Why is it so hard to have healthy relationships? And so easy to fall into unhealthy patterns, forgetting ourselves in the process?
These were just a couple of the questions we explored during our Moving Conversations: Creating Healthy Relationships event last Tuesday. While the conversation offered so many profound lessons, the key takeaways that deeply resonated were:
Our values come from somewhere. Some we have inherited from our family, while others we have adopted from society along the way.
Ultimately, if we are to create healthy relationships, we need to know who we are. And that means taking the time to decide which values are truly ours. These values are our internal moral compass, allowing us to decide what matters and what we will not compromise on; the foundation stone for healthy, honest relationships.
For one community participant, it was when she recoiled from another person's behaviour that she realised her own values. While uncomfortable at the time, she realised she would need to form boundaries in future interactions. In turn, this also opened her up to others in her family who share similar values.
Many shared about struggling to balance their time with work, family, and friends.
This is not surprising. With its emphasis on efficiency and individualism, modern society disincentivises us from forming healthy relationships. We dedicate so much time and energy to doing, rather than just being, increasingly relying on an ever-diminishing circle of people (perhaps even just a partner or friend) to meet all our needs. This can leave us worrying about burdening others with our problems, or being judged by others for following a different path to them.
The antidote is to be more willing to break away from structures that tell us that love comes from one source, or that personal fulfilment must be achieved in a certain way. Rather, it is when we form deep bonds that bring out our best selves, and when we become more considered, honest and open in how we express love, that our world becomes "abundant" with possibilities for love and generosity. At that point "burdens" become an opportunity to practice both giving and receiving.
Breaking away from unhealthy patterns can sometimes be unwelcome, especially where others expect us to behave a certain way. Yet it is the surest path to healing.
For one participant, illness has forced changes to become more vocal about his capacity to give and receive. As he withdrew from social engagements, he became aware of who would "hold" him whatever season he was going through. Some of his relationships did fall to the periphery, more genuine ones flourished, growing deeper and more meaningful.
Another participant told us how difficult it had been to summon the courage to stand up for her values at work, which resulted in her being stood down. In listening to others, she realised she was not alone in needing time to grieve, process, and reconnect with herself before embarking on any new work. Taking this time becomes an act of both self-care and care for others in future workplaces.
A lightbulb moment for another community member was when she was caught in a cycle of friendship breakups. Her sister eventually asked:
Do you think the problem is with you?
This question caused her to re-examine her tendency to over-extend or over-commit herself in friendships, leaving her burnt out and unable to sustain this level of commitment. Importantly, the actual shift in behaviour came from a business acquaintance. Because it was a new relationship, she was able to practice new ways of thinking and behaving, without potentially feeling judged for past actions.
Moving Conversations events will return in 2021. We believe these conversations provide a much-needed home for community members to explore and tackle difficult and complex issues in a safe, facilitated environment. Keep an eye out on our Facebook page for event details. We'd love to see you there.