Am I Ready For a Relationship?
Relationships begin with you, because you are half of any relationship you join. So start with knowing yourself! Don't count on a relationship to help you figure out who you are. It won't work. But here are some things that can: Make an inventory of your best, most attractive qualities and affirm them to yourself often. Avoid unrealistic standards and all-or-nothing thinking: "If I don't make an A on every test, I'm a total failure." Challenge yourself to accept and absorb compliments: a simple "thank you" raises self-esteem; negations, such as, "You like this outfit? I think it makes me look dumpy," lower self-esteem. Remember that there are no guarantees. Making gains requires taking risks. Seek out new experiences and people; then approach them with openness and curiosity. Each is an opportunity. Don't expect overnight success. Close friendships and intimate love relationships both take time to develop. I think I know who I am. I feel pretty good about myself. How do I go about meeting people? Your question implies that you see meeting people as something which requires effort, and you're right! No matter how stunningly attractive you may be, passively waiting for others to throw themselves your way not only doesn't work very reliably, it doesn't allow you to be very choosy. Here are some different strategies which you may find helpful: The best way to meet people is to put yourself in places where there are likely to be other people who share your interests and values: activities at school, social events at Kaleidoscope, or check out different information about groups based on religion, athletics, academics, political/special interests,ethnicity /culture, and service or charity. Once you're with people, initiate a conversation by: asking a question, commenting on the situation, asking for or offering an opinion, expressing some interest, showing some concern, or offering or requesting help. Once you've engaged someone in conversation, let him or her know you're listening and interested. Make eye contact, adopt an open posture, reflect the feelings you hear, paraphrase what he or she is saying, and ask for clarification if you don't understand. And, again, remember: no risks, no gains. Don't be discouraged if you and the other person don't "click" first and every time. One thing that's difficult for me in relationships is "hanging onto myself." It seems that once I get close to someone â€“ whether it is a friend or someone I am dating -- I give in and accommodate so much that there's nothing left of me. It's hard to experience fulfillment in a relationship which is not equal and reciprocal. The best way to avoid "giving yourself up" in a relationship is to develop some assertiveness skills. Learn how to express your feelings, beliefs, opinions, and needs openly and honestly. Here are some guidelines: When stating your feelings, use "I-statements." (I feel_____ when you ____.) Avoid accusatory or blaming "you-statements." They usually only result in defensiveness and counterattacks. You have a right to have feelings and to make requests. State them directly and firmly and without apology. Acknowledge the other person's point of view, but repeat your request as many times as necessary. Learn to say "no" to unreasonable requests. Offer a reason -- not an excuse -- if you choose, but your feelings are reason enough. Trust them. Won't I lose my friends and dates if I always insist on getting my own way? Assertiveness is not about always getting your way. Nor is it about coercing or manipulating. Those are acts of aggression. An assertion does not violate another's rights, and it does not count out compromise. But a compromise, by definition, meets the needs of both people as much as possible. If your friend or partner is unwilling to compromise or has no respect for your feelings, maybe there's not so much to lose. My romantic partner and I seem to be coming from different worlds sometimes. It's pretty frustrating. What can we do about it? It's normal for relationship partners to have different needs in at least few areas, such as: spending time with others vs. spending time with each other, wanting "quality time" together vs. needing time to be alone, going out to coffee houses vs. going to a movie, etc. Differing needs don't mean your relationship is coming apart, but it is important to communicate about them to avoid misunderstandings. Tell your partner directly what you want or need ("I would really like to spend time alone with you tonight"), rather than expecting them to know already ("If you really cared for me, you would know what I want"). Set aside time to discuss unresolved issues: "I'm feeling uncomfortable about...and would like to talk about it. What time is agreeable to you?" Pouting, sulking, and the "silent treatment" don't make matters any better. Inevitably you and your partner will have conflicts, but they needn't be mean or nasty. Here are some tips for "Fair Fighting": Use assertive language (see above for a reminder). Avoid name calling, or intentionally calling attention to known weaknesses or sensitive issues ("hitting below the belt"). Stay in the present, don't dwell on things that have been said or done in the past. Listen actively - express back to your partner what you understand his/her thoughts and feelings to be. No "ambushing" (saving up hurts and hostilities and dumping them on your partner all at once). If you are wrong, admit it! Even when we're communicating well in other areas, my partner and I often get bogged down when it comes to talking about physical intimacy. I often feel we have very different expectations in this area. First of all, it is important to be aware of your own feelings: how you feel about your partner, how comfortable you feel in his or her presence, what does and doesn't feel comfortable or desirable in terms of physical closeness or sexual contact. Trust your gut feelings. Communicate what YOU really want physically. Express what you enjoy and also what you are not comfortable with. Communicate clearly to your partner/date what your limits are. Be prepared to defend your limits. If you mean No, then say "No," and don't give mixed messages. You have the right to be respected and you are NOT responsible for your partner/date's feelings or reactions. If you feel unsafe, leave the situation immediately - fifty to seventy percent of rapes are perpetrated by an acquaintance of the victim. Both partners have a responsibility in preventing unwanted sexual contact. Each of you must recognize that no means no, regardless of when it is said, and regardless whether you think they are saying "yes" non-verbally. If a person says "no" and is still coerced or forced into having sex, then a rape has occurred. If this has happened to you, make sure to talk with a trusted adult about it. They can help you figure out what to do next. There are people at Kaleidoscope who can help you with this. I hate ending relationships. Breaking up never seems to go well. Saying goodbye is one the most avoided and feared human experiences. As a culture, we have no clear-cut rituals for ending relationships or saying goodbye to valued others. So we are often unprepared for the variety of feelings we experience in the process. Here are some guidelines many people find helpful: Allow yourself to feel the sadness, anger, fear, and pain associated with an ending. Denying those feelings or keeping them inside will only prolong them. Recognize that guilt, self-blame, and bargaining are our defenses against feeling out of control, feeling unable to stop the other person from leaving us. But there are some endings we can't control because we can't control another person's behavior. Give yourself time to heal, and be kind to yourself for the duration: pamper yourself, ask for support from others, and allow yourself new experiences and friends. I seem to get into the same pattern in all my relationships. I get afraid of losing my partner; then we get into a big argument and break up in anger. Sometimes I even think I may have picked a fight just because I'm scared to keep the relationship going. Does this make any sense? Yes, it makes a lot of sense, and congratulations on recognizing a pattern. That's the first step towards change. People get into a variety of painful or "dysfunctional" patterns in relationships. Each person begins a relationship with his/her hopes, expectations, and ideals. Unfortunately, some of these are unrealistic, unfair, and even self-defeating. They may also doom the relationship to be full of fights, sadness and to eventually fail. Among the more common expectations and patterns are: Expecting that he/she will change. Hoping that he/she will never change. Assuming that your partner thinks and reacts as you do. Assuming that your partner knows your wants and needs. Expecting that he/she has the same priorities, goals and interests as you. Believing that the relationship will fulfill all of your social, intellectual, and personal needs. Giving up other interests, activities, and friends. Seeking improved self-esteem through the relationship. Feeling incomplete without a relationship. Expecting that each new relationship is "the one." Expecting that he/she will never make mistakes. Viewing conflict as a threat to the relationship and to be avoided at all costs. Working hard to get the relationship started, but exerting little effort to keep it going. Trying to be what he/she wants, rather than being yourself.
Seven Basic Steps to Maintaining a Good Relationship:
1. Be aware of what you and your partner want for yourselves and what you want from the relationship.
2. Let one another know what your needs are.
3. Realize that your partner will not be able to meet all of your needs. Some of these needs will have to be met outside the relationship.
4. Be willing to negotiate and compromise on the things you want from one another.
5. Do not demand that a partner change to meet all your expectations. Work to accept the differences that you see between your ideal and the reality.
6. Try to see things from the other's point of view. This doesn't mean that you must agree with one another, but rather that you can expect yourself and your partner to understand and respect your differences, your points of view and your separate needs.
7. Where critical differences exist in your expectations, needs, opinions or views, try to negotiate.
Verbal and Emotional Abuse Definitions of emotional abuse can be confusing. Although many people define abuse as the use of physical violence, the truth is that emotional abuse can be just as hurtful. If you are unsure of whether or not you are in an abusive relationship, it may be helpful to think about the following questions: How many of these things has your partner done to you? --Ignored your feelings. --Ridiculed or insulted women or men as a group --Ridiculed or insulted your most valued beliefs: your religion, race, heritage or class. --Withheld approval, appreciation or affection as a punishment. --Continually criticized you, called you names, shouted at you. --Humiliated you in private or in public. --Refused to socialize with you. --Kept you from working, controlled your money, made all the decisions. --Taken car keys or money away from you. --Harassed you about non-existent affairs. --Manipulated you with lies or contradictions. --Destroyed furniture, punched holes in walls, broken appliances, destroyed or stolen your possessions. --Wielded any object as a weapon in a threatening way. --Made you feel you doubt your own perceptions or grasp of reality. --Kept you feeling continually off-balance, never knowing what to expect. When is behavior classified as Ask yourself the following questions: Has your partner caused you to doubt your judgment or wonder whether you're are you often afraid of your partner and do you express your opinions less and less frequently? Have you developed fears that prevent you from seeing other people? Do you spend a lot of time watching for your partners mood changes and adjusting your behavior accordingly? Do you ask your partners permission to go places, join clubs, or socialize with friends? Do you have fears of doing the wrong thing or getting into trouble? Have you lost confidence in your own abilities, become increasingly depressed, feel trapped and powerless? These are all signs of an unhealthy relationship. If you can relate to the questions above, call 208-406-1661.