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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Seeking relationship balance

Whether it is a relationship with a partner, colleague, employee or sibling – the daily trials and tribulations of interacting with others tends to powerfully influence our day to day mood, emotional state and well being in general. We all wish that we could be one of those people who are innately good at not letting others “get to us”, but the reality is that these resilient people tend to be few and far between.

As we grow older, it would also provide some comfort if we knew we were becoming better at interacting with others; better able to manage challenging situations and ultimately getting better at not allowing people to “get to us”. Again this is not necessarily the case. In fact, as we get older, and personality traits become more and more deeply entrenched, so too do patterns of behaviour which include interacting in less than ideal ways when familiar situations and scenarios present, with old friends and foes, as well as with new ones.

A general relationship principle which may prove useful as you seek to develop better functioning relationships is the simple concept of balance. In an ideal situation, a relationship will be balanced – a 50/50 split in terms of emotional, physical and psychological variables. In this case you give as much as you get, you compensate for each others weaknesses but respect each others strengths and ultimately exist in a well balanced team.

If you examine situations in which relationships have turned sour, in more cases than not, relationship balance has not been maintained. One person wants the relationship much more than the other, and as a result over-extends themselves to compensate for the other persons lack of involvement or interest. While such a fix may allow the relationship to continue for some time, over time, whether it takes week’s months or even years, resentment and disease sets in, eventually completely destroying many friendships, intimate relationships and even families.

Knowing this, as we enter new relationships the most important thing we can do to avoid this situation is to be exceptionally mindful when we begin to compensate for the other persons behaviour. Idesally we need to quickly identify it and then determine if we want the relationship to continue. It is at this early stage that you do have the opportunity to reframe, evaluate and re-position a new relationship in your life, without getting rid of it completely.

When it comes to already damaged relationships, a reframe is much more challenging and the harsh reality is that is it you who has to do the work to turn things around, as it is you who has identified that you have overcompensated and allow the relationship to continue – the other person is not at fault - remember, we teach people how to teach us. You do though; have the choice of deciding whether this person is worth keeping in your life or if it is better to cut your losses and leave.

Now, perhaps the harshest truth of all – if this is a pattern in your life that is repeating, you may actually have some serious work to do. Do people in your world continually let you down? Do you continually find yourself in relationships not getting what you need? Do you regularly seek relationships with someone weaker, not at your level to you do not have to give so much and control the relationship instead? In all of these instances the 50/50 split has not been respected and potentially rewarding relationships have grown toxic and diseased because you have let them.

In this very short life, all of our many relationships give us much pleasure, joy and love on a daily basis. Relationships are what make life worth living but we all ultimately need to remember that if those who we seek relationship fulfillment within relationships that continually fail to “match our generosity of spirit and meet our emotional needs” that we are ignoring the most basic principle that defines relationship success – the 50/50 split. Once you commit to this in all of your relationships you will find that things will run a lot more smoothly, naturally and you will be happier, more relaxed and far more stable emotionally as a result.