Introvert or extrovert, shy or outgoing- all of us need other people. Relationships give us opportunities to serve others as well as learn more about ourselves. We all know that relationships take work. But, keep in mind that “work” is not innately bad. It just means that relationships, especially the deepest ones, cannot exist on autopilot. They take effort (aka work) from both individuals. Therefore, it is not always true that “easy” relationships are the ones that are meant to be.
I was reminded by an old pastor and mentor that, “You know relationships matter when you experience real conflict and can work through it with honesty, trust, forgiveness, and grace. When you can come out on the other side with more understanding than before.” No one is perfect and therefor no one can be perfect for each other.
It is also true that, as I tell my kids- you don’t have to like everyone, but you have to be kind. When you understand boundaries and have healthy foundational friendships you can navigate life easier with acquaintances and strangers. It will become less about right versus wrong or good versus bad people. You will start to understand that most of the time the actions of others are truly rarely about you anyway.
The relationships that are meant to be are the ones that you can be yourself, be honest and forgiving, establish healthy boundaries, practice loving empathetic listening, and align your values in a mutually respectful way. They are not always happy or simple, but they don’t often create or enable more toxicity in your life. The ones where your individual passions can flourish and your relationship adds value that you don’t have to dig for, search for, or justify.
These relationships energize and inspire you to give to your communities and close friends and family. They inspire you to be the best you.
I have many stories of times that relationships added or negated value to my life. I have experienced codependency and dependency. I have felt the confusion of being lured into relationships with codependency as the goal. I have people pleased. I have been a wife, mother, and friend with a strong sense of self. I have been an insecure wife, mom, and friend with low self esteem.
I have learned, but I am not perfect (and sadly never will be). The recent events of the global pandemic started to create an environment where it was easy for Jamie and I to slip into codependent tendencies. Thankfully we have been here before and understand the toxic environment it can create. Don’t be on the defense, but be aware. Be willing to learn and to grow from default habits. Put the work in to be someone who shows up as a strong individual. Be interdependent.
Interdependent relationships are harmonious. I really have missed this beautiful word and the warmth it brings.
What are the traits of (harmonious) interdependence?
- Both individuals find time for personal interests and other important relationships.
- They partake in clear, consistent communication.
- Both take personal responsibility for actions.
- There are established and respected boundaries.
- Each can engage in empathetic listening without needing to fix the other’s problems.
- There is space for vulnerability while still feeling safe.
- Each individual has a healthy self-esteem.
In order to cultivate these kinds of life-giving relationships you need to practice valuing yourself. How?
- Spend time with people who treat you well and less with people who drain you or do or say things that make you feel bad about yourself.
- Do things you enjoy.
- Take care of your health.
- Let go of negative self talk.
- Identify your own needs. It may take a long time- but that’s okay! The important thing is that you are thinking about it and aware!
You might be evaluating your relationships and feel a bit overwhelmed, especially if you have fallen into codependent patterns. Don’t worry- these are not doomed. You must decide where you will put in the work and if you are willing, you can shift these toward interdependence.
How do you overcome codependence to create interdependence?
- Separate support from codependence. Offer healthy support by talking and listening; discussing possible solutions; offering suggestions and advice then stepping back to allow them to make their own decisions; offer compassion and acceptance.
- Identify relationship patterns in your life.
- Learn what healthy relationships look like. A few signs: Each person trusts themselves and each other; both people feel secure in their own self worth; and there is compromise and compassion. You should be able to know and voice your own needs without expected conflict.
- Remember you can only control your actions.
- Set boundaries. This one can be tough if you have relied heavily on codependency in relationships. You might be so accustomed to people pleasing that you struggle to consider your own limits. A few tips on setting boundaries:
- Listen with empathy, but don’t try to fix problems for the other person.
- Practice polite refusals.
- Ask yourself the following questions before you do something: Why am I doing this? Do I want to or feel I have to? Will this drain any of my resources? Will I still have energy to meet my own needs?
Nurture these relationships in a healthy way. Then be willing to pivot within them and from them with love and grace when needed. Communicate clearly and effectively.
Stay curious. Meet more people. Join more communities. Find a team. Spend time with people who have common interests and learn more about the individuals. Listen to others about their passions. Be open. This is an integral part of goal setting and reaching. Of living your own life filled with passion.
I am passionate about people, learning, and growing— much that I have experienced through the lens of coaching and racing. This is why I have been working two years on a book combining all of the above. Yes! A book. And it is almost finished. It won’t be in your hands for awhile, but I couldn’t hold the excitement in any longer.
Don’t settle in this life. Love yourself and others hard. Follow your dreams. Live with passion.
This is a big, important topic. There are MANY valuable resources available.
Here are a few recommendations:
Codependency No More, The New Codependency, and The Language of Letting Go all by Melody Beattie
Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Will I Ever Be Good Enough By Karyl McBride