A common struggle in relationships is finding the balance of supporting your significant other and ensuring your own needs are met. For some, there is a gradual shift in overcompensating for the significant other in a particular area, sometimes there is a significant life event that prompts the change, and other times, people find themselves in lifelong patterns in relationships that are unsatisfying and unhealthy.
In our fast-paced American culture, we have placed enormous stress on ourselves, and as our culture has changed, how we take care of ourselves has also changed. Here are a few strategies to help find balance in your relationships.
Step back and self-reflect. “If I don’t have balance in my relationships, do I have balance in my own life?” Make a list of your needs. Sometimes, it’s difficult to identify that those are. You can start with asking yourself: When do I feel peace and contentment? What is different during those times than the times I feel exhausted, drained, unappreciated, or confused?
Now that you have identified at least some of your needs, look at how you meet those needs. In our fast-paced culture, we are often so busy reacting to circumstances and others’ needs, that we lose sight of who we are as individuals and have put the commitment to ourselves last…if there is time or energy left. Let’s look at that question again…Now that you have identified at least some of your needs, look at how you meet those needs.
In a family systems approach, the family is seen by the interactions and roles that each member takes on as they contribute to the family unit as a whole. Family roles can be healthy or harmful. In a healthy and balanced relationship, the roles are mutually beneficial and flexible. When the relationship is not balanced, the roles are often rigid, inflexible and assigned. For instance, there may be a caretaker, scapegoat, dictator, person who is thought of as weak. It is usually not fulfilling to take on a rigid role for others, or to expect that from others.
Do something. It’s not a matter of positive thinking; it’s a matter of positive doing for you, (as well as others.) Put your own needs as a priority, and be responsible for meeting them. Work together with your significant other to see how your individual needs work together. How do you compliment each other? In a balanced relationship, each person brings their strengths to share, being vulnerable about the areas that are not strengths. In a balanced relationship, the individuals compliment those areas, not exploit them for power or position.
Be encouraging of others, but not responsible. Love is kind, gentle and encouraging. It is not, however, taking responsibility for the choices, behaviors and emotions of others.
Set appropriate boundaries. A boundary is an understanding of the expectations between people. In a balanced relationship, individual boundaries are mutually beneficial and respected.
Sometimes it is helpful to have an objective person help explore the difference between needs and wants, explore how roles and boundaries are affecting each member in the family (or relationship), and if patterns of behavior or roles that we fill from our past affect how we discern what is healthy and satisfying for us now.
I hope these thoughts help stimulate healthy and fulfilling choices in your life.