Three tools for navigating tough relationships

Things rough with mom these days? Consider how you may have contributed. Credit: NPine
Things rough with mom these days? Consider how you may have contributed.
Credit: NPine

Relationships can be our greatest teachers. We can find learning opportunities in all of our relationships, whether they’re with family, friends or lovers. Rather than stress over challenging relationships, we can shift our perspective. Intimate connections offer us a glimpse into the darker sides of our personality that we may not always want to see. For instance, if you constantly feel let down by others, there’s a strong chance you’re letting yourself down in some way. Or if you feel judged by people close to you, you probably have some deep-rooted judgment that you’ve placed upon yourself. When we are open to seeing our relationships as assignments for personal growth, then we can begin to appreciate even the toughest times.

Navigating tumultuous relationships can be tough without a road map. Here are three powerful tools to help.

Take care of your side of the street

If you’re in a difficult relationship, the first step to working on it is to see your part in the chaos. Make a list of all the ways you’ve participated in the drama. Be specific and honest.

Once you’ve clarified your part, it’s very helpful to share it with the other person. Take the time to acknowledge how you’ve been participating in the problems. This step is not an exercise in making yourself a punching bag. Rather, it’s an opportunity to make amends.

Talk it out

Nothing is more powerful than speaking your truth. This tool was taught to me by my friend Elena Brower, a world-renowned coach and yoga teacher. This exercise is designed to give each party the opportunity to say how they feel without interruption. Here’s how it works: Each person has three minutes to speak without interruption. You can say everything that is on your mind regardless of how bad it may sound. The other person cannot interrupt. When the three minutes are up the other person says, “You have been heard.” Then that person gets a chance to speak. Once the second person is finished, the partner responds, “You have been heard.”

So often in conversations we interrupt each other to “correct” the other person’s story or defend ourselves. This exercise offers each person the opportunity to share his or her side of the story and fully own it. Most importantly, it gives each person the chance to be heard.

Release

The final step is crucial. The only way to move forward happily in a relationship is to release the past. This release comes through forgiveness. This doesn’t mean you’re cutting the person out of your life; it means you release the energetic grip the relationship has had on you. To do this you can begin each day with the mantra, “I forgive you and I release you.” Whenever you are in a fight or stuck in an old pattern of negativity, repeat the mantra.

Be willing to open up to the root causes of the issues at hand so that they can be brought to the surface and mended. Take responsibility for your happiness and actively choose to enjoy your relationships today.


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