Some level of drama seems to eventually creep in to any relationship. Which may not be a problem if you don’t get emotionally entangled in the drama, but most of us do. Whether a misunderstanding, unmet expectation, or intolerable behavior, we become consumed by our judgement of the other person’s offensive behavior. We create stories to confirm our perspective and explain their offensiveness while trying to figure out why they are so insensitive. We may even set on a mission to get them to change.
We conclude that everything would be fine if they would just “act right,” do the right thing and change their behavior.
No doubt you have learned that it is not easy to change other people’s behavior. You may have also heard that it is easier to change your own, but who wants to be the one to change.
Stories, Image and Expectations
You’ve read 7 Relationship Derailers and 5 Habits to Avoid Them so you know the factors, from both parties, that cause challenges in relationships. Combine your 7 factors and perspective, with someone else’s and you have the formula for potential, or certain drama.
Although The Relationship Detox Manifesto gives you a 360 perspective and goes into greater detail about understanding how the factors develop, how they affect relationships and how to avoid having them affect your relationships in a negative way you at least now know the source of the drama. That is the factors that cause us to create images of ourselves and others, judge ourselves and others, and develop expectations that when unmet cause disappointment, frustration, resentment, discontentment, stress or other negative emotion.
These images are formed over time. Their foundation is found in how others have treated us, what we have come to believe about ourselves based on how others have treated us and the stories we tell ourselves to help us make sense about it all. They are influenced by what we learn about how to engage others. They give us cues about how who we are to be.
These images are the basis for how we engage others and the stories we tell ourselves are the basis for how we expect them to engage with us. When our expectations are unmet drama happens. We feel unseen and disrespected and experience disappointment, frustration, anger and other negative emotional responses. We rely on our stories, which are generally disempowering, to help us to understand what is happening and why. We make assumptions, misunderstanding happens and sequence of thoughts leads to drama. Conversely when their expectations are unmet drama happens.
What would happen if we reexamine our stories?
My personal example
When I was a lot younger I had an expectation that my mother should have wanted to spend more time with me than she did. I felt that she should have wanted to cook and bake together, go shopping together, have fun on the beach, and travel together. But she preferred to read, which is generally a solo activity. I loved to travel but I travelled alone or with other families from a very young age. I couldn’t understand why other mothers would do fun activities with their daughters, but my mother would not?
When I had children I expected that like all grandmothers she would want to spend time with us and help me and be involved with our activities even though nothing from the past gave me any indication that that would happen. And it didn’t.
In trying to make sense of my mother’s preference of how to be in a relationship together I developed an attitude that I would just handle and manage things alone because I could rely on myself, but maybe not others.
One day during a weekend long seminar I attended participants were asked to think about a few stories or events in our lives that we think about frequently. These were tagged “life impacting” stories or events. Stories that impact our choices and perspective – how we think, what we do, what we speak about, and how we engage others. We were asked to examine one story or event that we have determined was a negative experience. My event was the first time I flew overseas alone as a young child. Travelling alone can cause a child to feel lonely. As lonely as digging holes and building sand sculptures on the beach while my mother read the newspaper and baking and cooking alone in the kitchen while my mother read novels and raising two active children with seemingly little interest from her.
We were then asked to rethink the experience in terms of it being an experience from which we gained value. Well after many years of playing the story in my mind that I was left to do so many things alone and the disappointment of not establishing the connection I wanted in the way I expected, I carried the feelings and the unmet desire to connect in such an important relationship into all relationships. Naturally some level of drama developed, sometimes only in my own head. For example, when I needed help or cooperation from someone who was not willing to give it. When friends went to events and I was not invited and felt disconnected. But when I reexamined my story and saw that all of the experiences of having to do things alone made be more independent, skillful at finding resources for any need and drawn to solve any problem. I discovered the real story which is an empowering story. Those experiences helped me to develop a courageous, bold, independent, “can do,” risk taking character.
I became less frustrated and disappointed with my relationship with my mother. I have no expectations of how others should engage with me, other than those who work for me which we agree about ahead of hiring. I have a more empowering story that plays over and over in my mind, to share with others, to use as an example when I teach (you got the very short version) and to inspire me. This new story has changed the way I engage with others and how I judge others – I just don’t judge others. (Look forward to an email about judgement and how judgement derails relationships).
Examine and rewrite your stories
The stories you have created to make sense of how other people’s behavior affects your behavior matter. They impact all of your relationships, choices and beliefs. For that reason I created an entire part in the 10 part series Creating Space for Connection to examining stories – how you developed your stories, how they impact how you engage with others and how to rewrite them to make them the empowering stories they are meant to be. That is how important both seeing and creating the empowering stories in your experiences and releasing the disempowering stories you have been reciting in your mind are to connecting with others.
Don’t let unexamined, misinterpreted and untrue stories taint your relationships and how you engage others. Don’t let them sabotage your desire to have authentic connection and positive relationships.
You can’t change how people have interacted with you in the past. You can’t change anyone’s behavior, but you can see their behavior from a different perspective and you can see the more empowering meaning from your experiences.
I hope by now you have read the 7 Relationship Derailers and 5 Habits to Avoid Them, which is an introduction to The Relationship Detox Manifesto, and Get Ego What it Wants, Tame Your Emotional Triggers and Choose, Fear or Love, which are samples from Creating Space for Connection.
The best thing about life is our relationships. I enjoy authentic relationships and genuine connection. That is the fuel that makes good days better, bad days manageable, challenges conquerable and dreams achievable. Relationships impact everything. I’ve studied them for decades and I’m happy to share what I’ve discovered impacts them positively and negatively. In particular recognizing the unintentional habitual behaviors that sabotage them and allowing the innate positive skills we each have to rise and connect with others authentically.