When you don’t know what to do next
Were you taught relationship skills at school? I certainly wasn’t!
Most people grow up having never been taught how to hold friendships, grow loving relationships, and deal with each other. We instead learned, no matter how right or wrong, by a process of osmosis, taking in what we have seen our parents do, what our friends have said and done, comments on the internet, and what we see in movies — which were written by script writers who themselves have the same problem!
It’s no wonder that so many marriages fail, that homes are so frequently filled with discord and strife, and that friendships sometimes fall apart.
Having loving relationships
The question of how to have loving relationships — whether these are with your partner, your children, your parents, your friends — and good relationships with work colleagues, boss and subordinates is something that has been researched at length. Although no one has the “perfect” answer, by now we have learned a tremendous amount of how to behave, what to do, and what to say to nurture our relationships.
Where does it start?
With a question like this, there is no single starting place. Rather, there are several places to begin. For example, if you are learning to cook, you don’t just start with learning about how spices mix together. You have to learn a range of topics: spices, root vegetables, equipment, nut flavours, effects of heating, and so forth, because it’s their combination that matters so much.
It’s the same with relationships. There are several skills to take on board.
Having said that, there are fundamentals. Without the fundamentals, you will struggle to make any change.
Who is in charge?
The first fundamental is to recognise that the only person whom you can change is yourself. You can’t change other people. You can only change yourself, and allow others to copy your lead. Some will follow your lead; some won’t. But most people will follow your lead if they also want things to improve, and they see that you are succeeding.
As a young parent, when I struggled with my children, I went on a parenting course. A highly valuable lesson that I learned was that I could help my children to be better and happier people by changing how I behaved, not by trying to change how my children behaved. I attended the course, I followed the instructions, and it really worked!
The key point is that you are in charge of yourself, and only yourself. You can change others only by changing yourself, and giving them the freedom to choose whether or not to copy your lead.
Your emotional state matters
If you are in a good emotional state, that rings through in your actions and in your interactions with people. By the same token, if you are filled with negative emotions, that also rings through in your actions and interactions. If you are self-conscious and lack self-respect, that feeds through and can reduce the impact of your great intentions. But if you feel confident and secure, that gives you the space to open up, which in turn allows others to feel safe opening up to you.
What am I saying?
I’m saying that if you need therapy, that is one of the fundamentals that you must address if you want to make relationships more successful.
What about skills?
As already mentioned, we learn our relationship skills mostly by accident, in an unstructured way, by picking up bits and pieces through life. No one teaches us how to run a relationship; or, often, we are taught skills, but they’re taught by people who themselves don’t really know what they’re doing, because they learned from their parents.
There are some basic skills that are crucial. One of them is to learn how to listen. Many people often think that they are listening to our friend, child, partner, colleague, or whoever, but until they have learned the true art of listening, they don’t realise how much better they could do it. Listening is one of the skills that I learned when I trained as a life coach, and I was stunned by how much difference it makes when you listen in the right way.
It’s well known that most people seem to struggle with romantic relationships. The old tropes of the useless husband, the unpleasant wife, etc., although they are invalid stereotypes, they reflect a general angst of people who are struggling in their own relationships. If people knew how to run relationships, the divorce rate would be low. Instead, in most modern countries, the divorce rate is horribly high.
Learning how to talk to each other, how to listen to each other, and how to understand each other, can make a dramatic difference in the chances of a relationship working.
Men in the modern world
A large number of men seem to be unable to retain, or even form, relationships with women. Many of them call themselves “incels” (“involuntary celibate”), but unfortunately this word has become poisoned with misogyny and blame. It’s an unhealthy route that does nothing to solve the problem, and actually makes it worse.
The fact is that most men have absorbed the wrong lessons about forming and maintaining relationships from their parents and especially from modern mass media. They try to copy what they see in the movies, which always seems successful (because the script writers wrote it that way!), only to find that in real life, it falls flat, that real life really just doesn’t work that way.
This subject is too large for a web page, but if you are a man who feels stuck, that you are unable to forge a loving relationship, and you want to learn how to interact with women in a healthy and mutually beneficial way, know that this is indeed possible.
If you are struggling with relationship issues, and wish to learn more about what is possible for you, call me in complete confidence to discuss your situation and find out where you might go from here.