Relationship Perspectives

Healthy Response – Beyond Reacting

                    We have all had the experience of reacting in a way that was less than ideal upon hearing bad news or being unfairly criticized or being told something we did not want to hear. This makes sense because when our emotions are triggered, they tend to take center stage, inhibiting our ability to pause before we speak. We may feel compelled to release the tension by expressing ourselves in some way, whether it’s yelling back at the person yelling at us, or rushing to deliver words of comfort to a friend in trouble. However, there is much to be said for teaching ourselves to remember to pause and take a deep breath before we respond to the shocks and insults that can come our way in life.

     For one thing, our initial response is not always what’s best for us, or for the other people involved. Reacting to childish rage with childish rage will only escalate the negativity in a situation, further ensnaring us in an undesirable dynamic. Similarly, when we react defensively, or simply thoughtlessly, we often end up feeling regret over our words or actions. In the end, we save ourselves a lot of pain when we take a deep breath and really tune in to ourselves, and the other person before we respond. This doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t say anything, although in some cases, that may be the best option.

     Some situations require a fairly immediate response, but even just a moment of grounding ourselves before we do so can help enormously. The next time you find yourself wanting to react, try to pause, and in that pause, take a deep breath. Feel your feet on the floor, the air on your skin, and listen for a response to arise within you, rather than just going with the first thing that pops into your head. You may find that at that moment, there is the potential to move beyond reaction and into the more subtle and creative realm of response, where something new can happen.

Being Aware is the First Step

Life is a journey comprised of many steps on our personal path that takes us down a winding road of constant evolution. And each day, we are provided with a myriad of opportunities that can allow us to transform into our next best selves. One moment we are presented with an opportunity to react differently when yet another someone in our life rubs us the wrong way; on another day we may find ourselves wanting to walk away from a particular circumstance but are not sure if we can. Eventually, we may find ourselves stuck in a rut that we can never seem to get out of. We may even make the same choices over and over again because we don’t know how to choose otherwise. Rather than moving us forward, our personal paths may take us in a seemingly never-ending circle where our actions and choices lead us nowhere but to where we’ve already been. It is during these moments that awareness can be the first step to change.  
     Awareness is when we are able to realize what we are doing. We observe ourselves, noticing our reactions, actions, and choices as if we were detached viewers. Awareness is the first step to change because we can’t make a change unless we are aware that one needs to be made in the first place. We can then begin understanding why we are doing what we are doing. Afterward, it becomes difficult not to change because we are no longer asleep to the truth behind our behaviors. We also begin to realize that, just as much as we are the root source behind the causes for our behaviors, we are also the originator for any changes that we want to happen.  
     There is freedom that comes with awareness. Rather than thinking that we are stuck in a repetitive cycle where there is no escape, we begin to see that we very much play a hand in creating our lives. Whether we are aware of them or not, our behaviors and choices are always ours to make. Our past and our present no longer have to dictate our future when we choose to be aware. We are then free to move beyond our old limits, make new choices, and take new actions. With awareness, our paths can’t help but wind us forward in our lives while paving the way for new experiences and new ways of being. It is through awareness that we can continue to consciously evolve.

Defining Healthy Limits

     As relationships evolve, lives gradually become entwined. We tend to have a great deal in common with the people who attract us, and our regard for them compels us to trust their judgment. While our lives may seem to run together so smoothly that the line dividing them cannot be seen, we remain separate beings. To disregard these barriers is to sacrifice independence. It is our respect for the fact that our lives exist independently of the lives of others that allows us to set emotional and physical boundaries, to explore our interests and capabilities even when people close to us do not understand our partialities, and to agree to disagree. Maintaining healthy barriers is a matter of recognizing the point at which our principles and those of our loved ones and peers no longer overlap.  

     Human beings must relentlessly fight the temptation to follow the crowd. Naturally, we want to be liked, accepted, and admired, and it often seems that the easiest way to win approval is to ally ourselves with others. When we assume that our standards are the same as those of the people close to us without first examining our own intentions, we do ourselves a disservice. The barriers that exist between us are a reminder that our paths in life will be unique, and we must each accept that “I” and “we” can coexist peacefully. Our reactions, our likes and dislikes, our loves, our goals, and our dreams may or may not align with those of others, but we should neither ask others to embrace what we hold dear nor feel compelled to embrace what they hold dear.  

     As you learn to define yourself as an emotionally and intellectually distinct individual, you will grow to appreciate your autonomy. However much you enjoy the associations that bind you to others and provide you with a sense of identity, your concept of self will ultimately originate in your own soul. The healthy barriers that tell you where you end and the people around you begin will give you the freedom to pursue your development apart from those whose approval you might otherwise be tempted to seek out. Others will continue to play a role in your existence, but their values will not direct its course, and the relationships you share will remain marvelously balanced and harmonious as a result.

Making Over Our Partners

     A relationship, in the truest sense of the word, means relating to another. Usually, when we say that we relate to someone, it is because we’ve found common ground. But part of relating is finding ways to make ideas that seem different come together. So often when we choose relationships, we try to fit another person into our predetermined ideal. When they don’t fit perfectly, we may try to make them over, creating our own vision from the raw material they’ve brought. But unless someone asks for guidance and direction, entering into a relationship with someone we want to change is dishonest. Then our relationship becomes with someone we’ve imagined, and anytime our partner steps outside of that imaginary projection, we will be disappointed. An honest relationship is one in which we accept each other as whole individuals, and find a way to share our life experiences together. Then, whenever we want, we can choose as a couple to give the relationship a makeover by renewing the way we interact.  

     By wanting to give another person a makeover, we are basically saying we don’t accept them for who they are. If we take a moment to imagine the roles reversed, we can get a sense of how it would feel if our beloved only committed to us because they thought we were, or would become, someone else entirely. In such an environment, we are not relating to each other from a real place, and we are keeping ourselves from being able to learn and grow from the different viewpoints that our partners offer.  

     If we feel that a change is needed in our relationship, the only makeover is that we truly have the power to make it on ourselves. By accepting our partners for exactly who they are—the ideal and the not-so-ideal—we will create an energetic shift in our relationships, and we may find ourselves really appreciating our partners for the first time. Working from within, we determine how we relate to the people and the world around us, and when we can accept it and embrace it all, without conditions, we make every act of relating a positive one.

Entering Into Commitment

     Loving and committing to another person is a spiritual process whether that means a wedding or any other type of commitment ceremony. So often when we enter into a relationship we allow our emotions to lead us forward without thinking more deeply about what true commitment involves. If we can understand that sharing our lives with another person is not just based on love, but also on the hard work of being able to compromise and enter into a dialogue with them, then we are much more likely to find the key to having a successful relationship with our partners. So many people have not experienced a loving relationship between their own parents and therefore have no role model of what love should feel like or look like. 

     Many of us have been exposed to the idea that love should be romantic and sweep us off our feet. While this is a natural part of any relationship, the true test of our love comes from our willingness to explore this world with another person; to not only share in the delights that we encounter but also to negotiate the bumps in the road together. Generally this often takes the form of a mutual exchange of ideas, but, because any relationship is based on the needs and experiences of two people, we might also face a certain amount of misunderstanding. Learning to be open and receptive to our partners and to treat their wants and ideas with respect can help us to navigate even the most difficult situations. One way to do this is to take a deep breath, holding our partner in a space of love, allowing ourselves to listen fully with our hearts to what they have to say. Should this become difficult to do, we can also turn toward people whose relationships we admire for advice or guidance. Knowing that there are resources out there to help us and being up for exploring them with our partner will only serve to deepen and strengthen our relationship. 

     Entering into a committed relationship is in fact a spiritual journey that we undertake with another person. By being able to love and care for someone else with an open heart, we will find that we can reach a greater level of personal transformation, evolving along our path and learning powerful lessons about ourselves that we might not otherwise be able to do on our own.

   Our relationships can only thrive if we are willing to trust that the people we care about will be there for us when we need them. Insecurity caused by the doubt we feel when reflecting upon the emotional connection we share with our relatives and friends can have a weakening impact on the potency of those interpersonal bonds. When we are confident that our relationships are stable, we can concentrate on making our loved ones feel appreciated and esteemed. Truth flows between us like water, unadulterated by guardedness or suspicion. Few circumstances have the power to separate us from the important people in our lives when we have made a conscious decision to put our faith in them. Your relationships will be a source of comfort rather than anxiety today when you choose to trust your loved ones.

When we are in the void, our first impulse is to revert to old habits because they feel comfortable.  Our goal is to hang in there until the change is complete.  Knowing that TRANSITIONS ARE PART OF THE CHANGE  process helps us muster the courage to put up with the discomfort, the uneasiness, the void. “When we feel stuck, going nowhere—even starting to slip backward we may actually be backing up to get a running start. 

-Dan Millman 

     To change, we must go through a transition zone.  It’s not easy being in transition.  Thoughts, beliefs, and habits are all in flux.  It can create a sense of groundlessness, of being in a void that can be quite uncomfortable. 

     Change requires letting go of what we have always known and done to allow in something new.  We need to trust ourselves and higher forces to unfold a new reality for us.   

     “Every positive change – every jump to a higher level of energy and awareness—involves a rite of passage.  Each time we ascend to a higher rung on the ladder of personal evolution, we must go through a period of discomfort, of initiation.  I have never found an exception.”

  Accepting full responsibility for all our actions, including our emotional and our behavioral responses to all life situations, is the definitive step toward human maturity.  However, the tendency to blame our responses on other persons or things is as old as the human race.  Many of us grew up as blamers.  We defended our most unacceptable behavior: “You had it coming.”  You did the same thing to me.”  “I’m just giving you a taste of your own medicine.” We learned to explain away our failures on the grounds that we did not have the right materials to work with, or we even pleaded that “our stars were not in proper alignment; the moon was not in the proper house.”  The essential sadness is that blamers are not in contact with reality.  As a result, they do not get to know themselves.  They do not mature.  They do not grow.  It is a fact of life: Growth begins where blaming ends.  The opposite of this blaming tendency is to accept full responsibility for our lives, to become an owner, not a blamer.   

     Owners know that something in their past explains their emotional and behavioral responses to life.  It is clearly the definitive step toward human maturity.  Responsibility ensures that we will grow up. 

     You could feel protective of others today, which could be the result of additional responsibilities you have. These responsibilities may be as a parent, caretaker, or confidence of someone close to you. You might notice that this devotion to others makes you feel more mature and responsible. While it is important to accept your obligations, today you may want to make an effort to take some time out for yourself as well. Try to take on only those responsibilities that are your own and not someone else’s. You can remind yourself that you cannot help someone unless you take care of yourself first. As you go about your day you may also want to remember to do your tasks for the joy they bring and not because they make you feel needed.  
     Taking care of our own needs first allows us to more fully address the concerns of others. It can be so easy to suppress our needs for what we think is the good of another. This need to be needed can make us feel that since we are responsible for someone else our help is indispensable. What can happen as a result is that we put another person’s welfare above our own. No matter how many duties we may have it is important to realize that we are only truly helpful when we have taken care of ourselves first. By caring for yourself first, you will find that it is easier to support others with a spirit of true generosity today.

Program Tools


What I Need to be Happy What I will Not Allow in My Life
Starting points where I can assert and take care of MySelf. They are also markers for the time and space of others and MySelf. Boundaries are the limits I set to define what I need in my life to remain happy and what I will not allow in my life so I will not hurt. An understanding that setting, holding, and communicating my boundaries are the cornerstones to building healthy relationships, first with MySelf and then with others.
  1. Pre-Negotiated
    1. Discussed while feeling safe and open to feedback
    2. Person who calls Time Out leaves the location
    3. Agree on safe “cooling off” destination
    4. Disclose both partner’s needs to feel safe
  1. 1 Hour—60 minutes!
    1. 20 minutes for my body to calm down
    2. 20 minutes for my emotions to settle
    3. 20 minutes to create a safety plan 
  1. Call home to see if it is safe
    1. Am I safe?
    2. Are you safe?
    3. If not take another full hour
    4. Call again.
  1. The four “D’s”  Things not to do.
    1. Drinking
    2. Drugs
    3. Driving
    4. Dangerous Thinking


Signatures:    Date: 
__________________________________________ ___________
__________________________________________ ___________


  1. Q.T.I.P.— Quit Taking It Personally
    1. It’s not all about me
    2. Have I contributed to the situation at hand?
    3. Is not my job to fix it
    4. Give my partner the benefit of the doubt
  1. S.T.O.P.— Stay Together On Point
    1. Keep the issue the issue
    2. If my partner introduces a different issue-validate
    3. Ask to resolve the first issue before moving on
    4. Negotiate for another safe time to address other needs
    5. Initiate conversation on other needs per agreement
  1. Hitman— My “Alter Ego”
    1. a persona of power, superiority, & entitlement
    2. my image of how a “man” should be perceived
    3. Think—“The Hulk”
  1. M.R.B.S.— Male Role Belief System
    1. socialized system of how men behave
    2. dominates my identity
    3. separates me from my emotions
  1. Fatal Peril— Deadly Danger
    1. moment of shock/fear when my authority is challenges
    2. a body reaction-my somatic experience
      1. quick breath
      2. adrenaline rush
      3. body tenses
      4. my hands turn over
    3. a moment of decision—Intimate or Violate
  1. D.E.N.I.A.L.—
    1. I refuse to be accountable for my violence
    1. Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying
    2. “I didn’t do it”
    3. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
  1. Minimize—
    1. reduce the impact of my violence
    1. without any impact, I have no desire
    2. without desire, I am not willing to stop my violence
    3. “I’m not violent.”
    4. “No big deal.”
    5. Listen for- just, but, only, kinda…..
  1. B.L.A.M.E.—
    1. shift the responsibility for my violence to someone or    something else
    1. Bold Lies And Made-up Excuses
    2. “It’s not my fault.”
    3. “If she would have just shut her mouth,”
  1. Collusion—
    1. inviting or supporting violence
    2. Active—
      1. “What else could I do?”
      2. “She deserved it.”
    3. Passive—
      1. Looking the other way
      2. Turn up the TV
      3. It’s their problem