By Shelley Costello

toxic-relationshipMerriam-Webster defines relationship as ‘The way in which two or more concepts, objects or people are connected, or the state of being connected.’

This article specifically discusses the relationship, between two people who are in a partnership together, married or otherwise and looks at problems we may experience, solutions and ways to enhance such a relationship.

Merriam-Webster defines relationship as ‘The way in which two or more concepts, objects or people are connected, or the state of being connected.’

This article specifically discusses the relationship, between two people who are in a partnership together, married or otherwise and looks at problems we may experience, solutions and ways to enhance such a relationship.

From the moment we are born we are in a relationship, first and foremost with ourselves. We then form other relationships with our parents, siblings, relatives and as we grow, other people when we form friendships and relationships of our own.

How we interact and respond today in our relationships will be a result of those we experience in our formative years, even though often we are not aware of this.

For some forming that all important relationship will be simple: meeting someone, falling in love, perhaps getting married or living together and living a relatively happy existence with our partner. For some however, and indeed for most of us, that isn’t the case. We might embark on what we feel is ‘the one’ relationship only to discover that it isn’t, move on to the next, and the next and so it continues until we feel satisfied that we have found the person we want to be in a relationship with longer term.

In my experience problems arise when one or both parties feel they are somehow not getting from the relationship what it is they had hoped for. Again often times this might simply be resolved by discussing openly our issues with our partner and resolving them fairly amicably. However because of our innate responses in dealing with people we become blind to anything other than how we feel, how we feel our partner should be, and how we feel our relationship should be. This blinkered and very subjective view makes it difficult to see the wood for the trees so to speak and live in a happy and healthy relationship.

Factors such as money, children, work, family, friends, social and health issues all impact heavily on our relationship and there are many more. One of the biggest issues however relates to us as individuals and how we respond to the factors affecting our relationship.

Taking full responsibility for ourselves as an individual in the partnership is a good place to start. Do we try to control the situation or our partner, tell our partner what to do, put our own insecurities onto our partner, accept our partner for who he or she is or do we blame our partner?

There are many more questions we could ask ourselves but the point is to first look at ourselves in the partnership before we project how we feel onto the other person. If we truly feel that we are being objective then perhaps the relationship isn’t the right one for us.

To have a healthy and fully functional relationship with someone we have to trust and accept ourselves as we are and feel happy about whom we are. Once we have this solid foundation we are then much more likely to trust, accept and feel happy about the person we are with.

A relationship is a union of two people coming together to form a whole; the partnership. This does not mean however that the individual is lost, it shouldn’t mean that we are melded together in such a way that we become lost to the point of not retaining the part of ourselves that is us, our values, our thoughts, our opinions, our likes, our dislikes, our friends, our family, our job, our hobbies and interests, our dreams, desires and aspirations. Our goals, our hopes, our fears and so the list goes on. But in actuality what can happen is we give so much of ourselves to the relationship that we forget that within that we still are very much individuals.

We could use the analogy of a drop of water. We are the drop of water and when we come together in a relationship we become an ocean. Rather a vast analogy but it gives a good understanding of how something individual forms something else. So each of us as individuals are like drops of water and although we join another drop of water to form our own ocean should not mean that we lose the fact that we can step out of the ocean and be our own drop of water again.

By not retaining our individuality or allowing our partner to do the same, we begin to experience problems. Perhaps not at first but at some point it’s inevitable. When we insist that our way of thinking, doing or being is right, and perhaps our partner does the same, using the water analogy, our ocean becomes turbulent.

The trick to experiencing a healthy and functional relationship is to understand that to calm the water we have to become the drop of water again. Step back and be ourselves, be true to ourselves and when we do this we are moving the focus away from projecting our own issues onto our partner and taking responsibility for them ourselves. We should do this and then return to the relationship with a better perspective also allowing our partner the space to do the same.

If exercising acceptance both of ourselves and our partner as individuals does not enhance the relationship we have to question whether the relationship is right for us in the first place.

One of the most important things I have learned about relationships is that we cannot seek to change someone if they do not wish to change themselves.

By adopting a mindset of acceptance we can seek to change the circumstances in which we are unhappy with. By letting go of something that is an issue for us, we are actually working towards resolving it. Rather a paradoxical statement but if there are many aspects of a relationship which one or both parties find unacceptable we should first look at what it is we are asking of the other person. Are we asking them to give up something that is important to them? Are we asking them to lose a part of their individuality?

When two people come together in a relationship there is always change in the way we as individuals live, but if we are unable to retain our individuality as a result of the union then perhaps the relationship isn’t the right one for us. Natural changes take place when children come into the relationship for instance but if our partner’s individuality is not something we can accept then we have to question our place in that partnership.

The only person we can truly change is ourselves. Trying to change someone else is fruitless, and exhausting! Relationships are about coming together, love, fun, happiness and togetherness. The road isn’t always smooth. Obstacles will inevitably pop up along the way, some bigger than others, but if we can work through these together, remaining respectful, accepting and trusting of our partner’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours the relationship will survive, become stronger and prosper. If however at the first obstacle we seek to blame the other person, attack their individuality and question them we will find the relationship in difficulty. We will experience problems where there weren’t problems before.

Today, right now, look at your own relationship and the individuality of both you and your partner? Does that individuality exist? Do you have issues with everything your partner does; do they have issues with everything you do? Explore your relationship with a fresh set of eyes by first exploring you as an individual in that relationship.

If you are experiencing difficulties, and taking on board some of the aforementioned points, begin to focus on good points about your partner and your relationship. Focus on the positive, on what you enjoy together, what works and what feels good. This projects a different energy onto the relationship and your partner will pick up on it. If you have an issue with something your partner does, move your focus to something else that you do like about them. Keep doing this and see the difference it makes. As time progresses if you find that you cannot accept aspects of your partner then you are back to the point of asking yourself whether it is right for you.

Everyone ultimately wants to live a happy life and indeed it is an innate part of what makes us human, we are driven by this instinct to meet someone, fall in love and be happy. Enjoy that privilege by forming a relationship with someone you can be truly happy with. I am not suggesting you run at the first obstacle but what I am suggesting is that you remain true to yourself, nurture your own individuality and seek to encourage that of your partners. Coming together will then become a happier and more functional union where both people respect, trust and accept the individuality of each other.

Shelley Costello is a freelance writer and author of Holiday Road and Champagne Friday. She has also published several articles with the international Yoga Magazine and is currently writing her third book.

Shelley has a diverse career history in management and marketing and has a passion for creating websites which is part of her freelance services. She is a qualified life coach, yoga and meditation teacher, Indian Head masseuse and has studied Buddhism, nutrition and many other areas of self development. Shelley’s life path is to help others overcome challenge and change.


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