Do you have perfect relationships with all of the people in your life? Me either…but I’m working on a way to make them awesome and I’m going to share it with you!
If you’re like a lot of people (including myself), you probably find yourself in conflict most often with the people you love and care about the most. We’ve all had those fights where we end up yelling “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST________!!!” (Fill in the blank there, but it won’t change what I’m about to say). Everyone has likely said these words out of anger, desperation, hurt feelings etc…and we usually regret saying it later on. So why is that not okay? Maybe you’re thinking that you HAVE to say those things because you have to vent, you must have a voice and state your opinion…how else will that person really KNOW what’s on your mind? My answer is that you’re asking the wrong question. I’m going to talk to you about how to change your point of view and ask better questions in order to achieve a better working relationship with the people you love (as well as people you don’t!)
What it comes down to, is that as humans, we are naturally self-centered people. From the time we are born we need attention. We need to feel affection and love and cry out to get it. We get older and we throw fits to get it. We get even older and we continue throwing fits along with demanding that people 1) Give us their attention or 2) Give them ultimatums in order to receive it. I have done these things myself and while they may “seem” to work sometimes, it is only temporary. While it may get you the attention you need in the moment, it serves no long-lasting happiness. It’s a band-aid over the real problem with the real problem being…
Are you ready for this?
Your own lack of responsibility within yourself to find happiness.
That’s right. It’s not them…it’s you. Now, I can say that I have taken into consideration such instances as mentally or physically abusive situations and as much as I have thought it over, this is the key that still rings true. **Note** I am not muffling the issue of abuse, nor am I saying it is “your fault” absolutely not. What I mean though, is that in ANY kind of relationship (romantic, work, parental, sibling, friendship etc) there are two parts. You are not responsible for anything other than YOUR part.
A tricky thing about this idea is that you may find yourself saying “But it IS my responsibility to make that person happy, I care about them and that is my “job” in this relationship”. Of course we all WANT to make people happy with us. That ties back in with the whole human nature of needing attention. My point is this. We may “want” to make everyone happy but the truth is we can ONLY do that by “being” happy. Just as “misery loves company” well, happiness loves happiness too.
So how do you begin to attract that happiness? I have come up with 3 questions you can start asking yourself to help reduce the strain in your relationships.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF AND THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE:
#1. Am I happy and what things in my life make me feel happy?
This should be an easy first question. You either know if you are happy or unhappy so list the reasons that you’re happy. Most of the time, this list will include your kids, your spouse, your home etc…definitely list those things but write down all the little things too! Do you love working out? Do you enjoy catching up with your friends and having a bottle of wine once a week? Do you love your time alone or time to work on projects? The people we love make us happy of course, but try to expand on this idea of happiness by thinking about what would make you happy if it were just…you. If you didn’t have children, or a husband/wife/gf/bf, or if your family lived far away. What things would be comforting to you? Just write it ALL down and don’t think about if it makes any sense. If it makes you feel cozy…write it down.
If you think you don’t need to write it down because you already know exactly what makes you happy, just do it anyway! You will be surprised to find that some of the things that pop into your head first…are things you NEVER. DO. If you want to take this even one step further, put your list on the fridge or on a bulletin board that you look at often. On days you are feeling down, find something on your list that you can do to cheer yourself up!!
2. Am I respecting the things that bring happiness to the ones I love?
Okay, now that you are more aware of what makes YOU happy, what about the other people in your life? Your happiness is important…but this post is about your relationships. You have to RESPECT that other people have their own lists. The awesome part about this is that if you like each other, chances are you have a few things in common on your list and you can do them together! What I can’t stress enough though, is that there will be things on your lists that do NOT make the other person happy. This is where the respect comes in (I have trouble with this one sometimes but I am working on it!). There is a difference between giving your opinion about why YOU don’t like something and flat-out telling someone you WON’T allow it. You cannot change a person by force. Can you provide that person with your point of view? Absolutely! You can encourage, educate, or recommend an idea to someone but that is as far as you can take it. Here is a classic scenario to give you an idea of how to be respectful of what makes others happy…
Scenario: Joe is in a new relationship with Suzie. Joe loves to play video games. Suzie does not like video games…but she likes Joe, and Joe likes her. Playing video games makes Joe happy. Spending time with Joe makes Suzie happy. Spending time with Suzie is something new that makes Joe happy. Suzie tells Joe that it makes her happy when they spend time together. Joe does not want to give up playing his video games even though he likes spending time with Suzie.
Now here are some options that Suzie could decide to make and the outcomes they have on her relationship with Joe:
Option A) Suzie tells Joe that if he does not stop playing video games, then she will no longer date him. Sound familiar? Probably because you’ve used this one yourself (I know I have given ultimatums in dealing with issues and it has not really worked out in my favor yet) and here’s why:
If Joe decides to stop playing video games in order to continue to date Suzie, then he is giving up an item off of his list. He is losing something that makes him happy. He is gaining more time with Suzie but he may end up with resentment towards her as well which is counteractive to a happy relationship. There are certain sacrifices you make in any relationship but you should never sacrifice the things you truly find happiness doing (even if it makes the other person happier that you did)
Here is an alternative that leaves both people in the relationship happier as a result:
Option B) Suzie tells Joe that she is glad he finds enjoyment through playing video games but that she would like to spend more time with him. In the meantime, she decides to use that time to do something else on her list that she enjoys. If Suzie is occupied doing what makes her happy and if Joe really DOES enjoy spending time with her then he will realize he has to make that time possible by CHOOSING to redistribute the time he spends with other things that make him happy (video games) and put more time into hanging out with Suzie and doing things they like to do together.
If you’re laughing at this scenario and thinking “Yeah right…that’s just not how relationships work” then you’re right. Most relationships DON’T work this way. Most relationships are a HUGE struggle. Most relationships do not have this kind of respect happening and that’s why it is so important to ask yourself these questions.
If you thought that this scenario seemed kind of unfair (Suzie isn’t getting what she wants..) then you should ask yourself this 3rd question:
3. Am I focused on being responsible for my own needs?
Respecting other people’s needs is one thing. Being happy is another. But being RESPONSIBLE for your own needs is probably the hardest part of this whole exercise. Like I mentioned earlier, we are not raised from birth to be responsible for our lives. We are completely dependent creatures. I’ve watched tons of documentaries on babies and I’ve watched equally as many on animals in the wild (seriously they’re both all over my Netflix) and I am always totally amazed at how much better equipped for life animals in the wild are. They literally come out of the womb expected to walk and hunt and KEEP UP! Humans are not this way. Baby brains take a long time to learn basic survival skills (They do know some pretty cool stuff just not the kind of cool stuff that’s relevant to this post) and we crave attachment, love, care, and closeness. When we were young, we relied solely on our parents to be responsible for all of our needs right? Yes and no. Think about when you were little and your mom or dad needed to do something…it made you frustrated..”How dare they tell me no, how dare they not give me all their attention!” and what did you do? Sometimes you threw a fit…but other times, you simply found something else to do. You gave YOURSELF the attention that you weren’t receiving in that moment. You have the ability to take care of your own needs and your happiness and the older you get, the more of a responsibility you have to take care of it.
Stop telling other people that they NEED to do this, that they have to GIVE you that, or that you CANT be happy without their permission. Focus on yourself. Write you own list. Set your OWN goals. You don’t need anyone’s permission. Your happiness does not hinge on the ability to please others. Giving your attention and affection should be based on your own purpose for giving it. By all means give love to people, give empathy, give a shoulder, give gratitude…but don’t give them the burden of being responsible for your life. That task is yours and only you can manage it productively.
If you are asking yourself these questions in all of your different relationships you will soon find that you are not only happier and less stressed out, but you will start to see that people will be drawn to you more naturally. If people see that you are a happy, balanced, joyful person they will want to be near you. They will want to know how they can be that way also. So use these tips and share them with anyone who might be having the same kind of strain in their relationships and then sit back and watch your life change!
Thanks for reading! If you haven’t already, check out my other self-improvement posts and continue to make positive changes in your life!