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Taking Responsibility for Our Relationships




Excerpted from
A Plentiful Harvest; Creating Balance and Harmony Through the Seven Living Virtues
By Terrie Williams

Our relationships with friends and family are the most valuable things in our lives, they're also one of the most difficult things to take responsibility for. We can't always predict how another person is going to react, and too often it seems like the whole thing risks flying out of our control. But it can't fly out of control, not entirely. Because every relationship has two sides, and though you can't dictate another person's actions, you can certainly take responsibility for your own. Your first duty to those you love is to do your best with your end of the relationship bargain-to treat your friends or husband or lover with respect and generosity, no matter what kind of chaos is coming down in your own life.

What Joanne really needed to do was sit down and take a good look at the relationships in her life that were giving her legitimate trouble. Sure, it's easy to say you're being used and abused-and sometimes that's the God's honest truth, in which case the only solution is to cut and run and save yourself any further heartache. But relationships are rarely that simple. If we're having troubles, we owe it ourselves and to our loved ones to spend some time tracing those troubles back to their roots.

Every human being has needs. But sometimes we're afraid to voice those needs because we're afraid of appearing too demanding or that our friends and family won't be there for us when we ask. If you want a healthy relationship, though, that's a chance you've got to take. Both parties share equal responsibility for how a relationship unfolds. Are you and your mate bickering all the time? Instead of deciding to feel put out and spending hours complaining to your girlfriends, maybe you should to take a closer look at what lies beneath the arguments. Maybe troubles at work. Maybe worries about money or something going on with the kids. You owe it to both of you to probe deeper than just another fight over who has to drive the car pool. If you can get to the root of the problem together, then it's got a real chance of being solved.

A few years ago I was seeing a man I really eared about. When the relationship started, it was nothing but fun-dinner, dancing, a weekend trip to the coast. We were neck deep in the honeymoon period, and I refused to believe it would ever end. But once we'd been seeing each other about six months, the bliss started to fade. I had a difficult new client and I wound up feeling stressed out and depressed. The prospect of not always being in fine form for my man made me worried. Maybe he wouldn't like the real me. So I kept trying to put on a happy face. Needless to say, this got old real quick. I started resenting the man I cared about for making me pretend to be someone I wasn't. Looking back, I now realize I was the one putting most of the pressure on the relationship. I finally snapped over him leaving a bunch of dirty dishes in the sink. I completely overreacted, and out came all the anger I'd been building up toward him and the new client and the world in general. We wound up deciding to cool things off that same night.

For months afterward I steamed over how that guy couldn't take the real me. I hen, as I moaned yet again to a friend who was just sick of hearing about it, she finally asked me what this man had done to make me so sure he couldn't handle the genuine Terrie. Her question made me think, and I decided to back-track and look at my behavior honestly. Once I'd done that, I made the decision to accept my share of the responsibility for what had gone wrong. I called my ex and apologized for blowing up like I had instead of raising the real issues bothering me. He apologized for not being more sensitive toward the pressure I'd been under at work. Since then the two of us have resolved our differences and remained close friends. When you're having a conflict with someone, it's all too easy to just sound off or run away. But taking responsibility for our relationships means that we must look honestly at the role we play.

A strong relationship will last forever. It will be there when the work and parties and stresses of daily life have disappeared, and it deserves all the time, respect, and hard work we know how to invest. A strong relationship is one in which both parties contribute thought and energy, and are willing to make compromises. If you're the only one willing to do any work, that may be a red flag that you've hooked up with a creep. But some work, difficult work, is always going to be necessary.

If you care about a person, part of that investment includes accepting responsibility for how you treat him. Both of you need to spend time just keeping the lines of communication open. Are you being sensitive to your mate's needs? Are there problems neither of you is addressing that are causing tension in the relationship? are you blaming other people for not fulfilling desires you haven't voiced? Even those people who love you the most can't read your mind. They don't know how you're feeling until you tell them about it. And no matter how angry or fed up you might be, do your best to stay calm and choose your words carefully. You owe it to those you love to both care and give them the chance to care back. Be sensitive, be gentle, be generous, be honest. Every person deserves to be treated with the same respect we want for ourselves, most of all, those people we love.



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