couples that when the relationship hits those tough spots, the first thing that flies out the window is empathy. It is one of the most difficult things to truly understand another’s point of view, as we are usually too busy thinking what we’re upset about. Most of us are too occupied with our own hurt, anger, disappointment and fear, to be fully aware of what someone else is struggling with. This is especially true when we’re angry or hurt by the other person, like when one partner doesn’t express enough affection to the other.
Some may feel that this isn’t true of them, and that they always strive to understand their partner or friends. For some people, that might be true. However, for the rest of us, this then leads to my next point that is essential to relationships – – self-honesty.
Being honest with ourselves
Now, the first thought might be, “What me!! I’m honest with myself!” Perhaps that is also true, yet we can always be more truthful to ourselves. Many people are not really honest about their part in the relationship problem. We see so many couples where one or both individuals point to the other with the exclamation of “Fix ‘em!” It is so easy for us to see the flaws and imperfections of each other, when what is needed is to look within first for healing. Henri Frederic Ameil once said, “We are never more discontented with others than when we are discontented with ourselves.” Couples that have successful, healthy and loving relationships are usually the ones where both individuals admit when they have made a mistake, apologize with sincerity and strive to work on their own issues.
Listening to others
The third element is listening to your partner or friend, which is a very difficult skill for most of us to do well. We are usually so busy listening to our own internal thoughts and feelings, that we frequently miss not only subtle implications, feelings and body language, but also direct comments. It is not enough for us to vent our feelings, if we cannot stop and open our minds to listen to the other person. We all have been in situations where the person we are with just talks and talks without any interest in what we have to say. Everyone wants to be heard and have someone really care about what they have to say. It’s also helpful to remember that you don’t have to agree with another person to listen and understand them.
Conflict is part of relationships
This guides us to a simple, yet difficult concept to accept in life: Disagreement is OK. Some people just can’t stand it when others don’t agree with them. Disagreement can bring up feelings of self-doubt or rejection. It could be hard to remember that just because someone disagrees, doesn’t mean they are rejecting us or that we are wrong in our beliefs. In times of disagreements, we can either live with the disagreement and not let it damage the relationship or find a compromise.
Finding the best solution
Compromise is crucial to successful relationships. Some couples get stuck at a stalemate – refusing to budge over very big and very little things, ranging from how to raise the kids to who’s going to do the dishes! If that’s true for you, then you are in a power struggle where there is only a win-lose situation. Some people are so concerned with maintaining control that win-lose solutions don’t bother them, however this erodes the relationship. Don’t allow your relationship is become a battleground! Win-lose quickly becomes lose-lose in divorce court or relationship breakdown.
Finally, there is a wonderful old saying from Rabbi Hillel, a scholar from 2,000 years ago, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, who will be for me?” It’s important in our relationships to have a healthy balance between loving ourselves and respecting others. If we take care of ourselves, but can’t reach outside of ourselves to others, then our relationships fall apart. If we take care of others, but neglect ourselves, then we suffer and resentment builds. We need both parts to the puzzle to have healthy lives and happy, successful relationships.
Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2017 This information contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for professional counseling.
Ellen Borowka, MA, Senior Analyst of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and her organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Ellen has over 20 years of data analysis and business consulting experience and is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.
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Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.