Five Foundational Principles to Keep in Mind When Working on Your Relationship
We are relational beings. We want to be connected with others. However, we often don’t know how to be connected or to bond with one another.
There are any numbers of reasons for this (e.g. early abuse, trauma, etc.) but perhaps the most significant one is an early attachment injury that interfered with one’s ability to have an early bonding or connection with our primary caregiver. We didn’t get in a “good enough way” what David Richo call the five as: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing. As an infant we need our primary caretaker to give us attention, hearing what we need and feeling. Accepting us just as we are with all our positive and negative sides. Expressing appreciation to us for our talents and unique qualities. Giving us affection shown in holding and touching in respectful ways. Allowing us to make our own choices rather than having others impose them on us. If we didn’t get these five As in a “good enough way” from our primary caretaker we look for getting these in future partners. However, it is unrealistic to expect a future partner to wholly meet these needs that were not initially met in a “good enough way” from a primary caretaker.
You can’t change or control another person (unless you want them to be a slave to you, and I guarantee the other person will not like that). The only person you can change or control is yourself and when you change for the better it will influence your partner.
When you change or control yourself you will be able to have influence or inspire another person to consider changing and thus work toward improving your relationship. As relational beings we operate on the basis of reciprocity that is if you do something kind for someone they will respond with gratitude and be in a frame of mind to reciprocate and do something nice for you. However, if you verbally abuse someone the other will more than likely will become adversarial in response (reciprocate in kind) or just leave or withdraw from the situation.
It takes two people to be in a relationship. However, it only takes one to begin to improve any relationship.
If you maintain a mindset that the other person in the relationship is the problem and wait for that person to comes around, you will more than likely meet resistance and your relationship will end in a stalemate, and the relationship will stagnate or deteriorate. It just takes one person to have agency and be willing to take the lead in taking the first steps towards improving your situation. When you refuse to take these first steps, you are turning your power over to the other person and thus dependent on what he/she decides to do or not do to improve the relationship.
You are responsible for your happiness.
Even though a long term or committed relationship can enhance your happiness, you are ultimately responsible for your happiness. If you do not feel good about yourself, you may seek to place all the burden of your unhappiness upon the relationship, specifically your partner. When your partner fails to fulfill that expectation you will blame your partner. This does not mean that there are sometimes genuine reasons for our partner contributing to the unhappiness in the relationship by his/her hurtful behavior, but then the question becomes why you are allowing yourself to put up with such behavior. A relationship flourishes when you are responsible for your happiness hence making your needs known while also knowing your partner’s needs and being there for one another by creating a environment that promotes open communication, sexual intimacy, and enjoyable companionship.
To be in a healthy relationship, you must have a loving relationship with yourself.
If you don’t feel good about yourself or comfortable in your own skin and love yourself in a good enough way, it is almost impossible to have a healthy relationship with another person. As someone once said, “Why would anyone want to love you, if you can’t love yourself?” If you feel bad about yourself and have thoughts of being unlovable, then you will allow others to mistreat you because you don’t think your worthy of love. If you think of yourself as “garbage,” others will treat you as garbage. You will put up with it, even to your own detriment of having the type of healthy relationship that you want. It is important that you find ways to love yourself and know that you are lovable.
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