Preserve Your Self-Respect in Relationships

Sometimes...people disappoint us.  They treat us poorly or misinterpret our needs, leaving us feeling hurt, angry or let down.  The skill below can be used to help you preserve self-respect in your own relationships and to guide your children in maintaining healthy relationships too.

When your discomfort alarm rings and you find yourself feeling upset about an interpersonal interaction, think to yourself, "Is this fair to me?"  If someone is asking you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, or if someone's behavior ignores or dismisses your feelings and needs, this is NOT fair to you!

If you decide that the situation isn't fair to you, think about whether you REALLY need to apologize to anyone for what is happening.  You may have the urge to apologize, or you may wish the situation were different, but overapologizing puts you in a position of compromising your self-respect and taking responsibility for a situation you don't own.  For example, if you really don't want to go shopping or meet with a friend for lunch, you don't need to apologize for wanting time to yourself.  It's OKAY to say no!

Next, think about your values for yourself, and in a relationship.  With kids and teens in sessions, I work with them to complete a friendship or relationship bill of rights to write out in clear language all the ways that want, need and deserve to be treated in a relationship.  I also have them write a clause for "dealbreakers" or ways in which another might act or treat them which would be cause for terminating the relationship.  I would encourage you to think about your own bill of rights, or even a family bill of rights!

Finally, be truthful with yourself.  If you have a friend who behaves in every way you outlined on your dealbreakers list, it's time to GET REAL!  Think about whether there are any problems you can solve with assertiveness skills and in relationships that cannot be repaired or are too toxic, work towards distancing yourself and setting limits.  

Relationships can be tricky, especially when you feel lonely or want so desperately to be liked that you may end up keeping people around who aren't good for you.  Think about how to focus your life's energy on the people you love and who bring you joy by setting an intention to bring closer to you those who already meet your bill of rights.