Building And Managing Relationships

Relationships are tricky to manage. They need understanding, acceptance, acknowledgement and engagement. Relationships are two way, between two people. Between us and pets, with children and peers, colleagues and enemies. These are all relationships. Problems in relationships start when one or both cannot give to the other what they need, or think they need.  

We have a relationship with ourselves too; between our thoughts, feelings and behaviours that make us who we are and hence relationships with others are influenced and affected.

You need to ‘see’ someone and ‘hear’ what they are saying, to build rapport and a genuine bond with them for any short or long term relationship, so communication is key.

Even if you really 'see' and ‘hear’ someone you have to acknowledge them somehow. Some times with a smile, eye contact, full attention, or by doing what they like. Listen to their thoughts, feelings, ideas and needs even if you can’t empathise with them or agree with them. You would want to the same from them wouldn’t you?

Even when you see, hear and acknowledge them we need to continue to engage with them - conversation, listening, exchanges, just a comfortable silence with a smile or eye contact, the odd comment maybe. A phone call, the odd visit, a card maybe.

Acceptance of another is hard when they don’t think like us, see what we see or hear what we hear in a message. But we can accept others, we can believe they are good enough even when different to us, we can accept what they say and be happy to have our own opinion too – not needing them to believe as we do or act as we do in order to validate us. Just accept them and ask them to accept you.

Understanding comes with these when we really see the other person and their needs and offers. We don’t need to agree to understand someone else’s point of view or their actions and beliefs. We just need to acknowledge them, accept they are different to ours and engage by finding out more. Ask questions, really listen, clarify, research, think and process what you see, hear and feel about them.

Similarly with our relationship with ourselves our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. We need to accept, engage, acknowledge and understand ourselves. The benefits? choice, opportunity, options, personal power to make things happen or change things we don’t want or like.

Change any one thoughts, feelings or behaviours – and it changes the other two! Simple. No, it’s not and we know that! The principle is simple, but the effort, understanding and learning do not come so easily!

However, expanding your experiences means you can and probably will change one of these.

For example, changing your behaviour when your partners demands it or wants it. Not going out with your friends every week, visiting family, dancing on table tops, not joining in a conversation or forcefully putting your thoughts across perhaps. This will change how you feel (happy, sad, frustrated, more relaxed, happier) and how you think (I am now behaving correctly, I’m not happy but will do it, I’m afraid to lose them so will do as they ask, I don’t feel comfortable without nearby).

But if it doesn’t fit your needs, values and beliefs it will just jar against your thoughts and certainly feelings over time and negative impact on ‘you’.

If you change how you think because you experience something different than you expected or realise something isn’t as you first thought, this will change your perception of the person or situation and this in turn will change how you feel about it and therefore how you behave towards them (person or situation, or yourself!)

If you change how you feel by accepting and trying a new way. Experience feeling what the other person might feel about the situation you’re discussing, or wonder what they might be thinking and how that affects their feelings or asking them how they feel. Then this can help you to understand them and change how

But the key is to ACKNOWLEDGE these before you can either accept, understand or change any of these things.

Ignoring it and carrying on because you can’t see it or don’t want to make the effort to change just delays the inevitable I think. We will always strive towards fulfilling our own personal needs – to be ourselves, whether people like it or agree with it; to do new things or stay as we are and choose not to make the efforts; to yearn for something but feel stuck and lost, unable to move towards it leaves us feeling overwhelmed, stressed, depressed and unhappy.

To have what you want, live the life you want, be someone else or just be happy as you are requires us each to listen to our thoughts, see our perfect dream life, feel our happiness or sadness, recognise and understand our stressors and change our behaviour to create the life we want to live and be the person we want to be!

Efforts are required.  There are no easy ways out.  Handing over the responsibility for your own life will not be possible no matter how much you try!  Somehow, some day, it will bring you back to accountability for yourself.  This is what stress, depression, anger, unhappiness often are – symptoms of the fight you cannot win.  

The power of self awareness, the usefulness of relationship engagement and communication, and the management of your life and your thoughts/feelings/behaviours is what brings you your personal control of your situation (personal power).

How will you use it to be happy, fulfilled, successful and content?  On your own or in a relationship.   Being your own self first enhances any relationship because it will offer you security without them, know your needs and how to meet them, reduce the demands you place on them and the expectations they perhaps cannot fulfil (always or ever);  and you bring more each to the relationships with news, perspectives, comments and ideas.   Relationships are complex and tricky so need some work all the time.  But not always stress inducing pressure to get it right all the time!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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