Don't get me wrong

Earlier this year, I met with a group of other therapists to explore relationship counselling including reading the novel ‘On Chesil Beach’ by Ian McEwan. The sadness of the story for me was that the couple never managed to talk about their feelings, ending their relationship during their honeymoon on the coast.

We often ‘get others wrong.’ Most of us have had experiences where others have taken something we said or did, or did not say or do, as evidence of something we didn’t intend. Sometimes we judge each others’ motives incorrectly, reading things into our face to face exchanges or interactions on social media. These can cause us a lot of pain and suffering.

Relationships are not easy and sometimes it is tempting to say to ourselves, “well I won’t get involved with anyone ever again!” This is an understandable effort to protect ourselves from further hurt. I’m assuming that most of us however don’t want to live in a world without love. I doubt if we would survive very long. This means we do need to keep going, risking possible rejection. But what if the assumption in our head doesn’t happen? What if someone smiles and wants to get to know us? What if the other person is just as scared of rejection as we are and is thinking the same thing as us?

So how can we have healthy relationships, not just with our partner but our friends, work colleagues, family members and, last but not least, ourselves? The following questions might help us decide we need to do something to change ourselves or our relationships:

Is our partner, friend, family member...

  • Willing to compromise?
  • Helping you feel comfortable being yourself?
  • Able to admit to being wrong?
  • Not jealous or possessive?
  • Not trying to control what you say, do, wear or where you go?
  • Not physically hurting you?
  • Not emotionally hurting you (making threats, calling you names or making you feel bad)?
  • Resolving arguments or conflict by talking honestly??
  • Enabling you to feel safe being with them?
  • Respecting your feelings, opinions and your friends?
  • Respecting you saying ‘no’ when necessary?
  • Accepting you can change your mind?
  • Respecting your wishes if you want to end the relationship?

A source of self-help for common relationship issues is "ACT with Love" by Russ Harris. It can help, whether you are not in a relationship but wish to be better prepared for the next one, already in a relationship which is working but would like to make it even better or if your relationship is struggling and you want help to make it better.

The book is suitable for couples to work through together but also useful for one member of the relationship to work through themselves. If you are already working with a relationship counsellor or coach this is also a very positive resource to use between sessions.

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