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How Many People are in Your Relationship?

How Many People are in Your Relationship?
    "flickr Relationships" from |G|™ on flickr

    You may not be aware of this, but the two of you are not the only people involved in your relationship. In fact, you may be in a minority when it comes to who is actually running the show. Each time you begin afresh, all dewy-eyed about a shiny, new relationship, your subconscious is inviting a whole bunch of people to the party.

    Your Inner Child

    To begin with, there are the children. No, not the actual children. I’m talking about your inner children. That part of you that still feels the way you did when you were little.  The part of you that reacts to the present based on the experiences of the past. The part of you that makes decisions based on the opinions you formed about the world and what you could expect from the people in it at an impressionable age.

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    Not that being in touch with your inner child is always a bad thing, being able to play and have adventures is a fantastic trait to have at any age. But the flip side comes when you’re unconsciously re-playing situations that mirror the less fun stuff that you may have had to deal with.

    If your parents were anything less than ideal in every way (and 99.9% would fall into that category), you probably had some needs that they didn’t fulfill. Depending on the seriousness of those unmet needs, you might discover that they are closely related to the issues you find most challenging in your relationships today. When conflict arises, a quick and easy test is to ask yourself whether the feeling you are having – aside from the circumstances of the current situation – is at all familiar. If it is, see if you can think back to the first time in your life that you ever experienced that feeling.

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    Another clue is to notice whether it seems like you are falling into familiar patterns of behavior, either within an individual relationship or with different people. Pay close attention whenever you find yourself starting sentences with “You always…” or “You never”. This is actually always a bad idea, since it heaps additional energy from past resentments on to the current situation. But leaving that aside, it can be a helpful clue as to what your core issues are.

    Of course, it’s not always about your childhood (now that I’m a mother, I’m a little more reluctant to always lay the blame at the parents’ door). You may have had a fantastic childhood with spectacularly perfect relationships with both your mother and father. You may then have gone on to meet and marry your childhood sweetheart with nary a cross word between you. If you did, may I be the first to congratulate you and ask you to please contact your local media because I’m sure we’d all like to meet you.

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    Past Relationships

    But seriously, this may have nothing to do with your parents and everything to do with the first, second and third schmuck who broke your heart. The point is that you need to be aware of whether the issue that you are dealing with is really about your current partner or if it’s just a button they are pushing that was built and installed by someone else entirely.

    If you and your partner are emotionally intelligent, you may be able to share this kind of realization with each other. Not in the “You know why I hate you, because you’re just like every other wo/man” sense, but more in the “I’ve just realized that this is not entirely about what’s going on here with us, I think it may be related to…” way. If the thought of doing this makes you feel like you want to throw up, I would suggest you stop trying to work this out with them and go deal with the original issue, by yourself or with a friend or therapist.

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    To sum it all up, when things start to get heated, it may be worth checking under the bed of your subconscious to ensure that you guys are really alone. Throw out any other people you find, lock the doors and resolve to figure it out together. If you make a conscious effort to deal only with the stuff that actually belongs to each other, in the here and now, you’ll find yourself more able to quickly and easily resolve any differences and get back to the serious business of being in love.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

    We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

    So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

    Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

    What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

    Boundaries are limits

    —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

    Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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    Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

    Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

    Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

    How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

    Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

    1. Self-Awareness Comes First

    Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

    You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

    To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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    You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

    • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
    • When do you feel disrespected?
    • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
    • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
    • When do you want to be alone?
    • How much space do you need?

    You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

    2. Clear Communication Is Essential

    Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

    Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

    3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

    Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

    That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

    Sample language:

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    • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
    • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
    • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
    • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
    • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
    • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
    • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

    Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

    4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

    Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

    Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

    Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

    We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

    It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

    It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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    Final Thoughts

    Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

    Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

    Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

    The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

    Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

    Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

    They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

    Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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