How to have more fulfilling relationships
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Christine Hopfgarten MBACP (accred), BABCP (accred), BPC, PgDip CBT, PgDip Psych
13th October, 20150 Comments
Relationships are not easy. From the day we are born we need to learn - sometimes painfully - how we get on with those around us and get our emotional needs met, as well as learning to love and support those around us. Most of us will have caregivers who have tried their best, but who also had their struggles in life and therefore it is not surprising that we will develop our own struggles in relationships.
Regardless of your background and what you have experienced, everyone can learn to have fulfilling relationships, but we all need to continually work on our relationships.
A major struggle we all have is to trust others and be emotionally intimate with our partners, family and friends. At the same time, if we are able to increase emotional intimacy, we will feel more valued and at peace with ourselves as well as being able to cope with the stresses of daily life as well as with our emotions.
A simple thing you can start to do to increase intimacy is to start sharing more of yourself with your partner and friends. Tell your partner or any person you want to have a more fulfilling relationship with how you feel more often. Share with them how you feel happy, scared or sad about things in an open way, without trying to expect anything particular back apart from being listened to and understood. The experience can be positive or negative, but it is mostly sharing the more difficult feelings like anger, anxiety or sadness which we struggle with. Sharing those feelings will usually also create the most intimacy with others.
When you become more confident, you can move on sharing how you feel when the other person does something, i.e. “I felt disappointed when you cancelled our evening out together last weekend.” In order for the other person not to get defensive, it usually works best not to say “You made me feel…”, but instead saying “I felt x in this situation”. Also make clear that you don’t expect the other person to reassure or agree with you as this would again lead to the other person being coerced into responding in a certain way and what you really want is their honest response. Sometimes honesty can be painful, but it will also help you and the other person to grow and to trust each other
Sharing this with the other person will also allow them to understand where you are coming from and help you to work on the things, which might not be going so well in your relationship.
For relationships to work, it is also important that there is a balance in how much you and the other person shares about yourselves. So why don’t you try and ask the other person how they felt about a certain situation? Try to keep it as open as possible and show the other person that you respect and try to understand whatever they are saying. You might not agree with them – and you don’t have to – but allow them to express how they feel and respect that this is where they are at. This will usually help others to open up to you and will make them more interested in listening to you the next time you want to tell them something about yourself. Most importantly, it will help people to trust you and respect you as a valued partner and friend.
Starting to share more about yourself can usually feel very frightening to begin with, especially if you are not used to this. Most of us will worry how others will see us or how they will respond when we share our vulnerability. What if they will like us less, use what we say against us or think we are too needy? This is absolutely normal, but you might also be surprised at how many people appreciate you being honest and open to them as they will probably feel just as fearful as you about it. The more often you will do it, the easier it will become.
None of us want to feel weak and vulnerable, but it is in sharing our vulnerabilities that we can truly show how strong we are.
About the author
Christine Hopfgarten is a Psychodynamic Psychotherapist and CBT Therapist based in London who specialises in helping people with relationship difficulties. She uses her experience from working creatively with a wide variety of clients and is particularly skilled in helping clients to gain clarity by exploring and addressing underlying issues.
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