Whether you are single, dating, in a pre-committed or committed relationship, married, separated, divorced, bereaved, a parent, or a child the one thing we all share in common is a longing for happy and fulfilling relationships.
We can hardly exist without meaningful relationships of one sort or another. The problem occurs when we make those relationships responsible for our personal happiness. If you are expecting another person to make you happy, you are going to be disappointed, because at some time in your life that person is going to let you down.
Happiness is not something that another person, job, house, experience… can give you. So if you are looking for happiness – and let’s face it, aren’t we all – then you need to stop searching for it “out there somewhere” and start looking for it within yourself.
Happiness is a state of mind. Finding peace and happiness within yourself is the first step towards finding a happy and fulfill ing relationship with another person. And once you have found it, you will attract other people who are in a similar state of mind.
So what if you are already in a relationship but are not happy?
I would suggest that the first thing to do is to recognize that no matter how bad you may feel, you have choices, even if that choice is about how you choose to feel. It is so easy to get ourselves into a state of mind in which we actually “choose” to feel unhappy. That may have come about through so many years of limiting self-beliefs and negative head-talk, that we don’t see a way out of it. But it is possible to change the way we think, and by doing so, we can change the way we feel.
Changing the way you feel is not an easy thing to do, especially without help. But it begins by recognizing what are the key negative messages that you are saying to yourself, and re-framing those into positive affirmations. Neuroscience researchers have discovered that in order to develop a new habit, the key requirement is repetition.
So if you identify a key negative head talk such as “he is so uncaring” you could try re-framing it into something like “I know h e cares deeply for me.” But in order for that new message to take root in your mind to the extent that it will help you when you are next feeling uncared for, you need to repeat it many times.
Once you are in a more positive mind-set, things look a whole lot different, and circumstances will often follow suit. You are also much better placed to make the right choices, creating a more positive future for you both.
How do you change the behavior of another?
The answer is that you probably can’t, and in most cases should not even try. Whatever you focus on becomes bigger in your life, so start shifting the focus of your thoughts away from what you don’t like about the other person, to what you do like, and thank them for those things.
In addition, work on behaving towards the other person as you want them to be towards you. In other words, look more for what you can give than for what you want to take from the relationship. The same is generally true when it comes to friends, family and lovers — the more we give, the more we receive. Try putting yourself in their shoes and asking yourself what they would like from you.
How do you deal with conflict?
Learn how to really listen to the other person. Most of the time when people argue, they become so entrenched in getting their own point across that they don’t listen properly to what the other person is trying to say. Consequently they end up playing verbal ping-pong, both desperately trying to defend their own space. Evidence spearheaded by John Gottman at the University of Washington suggests that if we continue with critical attitudes towards the other person, the relationship has a less than 20% chance of survival.
The truth is that rarely is one person right and the other wrong. There is generally some truth or value in both perspectives of an argument. The difficulty comes because neither is able to see things from the other’s perspective.
So next time you find yourself in conflict with another, stop talking long enough to fully understand the other person’s point. And then when it is your turn to speak, begin by reflecting back your understanding of their issue. In that way, the other person does not need to keep defending their position, and is better able to listen to your opinion. You will be amazed at how quickly the problem is dissolved when both parties really listen, and let the other know that they understand from their point of view.