We spend a fair amount of our lives in relationships. Some would say that we are meant to interact, care for, love and develop intimacy with others. At any given time, most of us are either alone (which is a relationship with self), actively dating and pursuing a relationship, or partnered up. Of course there are a myriad of ways to define a relationship, and none is necessarily more valid than the next, but for the sake of this article, we will consider a relationship as that intimate and romantic connection between two people.
Last month I addressed some of the thoughts and tenets around self care and the idea that we are only as good in our relationships as we are to ourselves. We forget—there was a time when we didn’t know our partners, when we were individuals –before we decided to come together. For most relationships the problem is multi-faceted: For starters, most of us don’t arrive into our relationships completely intact and functional and, secondly, we usually have little to no clue as to how we maintain, develop and support individuality in ourselves and our mate whilst occupied by the complexities of the relationship. The situation is compounded by a tendency to attract others into our lives whose issues dovetail our own.
So, how well do you really know yourself and what makes you tick? Can you name and describe your issues and how they play out in your relationships? What are your reactions to not getting what you want? Do you ask for what you need and how do your needs stack up against those of others in your life?
These questions are meant to inspire an inner exploration and, ultimately, ownership of what we individually bring to a relationship. But before we can own our issues, we need to identify them. Thus whether you are in a relationship or in the process of manifesting one, the initial necessity, as the Greeks said, is to Know Thyself.
What do you want? What are the qualities you desire in a relationship? The first step is your responsibility: Get clear and real about who you are and what you need. When he or she arrives, your obligation to self continues via a mandate of authentic and direct communication. When we take ownership of ourselves in our relationships, we are challenged to address our needs and feelings while acknowledging our slips, misunderstandings and reactions. Ultimately, when we are comfortable enough to discuss or listen to the entirety of our experience with our partner, trust grows– and where trust grows intimacy, too, takes seed. May February deepen your relationship to self—to your core sense of individual expression and desire and may it take root in all of your relationships.
Michael Schroeder, Lead Counselor, MA, LMFT
Michael received undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Printmaking from the University of California Santa Cruz. He then studied graphic and furniture design at Parsons School of Design in NYC and trained as a Yoga Instructor at New York’s Integral Yoga. For many years, Michael worked as a fine artist with gallery representation in New York City and Santa Fe. Art led him back to psychology, and he received his Master’s Degree from Pacifica Graduate Institute, graduating summa cum laude. Michael has strived to maintain the connection between art and psychology in his career and personal life. He is a licensed psychotherapist (LMFT) in California and New Mexico and has worked extensively with couples and kids.