There are so many aspects to creating a great relationship, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the different approaches. techniques, and advice out there.
But in most cases the it is possible create a healthy relationship by just starting with these two things: blame and boundaries.
When we end blame in our relationships and consistently keep good boundaries, we can’t fail at being authentic and healthy!
The reason these two things go hand in hand is because when we stop criticizing or finger pointing, we are left to deal with ourselves—our own reactions, emotions, and needs. This leads to greater awareness and sense of self, which we maintain with good boundaries.
Boundaries are where we start and others begin and we can’t have a real relationship with others without them. Boundaries emerge from the clarity we gain when we stop criticizing.
So if you do nothing else, focus on ending blame and creating good boundaries to create an authentic, solid connection.
Ending Blame: 8 Questions to ask yourself
To see if you are being too critical when bringing something up, ask yourself the following questions:
Is my tone loud, angry or blaming? If so, try lowering the volume or softening you tone. How you say something is just as important that what you’re saying.
Am I using words like “always” or “never?” If so, remember this is not useful information, and only tends to assassinate your partner’s character. Try being more specific, such as: “On Tuesday when you came home late . . .”
Am I using “You statements?” If so, try starting your sentences with “I.” For example instead of saying “You were late,” say “I felt worried when you were late.” This change in wording takes responsibility for your own emotional response, and provides specific information your partner can choose to consider.
Am I focusing on personality rather than behavior? Instead of saying “You seem kind of self-absorbed,” try identifying specific behavior, such as: “I felt hurt when you forgot my birthday.”
Am I focused on the past rather than the present situation? If so, bring yourself back to the immediate issue, concern or behavior. Try to avoid going down the laundry list of complaints and just stick to one thing at a time.
In addition to the technical aspects of bringing up complaints, try looking at the underlying emotional pieces that cause us to criticize. Ask yourself the following questions:
Am I talking about myself? Whatever qualities you criticize could remind you of a disowned part of yourself that you can’t tolerate. Sometimes we even choose partners who clearly embody those parts of us, so that we can point the finger outside ourselves. Is this happening for you?
Would I rather be right or feel close? If you decide on the latter, actively remember the things you like about your partner, and also take responsibility for how you might have contributed to whatever upsets you–however small.
What is the desire beneath the criticism? Often there is an unmet need underlying our complaints. “You are always late” might actually mean: “I’m scared you won’t come back.” If this applies to you, turn your unmet need into a respectful request.
Boundaries: 5 Ways to Set and Keep Boundaries
Admit Your Personal Lines. Do not judge yourself. If it’s too much for you, it just is. If you don’t want to, that is OK!
Trust Your Intuition. Listen to your gut feeling and stop second-guessing. You know what you know. Trust it.
Practice Limit Setting on Small Things. Practice saying “no” by starting with something minor. Then it will feel easier to draw the line on major issues.
Spend More Time with People Who Support Your Limits. Some people will guilt-trip or pressure us. Know who they are and avoid them until you are stronger.
Listen to Your Body. Your body will send you messages. Pay attention. For example, a tightness in the stomach and chest can signal fear. If you are afraid, support your defenses and protect yourself until you can expand again.
If you follow these 5 steps consistently, it will become second nature to honor yourself. Your relationships can only benefit from you being your best self. We teach others how to treat us.
Remember, when you are blaming you are not seeing yourself clearly. And when you don’t see your self clearly, you can’t maintain healthy boundaries.
So when working to improve your relationship, try starting with just blame and boundaries: Are you blaming your partner, or ignoring your boundaries?
Once these have been addressed, it is much easier to incorporate other tools and techniques to create a thriving relationship.
Good luck with these tips, and if you have questions about how to apply these in your relationship, schedule a relationship audit coaching session with me here.