There are probably hundreds of components that make up a great relationship, but I’m going to address some of the ones that make the biggest difference.
Whether a friendship, family, or intimate partner, when you adopt and include these components in your relationships, they will improve. But, just like I mention in the show, things go a lot better when the other people in your relationships also include them too.
When it’s one sided, it doesn’t go too far. But when it works, it can be completely satisfying and enjoyable.
*Thank you to our sponsor Levels For Guitar for helping us bring this show to you! Get a month’s access to an entire library of guitar lessons for free now: levelsforguitar.com/brain
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
If you’ve been listening to this show for a while, you may be able to piece together an underlying theme I repeat over and over again, and that is that in order to live an amazingly satisfying life, you need to be yourself and love yourself.
I don’t say it like that exactly, as I like to get into the “how” of things instead of just saying, “Be yourself!” After all, I should know the phrase, “Be yourself” doesn’t always communicate what that really means. I really believed I was being myself for about 36 years of my life!
Have you ever felt that you’ve been authentic only to find out there was more to you than you realized?
I’m a generally calm and easy going person. I’ve been this way all my life. But, I learned something in my 30s and that was that I never really stood up for myself.
When I learned to do that, I was still the same calm, easy-going person, but soon I realized how much I was hiding from the world. I really thought I was being authentic. But in hindsight, it’s clear to see that I was being protective.
I was protecting myself by not standing up for myself, as odd as that sounds. But you know what I’m saying, right? It’s when you really want to say something to someone but decide not to because you fear what they will say or do.
In fact, I’m willing to bet that most of us don’t show our true selves because of our fear of retaliation or judgment of some sort.
Think about it… if you knew you wouldn’t be judged or hurt, no matter what, would you make different decisions and have different responses to life’s situations? I’m willing to bet there have been at least a million circumstances where you wanted to say something but chose not to because of some sort of fear in you.
Of course, maybe I’m wrong about you. Maybe you were bad to the bone throughout your life, and said anything you wanted to say to anyone. But for those of us who weren’t as fearless, we only showed the side we wanted people to see.
You can do this and still be authentic, but often times it doesn’t work that way. Most people will show a side of them that keeps judgment and reaction at a minimum so that life is more comfortable.
It’s that “comfort zone” baloney. You think you’ll be more comfortable by keeping the peace and only showing people so much of you. But in reality, what you’re doing is filling your immediate gratification for comfort, causing you to delay the inevitable.
The inevitable conclusion for continuing to show everyone a limited perspective of who you are is typically burnout.
When you get to burnout, you won’t want to show anyone a fake smile anymore. You won’t want to laugh at stupid jokes. You won’t even want to be nice to people anymore because you are so tired of being someone you’re not. And this wears you down.
So today we’re going to talk about how to be the person that can create satisfying, loving relationships. They can be intimate, romantic relationships, family, or even just friends you love dearly.
Do you have to be authentic? Well, it really helps. Because when you can be you throughout your relationship, you’ll never get to burnout. But if you pretend to be someone else just so you can avoid confrontation, it wears you down.
Remember what the Buddha said, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
How do you give that to yourself? You stop pretending you’re someone you’re not, and start living from that authentic place inside of you.
As soon as you do that, people around you will look at you funny. And, you may lose people that you thought were close, but you’ll also gain high quality relationships that are unbreakable.
Today we’re talking about the components that make up a satisfying, loving relationship. This is a two part episode. Part 1 has the first 5 components and part 2 will have the last 5.
What I want you to keep in mind throughout this entire show is that when you think something applies to someone else, always apply it to yourself too. This is how you “love yourself”.
When you can love yourself, loving other people comes a lot easier.
Let’s talk about what creates a satisfying, loving relationship. Not just intimate, but any relationship where those characteristics are desired.
Relationships define our boundaries and connections with other people. There are all kinds of relationships you can have, but today we’re going to talk about what it takes to be in one and create one that’s truly satisfying and loving.
We have a lot to talk about, so I’m just going to dive in to the first component of a satisfying, loving relationship, and that’s this:
- Both people must have well defined boundaries of what’s acceptable, and what’s not.
A well-defined boundary is when you make it clear to people what you will and won’t accept in your life. The problems arise when one of you starts to do something the other person doesn’t want in their life. For example, if you don’t like smoking and don’t want to be with a smoker, but that person starts smoking, you’ll feel a personal boundary is being violated.
The question is, what do you do in a circumstance where someone crosses your boundaries? Sometimes you already have a lot invested in your relationship and you don’t want it to end, so you might resist this new behavior, or try to adapt to it.
But if you can’t adapt, or accept it, but still want the relationship you have, you have to come to a decision. What many people do however is decide that instead of coming to a decision and taking action one way or another, they choose to stay in limbo instead.
This is also a decision of course, but it’s the worst type because it’s one that keeps the suffering around the longest.
It’s the same thing that happened to me. My relationship with my wife started off great. We would go out to eat, have desserts, hang out, have fun, and all kinds of things. It was “normal” and enjoyable. Then I found out that she was addicted to junk food, and had a major challenge not eating sugary treats.
Suddenly, going out to eat was no longer fun for me, it was a trial in patience, tolerance, and emotional triggers that came up in me.
For about 8 years I felt a personal boundary being crossed because I never wanted to be with an addict of any sort. Yet, here I was, completely invested into a relationship where her addiction was the primary focus the entire time.
This led to my judgments and unsupportive attitude, eventually leading to our divorce.
Allowing this violation of a deeply rooted boundary caused a major conflict in me, causing me to suffer. My suffering led to my judgments led to her reactions to my judgments led to her eventually falling out of love with me.
I didn’t realize that I would be so affected by someone with a food and sugar addiction, but at the same time, I never really knew about that type of addiction either. This is one thing that happens with new relationships: You figure out that something they do bothers you.
And the hard part about that is you only find out after you’ve invested time with them. With friendships, it’s a little easier to walk away from. Sure, it hurts, but we all know it hurts worse when you’re in an intimate relationship.
Being with someone who violates a personal boundary, even when they aren’t intentionally doing so, is extremely challenging. It’s a daily struggle and you will be tested over and over again. I was tested for 8 years, and I failed that test miserably.
Near the end of my marriage, my wife just fell out of love. I had worn her out. I had boundaries, and she crossed them. Not deliberately of course, because her issues were a real struggle for her. But, even though she crossed my boundaries, I still chose to keep her in my life. I chose to keep an addict in my life.
So if you think about it, I actually crossed my own boundaries. After all, if you don’t like snake bites, and you keep a poisonous snake around you at all times, you’re going to get bit.
As odd as this is to say, I kept my wife around. I kept the very thing that hurt close to me. She wasn’t actually hurting me at all, she was just doing her own thing and actually being supportive of me. But I was not reciprocating.
I wanted her to change and get rid of her addiction, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t. But instead of honoring myself by not being with an addict, I chose to fight it inside myself. I wanted to have my cake and eat it too.
In other words, I wanted to keep the woman I fell in love with and make her change to the way I wanted her to be. Instead of focusing on what I needed to do to honor my own boundaries, I chose a path of trying to change her to honor my boundaries.
You know what happens when you try to change someone, right? One of two things:
- They change and resent you for the rest of the time.
- They don’t change and resent you for trying to make them change.
I’ve seen this in family situations. One or both parents are strict and want their child to conform, so they lay out rules so stringent and regimented that the child actually becomes more resentful and gets in more trouble because of it.
Then of course, the more trouble they get in, the more they become disrespectful and belligerent. Soon, they’re running away from home and meeting all kinds of bad people doing bad things.
The only way this kind of relationship can work is in prison. A prison guard can make and enforce the rules and the prisoner has no choice but to obey, or get locked in solitary confinement.
Since most family homes aren’t on 24 hour lock-down, highly controlled children usually find the time and the way out because it’s in their nature to want to experience as much as they can. And being held back from experience pulls out the rebel in many children.
This doesn’t change when you get into a relationship of any kind. If you are with a controlling person, you will feel disrespected and untrusted, causing you to feel uncomfortable and resentful. And, unless the controlling person has a breakthrough of some sort, this situation will never change.
You have to come to terms with the fact that controlling and/or judgmental people won’t change. They will always be that way until something shakes them out of their boots.
When my wife left our marriage, that shook me out of my boots. It gave me a wake up call to go inward and figure out what exactly caused the downfall.
That’s just it, when you’re in it, you can’t tell how bad it’s getting. When you get out of it, you can tell how bad it got!
This is why it’s really good to define, as soon as possible, what your boundaries are in the relationship. That doesn’t mean you say, “Okay, before we get into this, I will only accept A, B and C, and won’t accept X, Y, and Z.”
What it means is being brave enough to speak up when needed or take action if needed. Or, adapting or accepting a situation by referring to your values.
For example , if you don’t like smoking and your friend or date lights up a cigarette, refer to your values and ask yourself the question:
Is this something I’ll be okay with?
I mean, think about that question. It’s something you can ask yourself at any time. If you have a relationship now that is a little rocky, think of something they do that you don’t like and pretend it happened for the very first time.
Does that make sense? In other words, if you’ve seen this person do that thing or say that thing many times before, just pretend you never heard or saw it before and they’re doing it for the very first time now.
Now ask yourself, “Is this something I’ll be okay with?”
If your answer is “no”, then the next question is, “Why haven’t I honored my boundaries and done something about this?” There are all kinds of answers to that question I realize. Sometimes you’re in a situation that feels impossible to leave, so you stick around praying things will change on their own someday.
When you’re not okay with something someone is doing, then that behavior is against your values. I walk you through how to learn what your values are in a worksheet called Stop Self-Sabotage on my website if you’re interested.
When something is against your values, and you keep it in your life, your life never turns out the way you want it. There’s always struggle and suffering. There’s always conflict. Things never go as planned.
My mom, who lived with a raging alcoholic for over 40 years always hoped that the next time they all went out to eat that maybe he wouldn’t order a drink. But, that never happened! She always hoped that this would be the night he didn’t order a drink, but the rest of us knew better.
And because she set her expectations high, she got bitter when he’d order drink after drink and embarrass the family as usual.
He wasn’t going to change, it was up to her to take action to take care of her life. Her boundaries were being violated, not his. And as much as she tried to change him, he would stay the same. He didn’t get resentful, he just drank more.
That’s pretty much the solution to resentment if you’ve ever wondered. Drinking alcohol takes away the pain of resentment and replaces it with apathy towards those you love the most. I definitely don’t recommend drinking away your resentment, as it tends to lead to the entire family turning against you, let alone some serious issues with your liver.
But my mom tried to conform him to her values and boundaries, and it didn’t work every time she tried. I witnessed this for the entire time I’ve been alive.
So honoring your boundaries is really up to you and no one else. When you are with someone who does something that you’re not okay with, that is you keeping toxicity in your life. That is you causing you pain and misery.
They are who they are. My wife was who she was, and I could either accept and adapt to her behavior, or I could have left, but I couldn’t not ‘accept and stay’ because it would kill any love we had for each other.
But that’s what I tried to do: I didn’t accept her behavior, and I chose to stay with her. If I really honored myself, I would have gotten help and figured out what I needed to do to either accept her for who she was, or actually honor my boundaries and get away from things that made me unhappy.
There was a conflict in me. It’s the “I love you and want you to change” syndrome. When you love someone and want them to change, but they don’t, then you need to accept and adapt, accept and leave, or not accept and leave.
If you choose any other path, you invite suffering into your life, because you’ll always be in conflict with what “is”.
We are almost always in control of what crosses our boundaries, but many times we point the finger at the other person. Sure, there are times when things happen beyond our control and each situation is different, but when you’re in a situation that you yourself prolong, but you blame the other person, it’s time to reconsider who’s really responsible for creating the change that’s needed to have a happier life.
Let’s move on to number 2.
- Reciprocation must be as close to equal as possible.
If you take out the garbage, they do the dishes. If they wash your car, you clean the carpets. If they buy your dinner, you get the next one. So on and so on.
This is the easiest, most reasonable item on the list. It’s almost too easy, yet it’s one of the least followed, least obeyed rules.
There has to be some level of fairness and equity in any relationship. There has to be – otherwise one of you will build resentment (there’s that word again).
The need for reciprocation and fairness might actually be hardwired into us out of survival, because you see kids fight over this all the time. Have you ever poured a glass of juice for the first child, then poured just a little bit more or a little bit less into a glass for the second child? Many times, at least from my experience, the child that got the least amount will say something like, “He got more than me! That’s not fair!”
Where do they learn this? Is this something that comes from our primal survival instincts where having less food and water means we’ll be weaker or closer to death than the others?
I don’t know, but I’m sure there’s a study out there that talks about it. Regardless, wanting things to be equal happens in many areas of life. Sure, we’d all like to think that we are spiritual and giving and compassionate, and we’ll just give and give and need nothing in return.
But we still get those niggling little thoughts in the back of our minds, don’t we? I remember when someone would bring cookies to the office. If you didn’t get to the kitchen in time, you’d be lucky to find one, if any, left. Then you’d walk by someone who grabbed 3 or 4 and you’d think, “That bastard! I got one, and it was broken in half by someone who only wanted a little bite. Grrr!!!” Ha ha!
As advanced and evolved as I think I am, it still happens to me! Yeah, I think I’m all that sometimes, but at least I’m humble enough to know my shortcomings.
Just last night, I was at a restaurant, and I ordered a stuffed chicken pasta meal. When I got it, there really wasn’t a lot on my plate. One of the people I was with however got a massive bucket of pasta that no family could ever eat.
I thought, “Why did they skimp on mine? Why is my plate smaller and more expensive?”
I had these thoughts going through my mind. I realized that had I been alone, I might not have noticed the size of my meal. But because I saw everyone else’s, I felt slighted, as if I was being singled out. I felt like I was in a place of lack, and that I wasn’t getting my fair share.
I quickly got over it and didn’t care anymore, but it happened long enough for me to realize that almost all of us compare what we get in life to what other people get.
If I pour you a half a glass of your favorite beverage, but I pour an entire glass up to the brim for the person you’re with, you’re going to wonder what’s up, aren’t you? I’m willing to bet you would.
That’s because we compare, whether consciously or subconsciously. We’re almost always comparing to make sure things are equal.
If you think you’re above this, think about this: How does it feel to sit in traffic for an hour, only to have someone rush down the breakdown lane passing everyone up, to merge in at the last second way in front.
I bet one of the first things you say is, “Hey, that’s not fair!”
Think about this in relationships. We are always comparing what’s fair and what’s not, even when we think we aren’t. The comparisons get more subtle as we grow older, but they’re still there.
Have you ever felt something was unfair in your relationship? I once had a friend that I really enjoyed hanging out with. However, I started to notice that everytime he wanted to hang out, I would always have to come to his house, but he would never come to mine.
I offered several times for him to come over, but he never did. I always did the drive, and I always put forth the time and energy to see him, but it was never reciprocated.
My house at the time was clean and tidy, but that wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Since he never came over to see it at least once, that wasn’t the issue. It turns out that he was just more or less lazy and didn’t want to take the time to come over.
Well, that was what I assessed at least. I could have been wrong, but either way, there were aspects of the relationship that were not equitable. We had a good time and laughed a lot, but little things like that kept showing up.
It was a great friendship as long as it was convenient to him. Inequity in a relationship will build resentment. The person that believes they are being slighted in any way will start to feel disdain towards the other person.
So think about your relationships with people. Do you find that the level of reciprocation is not close to equal? And if so, do you feel any resentment? Do they feel any resentment towards you?
This is an important factor in keeping a relationship healthy, because resentment is a slow killer. It will eat away at the fabric that holds the relationship together. It will get to a boiling point, and eventually destroy trust, love and respect.
Just think about that the next time you hear someone sound a little frustrated when they have to do something that you could do instead. That frustration is resentment, in a small way.
If you aren’t able to reciprocate for one reason or another, at least talk about it. When resentment isn’t talked about, it sticks around and increases in power.
Reciprocation prevents resentment. Resentment prevents love.
You don’t have to reciprocate for every little thing the other person does, and the reciprocation doesn’t even have to consist of the same favor. As long as you feel there is some type of equality in time, energy or even money.
Now if you don’t feel that reciprocation is coming your way, just ask for it!
If you’re always buying dinner, but feel it might be nice to have it bought for you on occasion, just say something like, “I usually buy, would you mind buying tonight? I’d love to be on the receiving end now and then” or something similar.
You’ll get one of several responses. If they act shocked and offended, you might start to wonder how equal this relationship is after all. Or, they might be overly happy to pay, wanting to buy because they feel the same way.
If they act shocked, don’t think it’s them being selfish, at least not right away. It’s possible they do things for you that you don’t think is reciprocation, but they do!
In fact, you may want to first consider the things they do and find out if you haven’t thanked them enough for those things. You know what I mean right? If you keep buying lunch or dinner, and don’t feel like they’re reciprocating, but they’re always paying for movies or washing your car, they may think that’s enough.
To some people, it might be enough. But maybe it’s not enough for you so you feel slighted.
The point is, don’t assume that they’re not reciprocating because they may already feel like they are. It’s a tricky area, but usually you can tell when something is one-sided anyway.
And of course, you never know, you could be the one not reciprocating enough!
We are almost like children when it comes to fairness. If you have a reciprocal relationship and neither person feels slighted, you are one step closer to a satisfying and loving situation.
Talking about one step closer, we’re down to the last 3 components for part 1 of this two part episode. Here comes number 3…
- There must be an attempt at understanding each other’s difficulties in life.
I started to touch on this a little bit in the last segment, and it has to do with being aware of what the other person does for you. That’s related to knowing what to reciprocate. But what this really addresses is figuring out what challenges the other person has.
This is especially true in an employee to supervisor relationship, but this component is equally as important in any relationship. I know, an employee-supervisor relationship isn’t necessarily loving and satisfying in most cases, but there’s still something to take away here.
One of the best ways I found to be the most effective, most valuable employee in the companies I worked for is figuring out what challenged my boss the most, and finding a solution or at least some reprieve for those challenges.
A good example is when I worked at a hospital doing computer work. Three of my superiors had similar issues: They all had too much data, and no easy way to review it all. They just didn’t have the time to look at every piece of data coming at them, so I thought about what I could do to make their lives easier.
I decided to use my spreadsheet skills to make them each a spreadsheet that would organize their data in a way that made sense and that they could add to or subtract from. Two of my bosses needed the same one, so that cut my work in half. The other one needed something much more complex, so that took a lot more time.
I even had to learn new skills just to accomplish it. But let me tell you what happened when I made their lives easier… it made my life easier.
This is the trickle down theory of happiness. Make others around you happy, and you’ll be happy by default.
Now this doesn’t mean become a servant and saying yes to everything they want, but you have an opportunity to look at someone else’s challenges and try to make their lives easier in some way with your skills and experience.
My bosses loved me after this. I even had one bring up my name during a corporate meeting and she raved about my skills. This was just a bonus I didn’t expect.
This component, “There must be an attempt at understanding each other’s difficulties in life” really boils down to this:
Make their life easier by decreasing their challenge with ongoing problems.
When you are able to decrease someone’s challenge with an ongoing problem, you are going to make them feel on top of the world.
When I met my girlfriend, she lived in Georgia and I lived in New Hampshire. After we got to know each other really well, I contemplated moving down to Georgia.
I was going to get my own place and we could just meet up throughout the week when we wanted to go on a date. However, we thought about how much time and money we could save if I moved in with her.
I told her that I’m happy to get my own place but after we talked some more, we both thought we’d give living together a shot.
So, before I moved down permanently, I decided to live with her for a month just to see how it went. That way, we could see if we were still compatible living together.
Well, I moved in for a month, then I went back home.
During my stay, and after I left, she kept repeating the same thing over and over again:
When you’re here, life is just easier.
That’s it! It wasn’t, “I love you so much, it was wonderful that you were here.” It was, “life was just easier when you were here.”
That statement spoke volumes to me. More than saying “I love you”, more than saying, “I need you”, she was saying, “Life is easier when you’re around.”
That told me that the challenges she had weren’t so challenging when I was there. Before I arrived, her dishes would be piled up and it might take days for her to get to them. But when I was there, the dishes were done daily.
Before, she didn’t have time to cook. But when I was there, I cooked, or we cooked together.
I’m not saying I was a knight in shining armor. She had everything under control before I arrived. But I am saying that she felt I made her life easier.
When you are able to make someone’s life easier, that goes deeper than love. Or, more accurately, it shows love from the other side. It shows that you care about them so deeply that you are willing to help them make their life more comfortable.
What is the most challenging thing in your life right now? When you think about what challenges you, what if someone were to come along and say, “Hey, you know that thing that challenges you, I found a solution for it. I’ve already implemented it, and you won’t have to struggle so much anymore.”
Think about that… isn’t that a nice feeling? If someone came along and told me, “Hey, you know how you have to clean the bathroom a lot? Well, I’m going to do it once a month if that’s okay.”
I’d be like, “Wow, I want you to stick around in my life!”
Figure out what challenges people in your life and see if you can help them with those challenges. See if you can find a solution for them. When you do this for the people you love most, they’re going to be so grateful that you might actually see a different side of them.
My girlfriend can get pretty grumpy when she’s stressed, but her mood shifts completely when the kitchen is cleaned when she gets home.
I really like being a part of making her life just a bit easier. It is a little selfish, I’ll admit, because it makes my life a whole lot more enjoyable. But, it strengthens our relationship exponentially.
The words “I love you” are great and all, but our actions always speak louder.
We’ve got 2 more, let’s get to the next one now.
- You must realize that everything “wrong” with the other person is really just a reflection of your own struggle with acceptance.
This is a tough one to swallow. When you think something is wrong with another person, or that their behavior is unacceptable, it is always a reflection of your own struggle with acceptance and unconditional love.
Does that mean you have to love the one who deceives you? Or how about the one who purposefully tries to hurt you?
No, you don’t have to love them. You just have to accept them for who they are and what they do.
Acceptance doesn’t mean agreement. Acceptance means that whether you like it or not, that’s who they are and that’s how they behave. Period.
It doesn’t mean they were always that way or they’ll always be that way, but it does mean that here and now, that’s what they’re showing you, so you just gotta accept it.
Acceptance doesn’t mean you have to stick around and endure it, it just means you come to a place inside of you that doesn’t deny what you are witnessing.
Denial is the best form of self-bludgeoning I’m aware of. It’s even worse than hitting yourself with a hammer, because it forces you to turn a blind eye to what hurts you.
At least if you hit your thumb with a hammer, there’s no denying the pain. But denying yourself what you instinctively know to be true, or even factually know to be true, is like pouring acid on your soul.
Denial is pretending everything is great when you feel conflicted inside. Denial is thinking positively so you don’t feel bad about what’s really going on.
Denial is the ultimate in the non-acceptance of truth.
Therefore, when you realize that everything “wrong” with the other person is a reflection of your own struggle with acceptance, you realize that what’s really wrong with this picture is your lack of action.
Now, don’t take offense by that statement. What I’m saying is that when you focus on what’s wrong with someone and what you can do to change them, it keeps your focus off of your own healing and growth.
By focusing on what’s wrong with others, you fail to do what’s right for you!
And by not focusing on your needs and what you want for your life, you automatically shift your focus outward into the world hoping that the world will fulfill and “complete” you. The search for completion outside yourself is a long journey wrought with rejection and disappointment.
But when you start focusing on what’s right for you and what you want and need in your life, other people’s problems are no longer your problems. You don’t live your life based on their dysfunction, you live it based on your own.
That sounds strange, but it’s true. If you are always concerned about the dysfunction of others, you’ll rarely get what you want in life. If instead you focus on your wants and needs and what you need to do to learn, heal and grow, you’ll evolve rapidly.
And sometimes evolution means leaving other dysfunctional people behind. It’s not always possible, because sometimes your kids have issues and you need to stick around until they’re a certain age.
But friends, coworkers, lovers, and even our marriage partners are sometimes so toxic in our lives because of their dysfunction, that by staying in a relationship with them, you are actually more dysfunctional than them.
The other person can play with fire and burn themselves all the time which you may not like and want them to stop, but if you stay with them, you’re going to eventually get burned… probably often!
Are they getting help? Are they getting better? Which direction are they going? This needs to be assessed so that you can make decisions on what you want to do with your life.
I don’t promote divorce and I don’t promote breaking up, all I do is push for you to honor and respect yourself first, then allow those who will honor and respect your boundaries into your life.
If they have behavior that violates your boundaries, then you are the cause of the violation if you keep them around. Does that make sense?
You may not like that, but more times than not, it’s true.
There are situations where you are being forced or threatened to stay in something you don’t like. But how long will that last? Can you do anything to get out of it? I suppose if you’re in jail, maybe not.
But if you are in a self-imposed prison, such as an abusive relationship, you probably have more resources than you believe you do.
My mom complained about my alcoholic, abusive stepfather for over 40 years and believed that he was 100% the problem in the relationship.
Yet, she never left. She stayed, even when she had offers for her to live with other people! She caused her struggles even though it appeared that he was the problem.
Everything wrong with someone else, at least that which you complain about, is usually a sign of your own lack of acceptance and taking action.
When you fail to take action to take care of yourself, and you focus on the other person’s problems, that deteriorates the relationship.
I focused on my wife’s eating for our entire relationship, and it destroyed our marriage. Had I focused on my inability to accept her for the way she was and the challenges she had to deal with, I might still be married today.
Or, maybe not. Maybe I wouldn’t have wanted someone with addiction issues in my life and just moved on without her. It sounds cold and uncaring, but moving on would have been a whole lot better than subjecting her to 8 years of my judging remarks and offensive behavior.
At least if I had left sooner, she could have started anew without struggling with me for so long. I realize it sounds like I’m taking the full brunt of the blame, but I’m really not. I’m just accepting my role in the downfall of that relationship.
It all worked out in the end, because we’re both in a better place, she went her way and I went mine. But sometimes it’s better to figure this stuff out sooner than later.
Your relationships don’t have to end, but sometimes there seems to be no way to salvage them. When you have a challenge, focus in on you and what you need to do for you. If the other person wants to change and come along for the ride, great! That’s a bonus for both of you!
But, many times we have to continue on without them just so we can stay sane and find satisfaction and fulfillment elsewhere. It’s hard, but it’s a lot easier than staying and feeling like you’re going nowhere, or even worse: The opposite direction.
A relationship can go either way, you just need to check in and figure out what’s best for you.
Let’s go on to our last talking point of the day.
- Without some alone time, you will develop resentment.
There’s no other way to say it: You need your “me” time. You need time to yourself to think without the influence of anyone else. You need a reconnection to yourself, especially if you give 40 hours a week to someone else.
When your “me” time is spread thin, and you have to struggle to get it, you will feel unbalanced. You will feel stressed. You will feel crowded and a little claustrophobic.
Even the biggest extrovert needs to be alone every now and then just to recalibrate the system. Your mind and body need to reset so that you can renew your energy and clear out all the thoughts that have been building up.
If you wake up, drive in traffic, go to work all day, drive in traffic again to come home, make dinner, take a shower, and go to bed, I’m guessing the only “me time” you have is in the bathroom.
Let me tell you, when I worked at the worst job in my life in 1993, that bathroom was wonderful. I hoped I had to go to the bathroom just so I could be alone with my thoughts, because I never felt like my life was balanced. I never felt I had enough “me time”.
Then one day, an executive walked into the bathroom and called my name.
“Paul, are you in here?”
I said, “Yeah…?”
“Oh, just making sure. The phone is ringing in the service department.”
“Uh, okay. I’m a little busy, but I’ll get back as soon as I can.”
“Oh, that’s okay! Take your time. I just wanted to make sure you were here.”
I thought, ‘Of course I’m here! I’m not going to abandon my post’, but that didn’t matter to them. They heard the phone and no one answering it. Me having to use the bathroom must not have been on the job description for this role, so they didn’t know what to do when I went.
That was one of the moments that convinced me that it was time to find other work. When my “me time” is interrupted, there’s nothing left.
And that’s why “me time” is so important. If you don’t make the time for yourself, you’ll have nothing left to give to others.
I’ve learned that some people, when they get home after a long day don’t want to talk about their day. They don’t want to make nice or play house. They just want to relax.
That’s it. Just relax.
That was me. When I commuted to work every day and worked 40 to 50 hours a week, the last thing I wanted to do was come home and talk about the day I just had. I actually wanted to come home and escape the day I just had.
But, the girl I was with probably missed me and wanted me to share the day I had with her. It was hard though. I’d actually forget what I did during the day because as soon as I got in the car to leave work, I shut the day off and got back to myself.
When I got home, I was more connected to me than my day, so recalling what I did throughout the day was sometimes very difficult.
It’s still that way with me today. If I’ve been working on the show all day, I still need to unplug and get my alone time. If I don’t have it, I never get to reset and refresh for the next thing I have to do.
Alone time doesn’t have to be meditation either, it can be anything that allows you to be without being influenced by anyone else. When you can just “be” without having to explain anything to anyone, you get to process the day.
That’s one of the most important aspects of “me time” is processing. There’s a lot going on under the surface of your mind, and it’s processing all the time. But, if you don’t give your brain the time to process things, it keeps collecting new information.
All this new information can override processing time, and you never get to finish processing!
Without processing, thoughts and emotions never reach closure. You have recurring negative thinking and you’re always left in the middle of thoughts because you never think about something to completion.
It’s like starting to bake a cake, but you keep having to shut the oven off to do other things. Eventually, you’ll either cook it or have to throw it away since it sat too long.
Don’t let the thoughts and emotions sit too long without you sitting with them and taking that “me time”. It doesn’t mean you have to think about all the stuff going on. In fact, you don’t have to think about all that stuff, because it’s going to be thought about whether you are conscious of it or not.
Just be with yourself when you can so the reset switch is pulled, and you are ready to take on the world again.
A more balanced you equals a better relationship. This works for other people as well. No matter who it is, we all need “me time”.
So think about the people in your life and if they are more stressed than not. Do they need that precious “me time” but never take it?
When you never get it, you will feel like people are crowding in on you. You won’t want to be touched or talked to. If you know someone that says, “Don’t touch me, give me a few minutes.”, it has probably very little to do with you, and probably everything to do with them not having enough time for themselves.
Remember when we talked about making someone else’s life easier? This is one thing you can do for them: Give them space.
Give them “me time”. Give them time away from all the worries of life and let them be with themselves.
I learned about this when I used to travel for work. I’d come home after a couple of days or more and I’d be in such a great mood! My girlfriend would notice and wonder what I did, but I assured her it was just because I had time to be alone.
When you’re alone, you get to really know what you think about things. When I was travelling for work, I really enjoyed the relationship I had with my girlfriend. And when I got to spend some time alone, I actually appreciated her more when I returned.
When you get your “me time”, you develop being grateful naturally. There’s no forced gratitude like we’re sometimes told to have.
“You gotta be grateful for everything. You gotta wake up and say, ‘I’m grateful’ everyday.”
I tried that, it didn’t work. I had to learn how to be grateful by getting my alone time. And sometimes I wouldn’t come back grateful. Sometimes after you get alone time, you find out that you don’t like some of the things you thought you liked. This is a real eye opener, and let’s you in on some of your deeper thoughts that you don’t normally have access to because you’re usually too busy.
Being too busy keeps you away from “me time”. So do what you can to get some time to yourself. You’ll notice you have more clarity about things, and you’ll learn something very valuable: The truth.
When you think about things with no one else around to influence you, you find out what truths lie under the surface. These are your true thoughts about what’s happening in your life.
The truth isn’t always easy to hear, but it can be liberating. It could hurt or it might feel great, but either way you’ll have closure because you will know for sure.
And with closure, you can take action with surety and confidence. Well, not always confidence, but you will be able to open the doors you need to open so that you can walk through them and get out of any stagnation you might be in.
Think of alone time as a direct path to wisdom. When you are on the path of wisdom, it always leads to evolution and freedom. Those two things may not come in the form you want them to, but they will be exactly what you need.
Thanks for joining me today. Next week, part 2.
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How many components are there that make up a healthy, loving relationship anyway? I mean, I’ve only touched on half of the ones I’m going to talk about so far, so make sure to listen next week for the other half.
Are there more? You bet there are. Probably dozens, or hundreds more. But, it’s not a matter of thinking about each individual component as something you need to add to your tool belt.
No, in fact, I want you to develop a philosophy instead of worrying about all the components and details. When it comes to developing loving, satisfying relationships, remember this philosophy:
The other person has needs, and when you can be the one to fulfill some or many of them, you will create synergy between you. That also works in reverse however. The best relationships are when you can both fulfill each other’s needs, and actually want to.
What usually happens though, at least over time with any relationship, is that one person is getting their needs met, and the other isn’t.
All of the components I talk about have to do with what you can do to fulfill the needs of your partner. You don’t become their servant and submit to everything they need, you just look for opportunities to make their life easier.
Isn’t it great when someone makes your life easier? On top of that, how can you make their life more fun and exciting? Is there anything you can do on top of what you’re already doing?
I realize that some of this takes some time, energy and money, and we all experience a lack of one or more of those more often than not, it seems.
And, if everything is already going well in your relationships, you probably already have the magic formula for success and don’t need lists like this.
If however you know there’s room for improvement, whether in a friendship, family, or something else, then it’s good to seek to fill those gaps so that you can get along better and just create a better synergy between you and others.
Sure, some people may seem selfish and you don’t want or care to make their lives easier or more enriching in some way, but maybe you could try once – just once to do something for them that they don’t expect.
Maybe your act of giving without expecting anything in return will show them that the world is a better place than they thought. Maybe they’ll change their behavior just a little bit. Wouldn’t that be nice!
Of course, they may not change at all. Some people are so set in their ways and they just have to be left to be who they are. We can hope they’ll learn something that helps them grow and evolve, but when there’s nothing you can do or say for them, you just have to move on and hope they learn what they need to learn.
We can’t change anyone anyway, at least not directly. After all, empowered decisions don’t come from you telling people what to do, they come from self-realization. And self-realization is learned through observing the world and figuring things out on your own.
So be the best “you” you can be so that others will observe you and go, “Wow, I wonder if I can do that?” And maybe they will, and if so, you will have changed someone’s life without even trying.
Wouldn’t that be cool?
So step into your power and be firm in your decisions and actions, so that you can create the life you want. When you do this, you’ll discover what I already know to be true about you, that you are amazing.