Relationships Matter

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” ― C.G. Jung

We human beings are social animals with an innate drive for being in relationship with others. Consider societies' use of banning, shunning, or isolation as punishment,or even "time out" for kids to understand how important relationships are to our well-being. Fortunately, most of us have the opportunity to be in meaningful relationships every day in our families, workplaces, schools and communities.

Picture a nest of circles each moving further and further away from the one in the centre. These circles represent the relationship "systems" in which we function, beginning with the SELF in the inner most circle. The next circle contains personal and intimate relationships like family, close friends or neighbors. Relationships within these innermost systems are vital to our well-being. As the circles move outward, each one will contain less intimate relationships, such as workplaces,education systems or institutions; yet these relationships too can have both positive and negative effects on our well-being.

When each of our important relationships are reciprocal, strong and harmonius, our daily lives move along without too much distress. But feelings of peace and contentment quickly evaporate when disappointment or conflict emerges in one or more of these relationships.

A robust relationship means that it is full of health and strength; it's vigorous and can withstand the storms and upsets of life. We know that robust relationships don't just happen. Individuals must learn to become competent at initiating, developing and maintaining them. Consider the following competencies for helping to ensure that strong relationships exist in your life.

1. Having Clear Expectations for Self and Other
When we become involved with other people, we hold expectations related to shared values, interests, commitment, attitude, behavior and so on. When these expectations,which are held by both parties, are unrealistic or unfulfilled, the risk is disappointment and distress and, in the extreme, may even end the relationship. A good strategy is to be very clear about what we expect from each of our relationships, both from ourselves and from the other. This approach is of equal importance to personal,family, social and work relationships. Transparency, trust, integrity and openness are key factors in ensuring that what is wanted and needed by each individual can be shared, negotiated and met. Relationships change over time so occasionally revisting expectations can be a helpful exercise.

2. Accepting Personal Responsibility
Exercising personal responsibility means accepting the authority one has for directing a successful outcome. A person with a well-developed sense of responsibility recognizes that her actions have a direct impact on anyone with whom she is in relationship.Accepting personal responsibility means each choice is thoughtful and intended to earn trust. It means consistently doing what I said I'd do and when I cannot, renegotiating the required outcome in a timely manner. A responsible person does not put another person's well-being at risk for her own benefit, doesn't threaten nor try to control any of her relationships. It's easy to see how demonstrating this competency could
be an advantage in each one of our relationship circles.

3. Holding a Realistic Sense of Self
This can be complicated because of the fact that much of what motivates and drives us is largely unconscious. Considering this ego-driven reality, it's not surprising how often we're unaware of why we acted the way we did. Most of us have "blind spots" - things outside of our awareness until someone points them out. This requires the courage to ask for feedback even when we know it may result in a request for a behaviour change. It means we're willing to hold a mirror up on a regular basis and deeply examine the self-reflection. Having a realistic sense of self requires a clear understanding of one's personality, emotions, values, attitude and behaviour. Self-awareness is evident when there is no deception; the person operates from her genuine self, not from the place of someone she wishes to be. This competency allows for the freedom to be exactly who you are within each of your relationships.

4. Establishing And Maintaining Personal/Professional Boundaries
Our boundaries are what define us as being separate from another. Our skin denotes the boundary ofour physical being, however, we also have invisible boundaries - emotional, sexual, spiritual and relational. They exist and affect us. Therefore,we need to become conscious of them in order to communicate our limits to others.Relational boundaries define the relationship, and every relationship, even intimate ones, have limitations about what's appropriate. Our boundary limitations inform us about when and where to draw the line. When we're afraid to draw the line we risk being victimized or subservient. Fear, guilt, insecurity, or an overabundance of obligation can get in the way of drawing the line. Becoming firm about boundaries is enhanced when we emphasize the values that guide our lives. Core values such as respect, honesty, trust, kindness, tact and tolerance can ach act as a boundary builder. Skill development for this competency may include assertiveness or conflict resolution courses, or personal development through coaching or counselling.

If you're interested in understanding your attachment style in close relationships,go to the Authentic Happiness website and complete the Close Relationships Questionnaire:
[http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/default.aspx]

Take good care of yourself,

Kathleen

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