Our lives consist of so many relationships. How to navigate through them all in a healthy, meaningful way, though, is a skill.
Where did you learn how to have those meaningful relationships?
Most likely from your parents or maybe other significant people in your life around you growing up. Maybe watching your grandparents? Growing up, you were surrounded by many people that ultimately helped mold you into the person you are today. Those relationship examples before you probably provided you with a lot of good models, however, you may have grown up also witnessing some negative examples of how to not only treat others, but also how to view yourself with others.
With all of these examples in front of you, ultimately you learned (good or bad) what different relationships were all about.
The two main people in your life were probably your parents. Think back on what you saw between them. Did you see two people who could negotiate through problems effectively and showed kindness and affection while talking? Or did you witness yelling, arguing, even silence, or maybe anxiety between two people who did not get along? Whatever your background was in front of you as a child, these examples helped to create your roadmap in how you view relationships today, how you parent, how you start and end the day, and how you interpret meaning into your interactions.
Your relationship perspective began when you were a child, and continues to play out in your life today. What are your relationships like today as an adult? Are you married? Do you have a good relationship with your partner; is your partner your best friend? Have you ever asked yourself why is my relationship not going so well or how come we continue to argue about the same topic, over and over again? Is your life repeating the same patterns with your partner that you witnessed as a child from your parents?
The relationships with whom you choose to let into your personal world are very important. I want you to think about all the interactions that you have, daily. Every interaction is a reflection of you. How you choose to talk, respond, and react to others is revealing of your personality as well as how you witnessed relationships from your past.
Are there parts of your personality that you do not particularly like? Now is your chance to work on yourself. Don’t wait for someone in your life to tell you the impact you are having on others in a negative way. Be proactive and look inward. I know, it is really hard to look at ourselves. Most people don’t want to think about themselves, let alone any negative feelings that may emerge from impacting others around them. When I think about my actions and thoughts every day, I purposely work on being intentional within every relationship I have. You may ask, what is “being intentional?” Being intentional is how you react to yourself and to others by both your inward dialogue as well as the outward expressions that others see. Intentionality does not mean that we express everything that we feel, think, or believe. You are purposely trying to slow down your thinking to situations that are presented. You stop and think, “How can my reaction help this situation or hurt it?” In a relationship, being intentional takes work. After time, it can become second nature.
Here are some tips to consider in being intentional:
- I want you to think about every interaction you have with your partner in a new way.
- Be kind.
- Be curious; ask questions.
- Be thoughtful.
- Have an interest in your partner’s world.
- Have an interest into who they are as a different person than you.
- Slow down with your thoughts and reactions.
- Try to express your thoughts into more than just body language, while doing steps #1,2,3,4,5,6,7
I had to learn this skill. It takes time and patience, but I know you can achieve it in your relationships. I learned how to be intentional during my former 19 year career at NASA, Johnson Space Center, while working as a flight controller in the Mission Control Center. When faced with crisis emergencies involving our nations’ astronauts and mission flight directors, I had to stop, slow down, and assess the situation. There was always emotion involved internally when being part of such an intense situation, but any negative interactions with a Flight Director or one of my colleagues was not going to ameliorate the crisis. I had to learn how to help the other flight controllers and Flight Director in the room, by first helping myself to focus my thoughts, while maintaining my reactions, so that I could then understand the situation. In otherwords – I had to breathe! Similar to what we are told when flying on an airplane – “place the oxygen mask on yourself first before your children” If you don’t have a lot of oxygen going to your brain, you certainly can’t think in a calm, rational manner and won’t be able to help anyone else!
I think of John Gottman’s book entitled, “How to Raise an Emotionally Intelligent Child.” If your child is in a panicked, hysterical state – does it help your child for you to be hysterical also? Or would it make more sense to be intentional and try to remain calm, so that you can listen and understand how your child is feeling; helping them to talk out their feelings. The same thing pertains for adult relationships. If a spouse is upset at you, it can help tremendously to be intentional and listen. Try and understand how they feel by asking them questions; be curious. Help them to describe their emotions. When someone is upset at you, it can be hard to hear, just like looking inward at ourselves as I mentioned previously. During those times of upset, if you can view them as opportunities for connection or closeness, then being intentional becomes easier. Your whole focus is on the other person. How they are feeling. If each of you are being intentional with each other, then you know you always have each other’s shoulder to lean on. You don’t have to worry about whether there will be a “dart” said toward you or whether your partner is really listening to how you feel; You are caring for one another.
How difficult is it to care for one another during tumultuous times? Research by the Gottman Institute, demonstrates that there truly may be a lot of difficulty in being able to focus on each other during an argument. Especially if our heart rate is increased. Instead of listening, one person may be thinking about their next sentence or how they need to express their point of view. Being intentional is a skill that allows you to slow down and put your partner first.
I specialize in helping couples and families become intentional with both inner thoughts as well as outwardly reactions and expressions. I have a natural, calm presence, without any judgement. I believe that any situation is manageable through caring and understanding. Here at the Center for Relationship Wellness, I will help you look at your relationship patterns and focus on slowing down to think about how you are personally contributing or contaminating to your relationship. Working through issues can be intimidating and stressful, however, together we can help your relationship evolve into something more positive and meaningful.