It doesn’t matter if it’s a love relationship, a marriage, a parent- child relationship, a work relationship or any other kind of affiliation you have with another person. If you don’t feel like you’re getting what you want from that relationship, you are probably unhappy.
This strained, conflict-ridden or maybe just not up to par relationship may even seem to be standing in the way of you living the kind of life that you want to live.
Particularly if the difficult relationship is with a person you live with or deal with on a daily basis, it can be painful to continue along not getting what you want.
Perhaps you haven’t admitted to yourself that it hurts to be disappointed or let down by your interactions with this other person– after all, nobody wants to come off as selfish!
This isn’t about you being “selfish” or only focused on what YOU want. When you acknowledge that you aren’t as happy and fulfilled as you believe you could be in your relationship, you are doing not only yourself a great service, but also the other person.
As much as you might try to pretend that you’re content (when you’re really not) in this relationship, there is undoubtedly distance and disconnection– that the other person can feel too.
So…. what can you do?
Here are a few things that you CAN’T do and a few things that you CAN do in order to turn even the most difficult relationships around.
#1: You can’t force another person to change.
This is a tough one. What often happens when we are dissatisfied with a relationship is we pretty quickly make a mental list of all of the changes that the other person “needs” to make in order for us (meaning you or me) to be happy. Sometimes we even share that list with the other person– his or her “to do” list, so to speak.
This is doomed to fail every single time.
While you might already know that you can’t force another person to change, you may still expect the changes to happen.
To admit that you can’t change another person can feel frustrating and even seem disempowering. But, to pretend that you can make somebody else in your life change just to please you will only cause both of you more discontent.
There are times when this dear one in your life might try very hard to make the personal changes to him or herself that were on your “to do” list. Sometimes this is effective, but it doesn’t usually last…and there are often nasty side effects, such as resentment, that can occur.
#2: You can make clear and loving requests that will move you closer to what you want.
So, if you can’t force the person who you are in a relationship with to change, does this mean that you have to give up on what you truly want?
You can most certainly make requests, create agreements and set boundaries that will help you live more authentically, honestly and even joyously with this other person.
It can feel like a tricky balance.
When you set a boundary, for example, you probably don’t want it to come off as an ultimatum. Something like, “Either you stop being so jealous or I will pack and up and leave,” is NOT going to help you connect and create a close and loving relationship.
Don’t set a boundary or propose an agreement that you aren’t willing to actually follow through with.
If it is your intention to stay in this relationship, you probably want to choose words that will encourage you both to stay open.
Sentence starters like, “I feel…when you say (or do)…,” “What if we tried this…?” or “I’d like your feedback on this idea…” can help create an environment of openness and cooperation to help you find resolutions that will feel good to you both.
#3: You can’t receive more love and respect if you don’t give it to yourself.
While this tip may seem obvious, how many of us look to our partner, employer, child or another for some kind of affirmation that we are lovable and worthy of respect?
Yes, of course, it’s vital for a healthy relationship to involve two people who share mutual respect and love for one another. At the same time, this does not work if one person (or both) rely mostly– or even solely– on the other as the source for love and respect.
If you feel disrespected, neglected and unloved by the other person in your relationship, take a step back and look at the way that you treat your own self on a regular basis.
What are the kinds of thoughts you think about your own abilities, worth and talents (or perceived lack thereof)? If you’re not all that aware of what you think on a daily basis, take 1 day and really “listen in.”
Chances are, if you don’t feel the kind of love and respect from another person that you desire, you’ll probably “hear” your thoughts and even words spoken out loud that are put downs and doubts.
This is absolutely NOT to say it is okay for others in your life to treat you poorly, callously or even be abusive. This is never acceptable and I encourage you to set boundaries and make requests if this is happening.
But, be sure to also take a look and “listen” to how you usually treat yourself.
#4: You can cultivate more self-love and self-respect.
One way to get more love, respect and appreciation in your relationships is to give it first to yourself.
If you recognize that you tend to treat yourself badly, make a deliberate choice to stop. Replace self-denigrating thoughts with those that still feel true to you, but that are more affirming and positive.
For example, rather than getting down on yourself for those extra pounds you might carry around on your body, compliment yourself for how you look in a particular outfit– even if you have to search for the compliment. Give yourself kudos for eating salad with your lunch instead of a bag of chips.
What you’ll most likely find is that you radiate more confidence, assurance and love when you treat yourself with more kindness and appreciation.
This almost always opens the door to you feeling more love and respect for others in your life and then they can reciprocate back to you.