On the run up to Valentines Day some of us might be wondering, "What is love anyway?" "Have I found it?" Will I ever find it?"
I saw a status on Facebook which quoted:
"I don't know how to talk to women. Reason being: I feel like you all think that I just want one thing from you. I want the one thing... but a bunch of other... can't a man just want all the things? Damn."
This was said by Winston Bishop, who is a main character from a US TV Show called New Girl.
The person who shared this Facebook status is a young man who said he felt the same as this character, and 'lost' when it came to relationships. I thought "how can I respond to that?".
How, as a relationship counsellor, can I put into words what steps any person can take in order to feel more understood in a relationship, and to show more understanding to another person, and therefore hopefully find mutual love.
Here is my best attempt at a very brief answer!
1. Firstly, we need to think about our beliefs, values, likes, dislikes and who we really are. Then we need to accept that we are ok, not perfect, but ok, and that we deserve to find someone who loves us for being who we are. As I have said before, it all starts with self-esteem.
"The key to a successful relationship is self esteem" Alexandra Stoddard
2. Next we need to take responsibility for maintaining and improving our self-confidence and self-worth (which make up self-esteem) by making time for activities and pursuits that will help us to feel 'at our best'.
e.g. we need to take enough care of our health and appearance, we need to eat a balanced diet, we need to keep active enough to stay healthy, we need to 'contribute' in some way so that we feel a sense of self worth, and we need to take part in activities and past-times that we enjoy, and which enrich our understanding of ourselves and others, or help us to grow in knowledge, skill, or confidence.
"It is hard to find happiness in ourselves, and it is impossible to find it elsewhere" Agnes Repplier
3. Once we have 'fitted our own oxygen mask' and are feeling okay about ourselves i.e. feeling that "I'm no better than anyone else, but no-one is better than I am either" (remember, self esteem is NOT self-importance), then we need to focus on others.
We show healthy self-esteem when we don't need to 'feel better' about ourselves by judging or criticising others.
We can instead acknowledge that we do not walk in their shoes, and therefore cannot know their internal emotions and the reasons they think and behave as they do.
"When you judge another you do not define them, you define yourself" Wayne Dyer
We need to aim to get to know and understand others as best we can, knowing that it won't be possible to understand, like, or agree, with everyone.
4. Communication: Feeling understood and understanding others comes from knowing how to talk, and to listen.
How to talk:
We need to use "I" statements when communicating, as we are aiming to convey our thoughts and opinions without implying that they are more important than the thoughts or opinions of the other person.
As soon as the person we are speaking to feels judged or criticised they are very likely to stop listening, and start to think about how to defend themselves.
Never be critical or start a sentence with "You should" or "You ought to" if you want the person you are speaking to to still be listening by the end of the sentence!
"I would really like to go to......... because I would really enjoy it, I would love you to come with me"
NOT "You should want to go there with me, why won't you come...?"
How to listen:
Listening well is much harder than talking. If we want to create a great relationship with someone one of the most important things we can do is to show curiosity about who they are, no matter how long we have known them. To do this we can ask them open questions.
Open questions begin with "How, What, Where, Why and When" and they are called this because they cannot be answered "yes" or "no", so they encourage communication.
And that's it!...
5. Once we know ourselves, feel okay about ourselves, and have the confidence and ability to communicate well with others, then friendship and love should blossom.
"Don't wait for people to be friendly; show them how" Anonymous
A healthy friendship or relationship is one in which both people are being themselves, and feel valued for being themselves.
"Ultimately, love is self approval" Sondra Ray
This is just a taster of some thoughts, I go into far more depth on successful relationships and the role of self-esteem via the real-life relationship stories in my book 'Stay Calm and Content No Matter What Life Throws At You'. The latest Amazon review says:
"The best book I have read on self development, ever".
50% of profits from the book are going to UK counselling charities so I welcome all opportunities to spread the word. Please get in touch if you would like a copy to review on your blog or website. www.staycalmandcontent.com
I welcome comments! Best wishes, Cat xx