Thursday, May 24, 2012

Go Direct In Relationships

Emotionally healthy people develop the good habit of going direct to the person they need to speak with. It may take courage, and it may be harder, but it's nearly always the best practice in your relationships. Taking the harder path, rather than the easier, faster one is often the braver and better choice. It helps you be fully known. It builds intimacy between you and the other person. They grow to trust you if they know you are direct, up front, and honest.

It can feel safer or easier to complain to a third person, but this triangulates you and the person you have something to say to, awkwardly sticking someone else in between. It may be helpful to think about what you would want if the situation were reversed. If someone you are close to has a problem with you, would you want them to show you the respect and give you the opportunity to resolve it directly, or would you want them to harbor resentment, and gossip about you to others? Most people prefer being respected enough to get a chance to resolve a problem between you both sooner, and without a middle man.

Why would anybody want to be the middle man in someone else's relationship? Some people enjoy drama. They like the "special" feeling of holding secrets. They may be bored and find it entertainment. Many people may want to be helpful, but not really think through the outcomes.

What kind of response should you have if someone is repeatedly complaining to you about a third party? Don't live out that script. Be healthy enough to redirect them. For example, "it sounds like you really feel unimportant to that person. I think you really should be telling them, not me. The two of you are the ones that can try to fix that." You can best help by pointing out the braver path. That's real support.

Your relationships can be hurt or put at risk by blurring the boundaries and sharing emotional stuff about your partner, your child, your parent, or your friend with another person. It builds an artificial closeness between the "secret holders," and makes the person you have a problem with an outsider in their own relationship.

If you are not sure how to go direct, or are afraid to do so, you may want to get some coaching from a good therapist who can teach you how to develop your own voice in your important relationships. I often role-play how to do this with my clients, because it makes it easier. This is especially helpful if you grew up in a family with alcoholic, rageaholic, passive-aggressive, or absent parents, and are learning this lesson now.

In order to have truly close and intimate relationships, you need to be able to reserve time to spend together, negotiate differences, demonstrate mutual respect, and honor the sacredness of the relationship between you and the other person. We are always either a part of the problem or a part of the solution. By going direct in your own relationships, and requiring that of others around you, you are contributing to better relationships, and setting a higher standard for yourself and others you care about.

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