Our lives are a web of relationships –with family, with friends, and our significant others – which add new levels of complexity to our already-complicated lives. Over time, problems may arise in even the most solid of relationships. However, one thing that many of us do without realising is transferring our unresolved emotions and past experiences into our current circumstances, which leads to tension and can result in strained relationships. Fortunately, this trap is easily avoidable with just the simplest bit of introspection. Ask yourself:
1. Do you honour your emotions?
Oftentimes, many of us bottle up our emotions without giving ourselves time to process or acknowledge them. This may be a matter of circumstance where expressing yourself may be inappropriate for a given setting, or may simply be due to an inability to properly express yourself. However, by not giving yourself a healthy emotional outlet, you’re basically creating a ticking time bomb that could go off and hurt the feelings of the people you care about. Instead, try to separate the circumstances of your emotions (for instance, anger at your unreasonable boss should not be taken out on your significant other) and talk it out with people who care about you. If you’re not comfortable with talking, try writing down how you feel in a journal.
2. What relationship (or behavioural pattern) are you repeating from the past?
The way we navigate our current relationships often reflects our upbringing, whether in relationships that we were part of or relationships that were modelled to us. Sometimes, we have to acknowledge that we may be making use of old, ineffective ways of relating to others. By taking a step back and trying to understand which past relationship you may be emulating, you gain insight about the parts of you that might need to change or heal. Even without the involvement of other parties, you can help yourself heal by making peace with the original relationship that affected you, and by continuously looking forward.
3. How can you learn and grow from what is happening in your relationship?
Rather than allowing your relationship or the pitfalls you may encounter to define you, or damage your self-esteem, use these setbacks to become a stronger person. Use them to become a more happy, successful, and fulfilled version of yourself by acknowledging that any negative thing that might be occurring can help you to get to know yourself better. Make a commitment to yourself to reflect on external circumstances to improve how you view yourself and how you handle your relationships, and never be afraid to look for the silver lining in any situation.
There is no such thing as a perfect relationship, but being able to stop ourselves from letting the negativities of our past relationships bleed into our present ones not only saves us pain and conflict, but also lets us – and those that are involved in relationships with us – grow to become better individuals.