Work On Relationships?

Not always such a good idea

It's common to hear that you have work on relationships if you want them to prosper and grow, especially in tough times, but it's something to consider with care.

 

Simply put, efforts to work on relationships seem to fail more often than not.

The problems with the idea start to show up when one person wants to do it and the other person doesn't. One pushes and the other backs away and in the end things get worse not better.

Why?


There are lots of reasons for this, some of which I think I can see and understand. Just a few of these include -

  • that there often is an implication that we should work on relationships that aren't going well for whatever reason.  Shoulds are usually deadly, pushing us into guilt and defensiveness, not proactive moving ahead.


  • Working on relationships often involves being on your best behavior, no matter how we're really feeling.  In other words, phony. Not too effective.


  • It often implies efforts to find middle ground, compromise. At best you end up with two people who are only getting half of what they really want and is best for them. And, it will be likely that they both feel like they only got a quarter or less.


  • It can come out as an effort to make the other person happy. You can't actually make other people happy except perhaps in the very short term. And, you can get pretty weird yourself by trying.  To be truly effective in a relationship or anything else for that matter, you can only act in integrity to yourself and your own standards of loving and truth.


  • It acts as though the relationship is a thing that can be worked on. In fact there is no such entity as a relationship until two individuals interact in a commitment to move forward in their lives together.





The more productive concept is to focus on what you bring to the situation.


Trying to get someone else to do something in relationship has been noted to have quite a low rate of success  Working on yourself, your own emotional stuck places,y our own ways of communicating, your own assumptions about how you want to be and what you want to experience in relationships is a good idea no matter how the other person responds and what happens, but they real prize happens when two people works on themselves together.

This concept is central to a model of therapy called Internal Family Systems which has had a great written about it.  The Wikipedia page is perhaps as good a place to start looking into it as any if this interests you.



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