By Gwen Payne and Deano Sutter / Guidely
You’ve heard it many times, that old trope about how you need to love yourself before you can love others. Or how about a healthy relationship with yourself first is the most important aspect in any relationship? Well, likely you may not know the steps you can take to actually set yourself up for success in starting new relationships. Read on to learn insights to create healthy relationships in your life.
Our gifted Guides, Gwen Payne and Deano Sutter both agree that “Relationships are about living from the inside out.” Seeking within yourself to understand who you are at your core. To journey inward for a more connected and authentic relationship with yourself first, in order to come to the truth of who you are, and from that “inside out place” you can then connect with your external relationships with more ease and grace.
Let’s dig into these questions:
- How do you set up expectations prior to getting into relationships?
- What should our mindsets be before we enter into relationships?
A general guiding principle for entering into a healthy relationship: For every month you were in the old relationship, take a week off from getting into a new relationship in order to allow yourself to heal, come back to yourself, and relearn what works for you in your own life. For example, if the relationship lasted 12 months then the advice would be to take 12 weeks off from jumping into something new.
Although there are no hard and fast rules that one must follow, we have a tendency to fall back into old patterns. This is why it’s important to know what your personal codependency patterns are or why you may need validation through someone other than yourself.
The most important thing to remember is to know yourself first before pursuing a relationship. The relationship with yourself is the primary relationship; all other relationships are founded on yourself, and as a result, our partners tend to reflect back how you feel about yourself. So, for example, if you are neglecting or abusing yourself, guess what is going to show up in the relationship? Unfortunately, we are taught to pour ourselves into our relationships because that is what will give us the love, respect, and honoring we are looking for, but at the end of the day, we have to give that to ourselves first.
So what does it mean to be in a relationship? How do we define that?
We are always in a relationship in one form or another as relationships are about “relating to others.” As we learn more about our own nature within the context of intimacy, some of us tend to get deep quickly while others hold the potential partner at arms length for long periods of time. Either way, the key is to show up authentically, as you are.
If you are the type of person who is constantly working on yourself, whether it be personal, professional, or spiritual growth, and it’s important to you, you may find that this aspect of yourself is also important to find in a potential partner. If you’re not in alignment with a partner on levels that are personally important to you, the potential relationship may be short lived. This is also why it is so important to take that time in between relationships to come back to yourself and get clear about what you need and want for yourself first.
Take care of yourself first, find that connection with yourself so that you can find an authentic connection with another.
If you find that someone is interesting, take them out and do something fun that doesn’t feel like the pressure of a date; this way you can defuse the angst that is sometimes felt on a first, second, or third date. It’s so much easier to simply show up feeling free and present.
How do we create that perfect relationship?
First and foremost it’s important to remember that there is no “perfect person” we are all human and we all come with our flaws and our baggage. But that doesn’t mean we can’t strive towards a healthy relationship. The rule of thumb is to pay attention; when you first meet someone who may seem like a potential relationship interest, see what the person is showing up with and look at it as information that you’re taking in, (kind of like a resume) without judgment, to evaluate whether or not this person is a fit for you.
If you’re looking for a relationship:
- Create lists of all the issues you had with your past partners; be explicit.
- Write down all of the issues your partner had with you. Do this from their perspective, not yours.
- Write down the opposite of what your issues were. For example, if one of your issues was infidelity on your partner’s behalf, then write something like “I am with a faithful partner” or “I am with a person that is completely loyal and committed to me.”
- Make these all “I am” statements.
With this exercise, you’re dissecting the past to create a new future and as a result attracting this experience to you. Go over the list often to slowly but surely attract the right person.
Another type of list that you can create is a list of negative and positive attributes of your parents. This is also recommended because we tend to attract what is familiar to us, it’s like an alchemical container for negative and positive triggers that inevitably shows up in intimate relationships. As the old adage goes, “I married my mother/father.” Since we tend to get into relationships with personalities similar to either one of our parents, this type of list can prove to be beneficial for attracting a partner with all of the positive qualities you found within your immediate family.
Additionally, working through and understanding your personal triggers and taking responsibility for what you bring into the relationship is paramount. Whether you are working with a coach or therapist, regardless of the modality, it’s so important to continuously be working on your own emotional landscape. Whatever you are triggered by, understanding that these are your personal triggers that are showing up, and not your partner’s.
Once you can be present with your triggers, find out where they originated from and heal that part of your history, you can look at it as a gift or opportunity for further growth that your partner has presented. Either way, you have to take 100% responsibility for yourself, and your actions.
So what are triggers?
Triggers aren’t necessarily good or bad, they are just signals. Triggers, small or large, tell you that there are programs running in the background of your brain. These strong emotions, imprinted from childhood, are attached to words or actions and can result in internal anger or distress. You may want to lash out, and yet you have no idea where it’s coming from.
In the book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Emil Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, writer, and Holocaust survivor states that “there is a space between stimulus and response, in that space lies our freedom and power to choose a response; and in our responses lies our growth and our happiness.” When we are triggered, we are on a super highway with one exit that can come in a millisecond. In that millisecond, all your possible choices present:
- Am I going to get angry?
- Am I going to blow up?
- Am I going to beat myself up?
- Am I going to feel sad or disempowered?
- Am I going to feel small?
The trick is to find a way to create enough space that will divert you from angry knee jerk reactions so you have that extra second to choose another exit.
If you’re already in a relationship:
Try weekly check-ins with your partner to create a safe space for the two of you to air any issues that may have come up during the week. When discussions like this take place, it’s scheduled and expected. Nothing is coming from a knee jerk reaction so annoyances can be discussed without the emotional charge of the moment. If you both keep a list and share it, you can read the list later and look to see where you need to take responsibility for your actions, where your patterns are, and what needs to be further discussed and resolved.
This modality defuses potential misunderstandings because it’s not emotionally charged, or blaming. Each of you have some time to evaluate each other’s lists and you know you will be coming back around in a few days to discuss it. This format can be very productive and useful since a lot of people tend to avoid uncomfortable discussions. We find out too late sometimes that each unsaid annoyance builds up after a time and tends to erode the intimacy and people wonder what happened to their sex life.
Green flags are signs that someone is a good fit for a relationship. What are some green flags you can look out for?
- Someone who has core values that are in alignment with yours. If you’ve never given that much thought then think about what your 3 highest core values are and write them down.
- A healthy use of boundaries
- Someone who is open to working on themselves
- Looking at life as an adventure
- Consistent growth and engagement
Remember that there are foundations for really healthy relationships, some of the more vital foundations is known as the 3 – C’s:
Without these, it is inevitable that the relationship will go south. Without communication there is apathy, without compromise there is no compassion, and without commitment there is no trust, or ability to meet each other’s needs.
The most important thing in life is relationships; they’re all we have. At the end of the day, we don’t get to take anything else with us. All we have is our memories and our relationships. The commitment to show up for yourself is the greatest commitment you can make to your relationship with others, whether it be your partner, children, family members, or co-workers. The healthiest relationships start from the inside out.
When you are doing this deeply personal work, it’s important to remember how powerful your mindset is. The way we think leads to the way we feel, the way we feel leads to the way we act, the way we act creates our personalities, and our personalities creates our personal reality, so if we aren’t happy in our personal reality, we have to change our personality which all reverts to how we think. Most of us have no idea how to do that. This is where the professional coach or therapist needs to be considered