Are you lonely? Divided from a loved one? Tired of fighting? I'm going to suggest a few ways you can get the ball rolling on living a better, happier life, based on the attitudes you bring to your relationships. 

Build Better Relationship Dynamics NowAs with much of what I write, this post is just a starter kit. If you're facing serious or prolonged life issues, be ready to get professional help from a qualified therapist or counselor, which could be the best investment you ever make. Meanwhile, though, consider the steps that follow as one way to get you going.

Take an Honest Look at Yourself

The first step is to start with what YOU can control -- namely, you. Many people have a hard time looking at themselves with total honesty. They're prone to let themselves off the hook while blaming to the hilt their spouse or colleague or whomever they perceive as causing the problem.

You may admit that you have a short temper, for example, but even if you do, you probably (a) have your excuses ready for why that's so, and (b) downplay the negative impacts of it on others. "Yeah, I've got a temper," you might say, "but that's just the way I am -- and people always overreact to it."

It's easy, when you hear these words from someone else, to detect the nonsense. If you were my boss and I said those words to you, you might answer back, "Tim, your temper is out of control. I know you have the ability to talk like a grown-up without flying off the handle -- and you really need to, because it's hurting your career." 

The best boss would frame that in the right tone: I would know that he or she wasn't kidding, and that it wasn't an off-the-cuff comment. I would also know that they weren't attacking me -- but that I couldn't dismiss what they said lightly.

Frame Issues without Judgment

That's how you want to be with yourself. Think back over your recent struggles in interpersonal relationships. Have you been kidding yourself? Or dismissing honest observations by saying "It doesn't matter" or "It's not that bad"?

The hard part for many people is to do this with really clear eyes but without beating up on themselves. It's time to pull back, figure out the real dynamics in your life, and deal with them in realistic terms. 

Two things in particular may help you here:

  1. Role play. Act like you're the boss -- kind-hearted but firm -- who's bringing you in for some candid feedback. Take yourself through the steps of observation, response, and rebuttal: first you take the role of the boss and observe recent events that have led to trouble, and then you switch roles (now you're playing yourself) and talk about those events the way you normally would, complete with excuses. Finally, you switch back to the role of the boss who won't let you get away with flimsy excuses.
  2. Choose your words well. In particular, avoid making sweeping statements about how you "are," such as "I've always been a failure at relationships," or "I've never been able to control my temper." Those statements reflect an unhelpful "fixed" mindset that doesn't give you credit for being able to learn and grow. Talk instead about factual events you have witnessed ("I do sometimes let my temper get the better of me") and admit that there's work to be done ("I could do more to control my reactions -- like counting to 100 when I'm angry before I speak").

Write down what you honestly figure out from this. If you find yourself being too harsh or too lax, adjust accordingly.

Redefine Your Mindset about Relationships

If you're always fighting with your child or your spouse, it's pointless to think that the way out of it is to remove all the problems that tend to divide you. You'll always have problems of some kind. Everyone does.

The healthy approach is to realize that those issues need not be framed as intractable "problems" -- and that you can deal with them effectively rather than being a slave to them. It starts with having a better, clearer mindset about yourself and your attitudes. 

What are you doing to develop a more honest understanding of yourself?



CareOne Debt Relief Services Blogger, Tim Walker, Life BalanceTim Walker

Tim is a writer, marketer, and social media pro living in Austin. He joined CareOne's blogging team as a contributing writer for the Life Balance blog in 2009. As a blogger who has personally overcome debt challenges, he draws from his own experience to provide tips on living a balanced life and keeping fit. You can read more of his thoughts (on fitness and everything else) at his personal blog, What I've Learned So Far. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

Follow Tim on Twitter; @Twalk or follow us by clicking here!