The relationships we have with those around us offer the possibility for exquisite joy and happiness, as well as disappointment, hurt and suffering. For every relationship we enter, we each bring along the experiences that shape who we are and the resulting 'lenses' through which we view the world. It can be hard to see each other clearly at times... and it is easy to attribute how we feel to others' behaviours. However, the truth is that the relationships around us, and how we respond, are reflections of our own internal state of being. Who we attract into our lives, who we choose to spend time with, what patterns of behaviour we allow ourselves to be a part of, and how willing we are to communicate and be flexible, are all areas for potential exploration and growth.
The first important relationships we experience are those within our family of origin - those who are destined to introduce us to the world and provide us with our first interactions. These relationships form a kind of blue print for what we know and it is here that we experience our first lessons in love, joy, excitement, sadness, anger, fear, etc. How these emotions are supported, or not supported, by both ourselves and others forms the building blocks for our future experiences and decisions in life.
As we grow, our capacity for intimacy (the ability to be emotionally close to another) is impacted by our prior experiences. These may be positive experiences based on love, care and respect, or negative experiences tainted by neglect, disregard or even abuse. As we search for satisfying and joyful relationships in our lives, it helps to become aware of past experiences that might be holding us back. A key indicator of our potential for intimacy lies in our ability to embrace differences between ourselves and others, and our willingness to be flexible with each other. Intolerance and rigidity are signs that our past may be influencing our present relationships more than we realise.
Communication is an integral aspect of successful relationships and it is important to realise that we communicate with each other in many different ways. What we say, how we say it, what we don't say, and what we do and don't do, all speak volumes. Good, clear communication is a powerful tool that fosters understanding, connection and harmony between people. When communication breaks down, however, misunderstanding, disconnection and discontent can arise. Understanding our own styles of communication, and becoming aware of areas where we may be incongruent and sending mixed messages, is an essential aspect of satisfying relationships in both our personal and professional lives.
No matter how much time we spend with another person, it is important to realise that we can never know another person completely. There is always more to learn and be curious about - we are all having our unique experiences, learning and growing all the time. The personal and relational patterns we fall into however, can become a kind of default setting, predicting the experiences we will have and making life, and others, seem as if they are 'fixed' entities. This is particularly true when there are unresolved issues, tensions and dissatisfaction.
*Relationship counselling offers an opportunity to explore all of the above aspects of our relationships, and provides the possibility of resolving past and current conflicts, raising awareness of how-we-are in relationship, and renewing our ability to see each other clearly. With this, comes the potential for greater vitality, joy and satisfaction in our interactions with those around us.