By Karen McMahon


Our lives are an ongoing chain of relationships with those who have known us for a lifetime to our friends, co-workers, companions, neighbors, bosses and employees.  Some are warm and wonderful while others can cause a constant rub. The key to mastering all our relationships is to see them as a mirror reflection of our own issues.

Let’s take a look at some dynamics
·      My boss doesn’t appreciate me
·      My partner doesn’t trust me
·      My child is disobedient and disrespectful
·      My co-worker is hurtful, bordering on abusive
·      My adult son is distant and judgmental
·      My neighbor is obnoxious and inconsiderate
·      My colleague is unprofessional and rude

How can any of these be a reflection of me? How can looking at my part in them help to change my relationships?

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”~ Ghandi

The most powerful thing we can do in each of our relationships is to see our reflection in the problems that arise.  In doing so we can expose our thoughts, patterns and tender buttons, those things that we are responsible for.  Instead of focusing on the other person’s shortcomings, we can begin to work on our own.  Here is the logic…
a)    I cannot change another person
b)   Nothing changes until something changes
c)    I choose to be the change I wish to see in the world.

The result:  Sometimes the relationship will grow stronger and healthier.  Other times it will end and I will have grown wiser and become more authentic.

The Abusive Partner
A young man was so angry with his abusive spouse.  His focus was completely on how hurtful and nasty her behavior was (and it was terrible).  Upon looking at his actions, he began to see that he choose to accept her unacceptable behavior and then get mad at her for acting that way. If she truly loved him, she should change!  Yet he seemed to have no power to make that happen.  He began to slowly set healthier boundaries and overcome his fears of what might happen if he took care of himself.  He could walk away, leave the situation, and choose not to accept such behavior.  She may or may not decide to change, but his experience transformed as he was able to remove himself from the abuse.  Knowing that whether the relationship lasted or not, he had found his way to a healthier way of being. He noticed he had similar patterns at work as well. His new perspective and consequent behavior had a significantly positive affect on him and all his relationships.

The Disrespectful Adult Son
Raised by a somewhat controlling mother who often judged everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, Julie never saw herself as being judgmental. Upon struggling with her relationship with her adult son, who was distant and disrespectful, she tried to figure out how to change him.  Once she realized that the relationship was weakened by her choice to focus only on those traits she disliked in Robert, she was able to see the role her judgment played in their struggles. Instead of strengthened the relationship by acknowledging Robert’s strengths, her perspective of him pushed him away.  She could not be the supportive parent she wanted to be until she let go of her judgment (forgave him for his shortcomings), providing a stronger foundation for him to trust her and for their relationship to grow.

Where are you struggling in your relationships?  How can you see that person as a reflection, revealing an attitude, perspective or behavior in you that would benefit from your love and attention? Our reality is limited by the way we choose to perceive our world.  Often by changing our perception, we can change our reality.

Is someone pushing your buttons?  If so, consider that you are being given a gift.  They are putting a spotlight on your tender underbelly…that which upsets you.  It may be touching on abuse, insecurity, unforgiveness, judgment or fear.  Whatever it is, the gift is for you to see your reflection, the part of you that would benefit from refinement.  Then put your attention there rather than on them.  The benefits you experience will be dramatic.

By keeping the focus on yourself, the relationships you choose to keep and grow will fulfill both you and them.  The ones you let go of will make way for new healthier relationships.  Those (family) that you cannot completely let go of, give you an opportunity to set healthy boundaries that serve your needs and desires.

How we do something is how we do everything.
How you choose to be in your relationships will determine if they fill your life with vitality and love or stress and upset.  What choices are you making?

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Learn more about How to Mend Your Marriage