How to Make Changes in Your Relationships - Part 1

We’ve been talking about values and committing to making changes in order to live in line with what we value most. In a previous post I talked about making behavior changes and some tips on how to make those behavior changes stick. This week I want to talk about relationships. As women, we are very relational creatures, we crave connection with those around us, and healthy connection is vital to our development of self worth.

Make a list of what is working and what isn’t working

Make this simple and draw two columns labeled “What’s not working” and “What is working”. Don’t think too hard about this and just start writing whatever comes to mind. Once you are done writing what comes to mind, think about how you feel when you are around this person, or after seeing this person. Think about how supported you feel by this person. The next items to consider are the characteristics of healthy relationships that I outlined in a previous post, that you can find here. Evaluate the relationship through the lens of each of those characteristics and add to your list accordingly.

Take responsibility for your part

When we are evaluating relationships, it’s easiest to look at what the other person is doing wrong, not what we might be doing wrong. However you are 50% of the relationship. If we are going to ask someone to make changes in a relationship, we need to be prepared to make changes ourselves. So the next step in the evaluation process is to take responsibility for your part. This requires getting honest with ourselves about how we treat this person and how we interact and communicate with this person. For every negative that you wrote on the list about the other person, go ahead and evaluate your own behavior in that same area. We can’t change anyone. We can only change ourselves. However, when we choose to behave differently it impacts the dynamic in the relationship.

Process any feelings about the relationship before having a conversation

Before you have a conversation with this person, it’s important to be fully aware of any feelings that you have about this person or the relationship. Sometimes introspection and evaluation of a relationship can lead to uncomfortable emotions like anger, resentment, frustration, shame, guilt, or depression. If we are going to have a conversation with this person about the need for the relationship to change, we need to make sure we are aware of our emotions so that our emotions are not expressed in unhealthy ways during the conversation. For example, if you are angry or resentful at this person, that’s okay. However, it’s not okay to yell or curse, or shame or belittle them.

A highly effective way to process strong emotions is to write a therapeutic letter to this person, but a letter that you won’t send. It’s a letter that allows you to say anything and everything that you wish you could say, but know that you can’t really say. This process helps release strong emotions. I often suggest to patients that they continue writing letters until they notice a decline in the strong emotions. There are many other ways to process emotions including: journaling, meditation, prayer, art, listening to music, talking to loved ones, talking to a therapist, and many more.

In the next post I”ll talk about how to actually have these conversations when you’re ready. Having conversations with loved ones that require vulnerability can be scary and uncomfortable, however if you continue this process of having open and honest conversations with your loved ones it will only make your relationships stronger and more full-fulling.

Have a great day. Stay well and healthy and reach out anytime!