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The Blog Post

Stress-free Relationships

We often hear people say, "He drives me crazy!" or "She stresses me out." Although a long-term relationship can be extremely rewarding it can also be very challenging and in some cases it becomes a source of stress that can drain our reserves. Even though it is very common to have problems in a relationship, we often misunderstand what causes them to occur. Much of the time they come from hidden conversations and action patterns within us and not from the behaviour or attitude of others. The problem is that we often don't notice the role that we play. In addition, most people are confused about what it takes to create happy, successful, long-term interpersonal relationships and this confusion becomes a hidden cause of stress.

Destructive Patterns

Many of us assume that Human beings are naturally, loving; caring, and committed individuals who only need to find the right kind of partner to live happily ever after. However the reality is often quite the opposite. Most of us fail in our interpersonal relationships, because we follow our automatic tendencies and we end up destroying any union that matters to us.To succeed in our relationships, therefore, we must learn to recognize and deal with the hidden relationship-destroying patterns within us. Not only must we know how to deal with these patterns in ourselves, but we must also know how to deal with similar patterns in other people as well. We need to understand that it is not other people who stress us out. It is our reactions to them.

Four destructive patterns

There are four key patterns that are very destructive to our relationships. If you learn to recognize and deal with these four patterns, you will be able to prevent or eliminate much of the relationship stress you experience.

1. The constant blaming

Of all the relationship-destroying patterns that affect both men and women, the most damaging is our tendency to blame someone or something other than ourselves when difficulties in a relationship occur. When we blame either our partner or our "relationship" as the source of our dissatisfaction, we not only fail to acknowledge how we may have contributed to the problem, but we also fail to see that we often have the power to successfully resolve them.The blaming also causes problems is in our relationships with our children. Parents are often frustrated and perplexed by behavioural or emotional problems in their kids. They may even take one of their children to therapy because they believe the child is one to blame for the problem. In order for therapy with children to be successful parents must often be helped to stop playing the blame game and adopt a "self-reflective" perspective. This can enable them to identify their own role in causing their children's problems to occur or persist, and by modifying their own behaviour as parents the behaviour of their children will often improve as well.

2. The urge to change

Another destroying pattern is based upon the principle that opposites attract. Most of us become attracted to other people not because they are similar to us, but because they possess certain talents, skills, and qualities we lack. When we "fall in love" with someone, we often hope that their strengths and talents will become available to us, and that we can contribute our strengths and abilities in return. When we find someone who can fill this valuable role, we tend to marry them to keep them around. But slowly an unconscious pattern begins to emerge. It is the pattern whereby you try to change or mould your partner into someone who thinks; feels, and acts just like you. Instead of respecting and appreciating your partner's differences, you begin to judge them negatively for being the way they are. Instead of keeping yourself open to what their differences have to offer you, you embark upon a foolish and futile project to change them to be the way you like.

3. The need to be right all the time

Another destroying pattern is invalidating others opinions and point of view. This pattern stems from our basic tendency to want to be right most of the time. We want to be right about our thoughts and ideas. We want to be right about our feelings, opinions, and ways of acting in life. We want to be right about our theories, values, and moral standards. In short, we want to be right about almost everything, and when we actively pursue this goal, we can destroy our relationships in the process.You see, in order for you to be right, you must view other people's thoughts, feelings, and opinions as wrong or invalid, especially when they differ from yours. While proving yourself right may allow you to feel temporarily satisfied, your partner often ends up feeling hurt and resentful. These small conflicts are not easily forgotten, and they will often come back to you in subtle - and not so subtle - ways.

4. The lack of experience

Most people assume they know what it takes to succeed in interpersonal relationships. They think that if they just find the right partner, or if they feel strongly "in love" with another person, their relationship will succeed and they will live happily ever after. This common fallacy is another hidden cause of stress because we fail to admit that we don't really know how to succeed in a particular area of life. Instead of finding out what it really takes to succeed, we act like we already know and there is no further need for us to study the matter.

Although love is a powerful impetus for husbands and wives to help and support each other making each other happy, being a family, it does not in itself create the substance of the relationship. The personal qualities and skills that are crucial to sustain it and make it grow are: commitment, sensitivity, generosity, consideration, loyalty, responsibility, and trustworthiness. The couple need to cooperate, compromise, and follow through with joint decisions. They have to be resilient, accepting, and forgiving. They need to be tolerant of each other's flaws, mistakes, and peculiarities. As these 'virtues' are cultivated over a period of time, the marriage develops and matures.

What Does It Take To Have Happy Successful Relationships?

Misunderstanding what is needed to create successful, long-term relationships is another hidden cause of our stress. Lets go through ten important ingredients for creating successful relationships of all types.

Purpose - The best purpose for marriage, or for any other long-term relationship, is to forget about what you might get in return and focus on what you can give to the other person.

Commitment - In order to have happy, successful relationships we need to live our lives consistent with our word. It is a decision to always rise above our fleeting thoughts, feelings, moods, and situations and to deal with any problem or conflict in a way that enhances, rather than diminishes, the quality of our relationships.

Acceptance - Most of us have trouble accepting others for who they are, because we make the mistake by believing that happiness and success is solely dependent on others. When you don't accept people exactly as they are i.e. when you set out to change them, improve them, criticize them, or make them into someone different, they stop feeling loved and appreciated by you. On the other hand when you grant them the freedom to be the way they are, they feel loved, nurtured and secure whenever they are in your presence.

Trust - Trust, like commitment, is another essential ingredient for successful interpersonal relationships. Since our relationships are products of our promises and commitments, it is mandatory that our partners trust our basic integrity. It is also essential that we conduct ourselves in a trustworthy manner, and that we demand the same from anyone who wants to have a relationship with us.

Communication - Good communication is not merely the sharing of experiences, thoughts or feelings. To create successful, long-term relationships you need to acknowledge that two people never experience the same event or reality in exactly the same way. Each has his or her own "internal reality" about whatever may have happened, and these internal realities must always be taken into account.

Negotiation - Marriage and other relationships are on going series of negotiations. Obviously, many minor differences and conflicts must be worked out. Requests must frequently be made of each other, and the option to decline or renegotiate certain requests must occasionally be exercised. Any conflicts or differences of opinions should be resolved in a win-win manner and each person should be committed to what works for the relationship (as opposed to what works for them, what they personally want, or what would make them happy or comfortable.)

Surrender - Another key ingredient for successful interpersonal relationships is surrender. This is not the type of surrender where you are forced to do something someone else wants. It is a voluntary type of surrender whereby you wilfully give up control to someone other than yourself. One form of such surrender is choosing to go along with the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of your partner. This involves voluntarily giving up two of your most cherished desires: Your desire to be right; and your desire to be in control.

Forgiveness- With regard to our long-term, interpersonal relationships, forgiveness takes on an even larger role. Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.

Responsibility - Responsibility is also a major cornerstone of successful, long-term relationships. One of the central problems in all of our relationships is how we respond when things don't go as we want. Do we blame other people, outside influences, or our relationship itself whenever we experience a lack of satisfaction? Or do we view such problems as signals that we need to learn and grow ourselves? Are we going to try to change or control our partner in order to be happy, or are we going to recognize that our own happiness comes primarily from the contexts and commitments we generate or fail to generate within ourselves?

Support - The last ingredient to be considered is support. Being “supportive” has almost as many interpretations as ”commitment” or “love.” Here are just a few interpretations: Physical comfort and emotional support (listening and empathizing, taking your spouse's hand, giving your spouse a hug), Esteem support (expressing confidence in your partner, providing encouragement), Informational support (giving advice, gathering information), and Tangible support (taking on responsibilities so your spouse can deal with a problem, helping to brainstorm solutions to a problem). Unfortunately, it’s too much of the wrong kind of support that wreaks the most havoc in relationships.

No matter what the situation is, dialog is the key. Couples will be happier if they learn how to say, 'This is how I'm feeling, and this is how you can help me.'”

Where To Go From Here

It is possible to learn how to create successful relationships. But in order to obtain this knowledge, you must first admit you don't have it. Then, you must seek out inspiration, which can teach you to succeed. There are many excellent relationship counsellors who could help you. Even reading about it. Try this one: “Love Is Never Enough” by Aaron T. Beck

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