All relationships require a compromise.
This applies to friendships, relationships and romantic relationships. When we are truly committed to the outcome, whether it be a work result or maintaining a healthy interpersonal dynamic, we must be flexible in our expectations.
Sometimes you may find yourself feeling uncomfortable in a relationship. You notice that your willingness to compromise felt more like a sacrifice. You give more than you receive. You want to be supportive, but somehow the expectation, from someone else or even yourself, has become too high. You feel impatient, or ashamed, and you don't understand why.
Support and contribution
I often have discussions in my work about the difference between support and abuse. The idea is that supportive relationships are good. You can touch each other for input and reassurance. Support may even require a good intent to try harder or aim higher. Your supportive relationships encourage you to be yourself, empower yourself and make the most of your potential.
On the contrary, distortion, which literally means "to bend from the normal shape", characterizes these relationships which, to put it simply, feel bad. If you feel that you need to deform yourself to match someone else's values or emotional or physical needs, this is a sign that the relationship must be treated differently.
I often come to me to talk about their frustrations with people or situations in their lives. One of the first signs I hear as we begin to consider how to deal with the situation is whether the relationship supports or violates.
Can this person be the same in the relationship? Or do they feel they have to try and be someone else to belong to?
I usually hear 3 specific signs to help me understand how the relationship works and how my client works in the relationship. If you are not sure whether you are in a supportive relationship or want to maintain your relationship, you may wonder:
1. Do you feel energized or exhausted?
Supportive relationships are refreshing. Even when someone challenges you, the challenge will leave you feeling motivated to do better. If you feel supported, you will want to invest your energy and time into creative problem solving in ways that are unique to you. This is one of the reasons why psychotherapy is so popular as a source of support. An experienced therapist will help you discover your own solutions to a problem and follow through with confidence, as opposed to telling you what to follow.
In a coercive relationship, often someone will guide you to behave in some way, either explicitly or implying that you should do things as they see fit. When you violate one's own preferences, you may notice that you feel tired when you think about that person or are in his or her presence.
2. Do you feel authentic in this dynamic? Or do you feel that you have to be someone you are not?
This is the essence of so much work in psychotherapy. Think of your interactions with very young children. They are often deeply invested in you knowing exactly who they are. Most children make their preferences known in very clear ways, both verbally and non-verbally.
You can never change someone else's behavior. You can only customize your own.Something happens to many of us over time as we mature. We are actually more flexible and willing to compromise than most young children. But through this process of development, along with the need to belong to social groups or to society as a whole, we begin to lose our sense of self.
The key to building supportive relationships is feeling that you can be your sincere self. That doesn't mean you behave like a little kid of course! But that means developing your own internal language and interactions, where you know your innate preferences and stay true to them.
If you find yourself in a relationship or a dynamic in which you feel you need to talk, wear or behave like someone else, it's time to ask yourself if you are violating. If so, my next questions for you are if this is really needed? Did you try to be yourself in this relationship, or were you too anxious to take the risk? If the relationship fails without breaking, you should re-evaluate your participation.
3. Is the relationship sustainable or temporary?
Supporting dynamics do not tend to offer longevity queries. Of course life changes, needs evolve and people continue their relationships or jobs all the time. But in general, if a relationship is supportive, you won't find yourself worried about whether that interaction will persist or how it might end. Sustainability is a given when support is reciprocal and rewarding.
Subversive relationships often have a sense of temporality in them. There is a sense that if you do not compensate for yourself to suit someone else's preferences, the relationship does not stand a chance. If you feel fragmented or worried that being yourself and making your needs known in a relationship will lead to the termination of the relationship, you are violating yourself. It may work to maintain the relationship for a limited period, but neither you nor the relationship will thrive.
Make the adjustment
When considering how you would like to address a relationship you are breaking into, I invite you to remember one of my key phrases to live by: You can never change someone else's behavior. You can only customize your own.
As you make the changes needed to direct the relationship off the ground in a more self-centered, supportive direction, your counterpart will also have to adjust in response. And you really have no way of predicting how that will go. Their response may not be what you were hoping for, or it might be better than you expect. But their changes will often reveal your next steps as you try to change a relationship into a more supportive relationship.
Sometimes relationships hit the road. Misunderstandings can occur. There may even be betrayals that cause deep sores. But if you find yourself consistently having a interpersonal problem and just venting for it doesn't help, I'm guessing you're facing a situation that requires you to contort. Think of your feelings as a red flag, a warning sign that you are leaving a support zone. You are invited to a situation that is not offered to recognize or appreciate your true self and your preferences.
Compromise is a part of life and it is something we do in ways big and small every day. This is the nature of a supportive environment. However, sacrifice, while necessary at times, is not recommended as a way to live a healthy, functional relationship over time.
A compassionate healer can help you bring your authentic self into your relationships. Remember that your needs matter. There is no shame in needing support.
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