Unless you are still with your childhood sweetheart, it is inevitable that your current partner has experienced a past without you in it. Meeting and dating later in life will undoubtedly mean your partner has accumulated some form of ‘baggage’ along the way, as most likely you have too. This could be emotional baggage, where you or your partner are still experiencing the residual emotional effects from past situations (most of us have this in abundance, a topic for another day!) or, the focus of todays blog, which is baggage in the physical form of your partners family, associations, ex partners or children.
Some of us are fortune enough to form enjoyable, calm and loving relationships with our partners friends and family. For those at the other end of the scale, the conflict can go as far as being highly detrimental to our own personal well-being, or even result in the complete breakdown of our relationships. This article is for those of you who fall somewhere between the two! Here I highlight my advice for navigating difficult family dynamics in the most helpful, intelligent and progressive way, which not only insures you maintain a healthy relationship, but also encourages you to present as the best version of yourself.
In true life coaching style, our work here isn’t to blame others and wish they were different, our purpose is to work on how we respond to the reality we have in front of us.
1 Always choose to live in alignment with your higher self
Who are you when you are at your best? Are you patient, kind, and understanding? Or are you rude, judgemental and argumentative? Living in alignment with your highest self means showing up as the best version of you. It involves making decisions that you are proud of, so that you can come away from a situation knowing you acted to the best of your ability. This is my personal golden rule in life that I always try to live by, and whatever the situation, it never fails.
2 Recognise that you may be part of the problem
A tough, but vital one! How have you contributed negatively to this situation? What insecurities do you have that may be at play here? We can become so caught up in the blame game and pointing of fingers, that we oversee our own flaws and unhealthy reactions to the behaviour of others. Getting into the habit of observing yourself is really important, as there will be an element of your input that will have added to the undesired dynamic you are facing.
3 Clearly communicate your feelings in the right way
Communication about anything and everything is the number one necessity of a healthy relationship, however many people don’t know how to communicate effectively. When discussing issues with your partner, especially sensitive topics like family, it’s important you learn to communicate how you feel without causing offence to others. Using ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements is a helpful tool for this. “I feel sad when I don’t feel supported by you” is significantly less provoking than “You never support me!”. If someone feels like they are being attacked, their first instinct will be defence, and your discussion will soon become an argument.
4 Respond, don’t react.
This can be harder in person, and is a skill that takes time, but is well worth developing. Typically when we react to a person or situation it is based off emotion, without thought or filter, and has a tendency to be irrational. Responding is a thoughtful and considered reply, with the purpose of resolve or positive outcome. If you receive an argumentative message, allow yourself 24 hours for your emotions to settle before you reply. If you feel yourself loosing your temper during a phone call or face to face conversation, verbalise that you don’t feel as though you are going to be able to communicate effectively, and that you wish to address the conversation again, after some thought, in a few days time.
5 Be mindful of other peoples feelings
Often when battling our own difficult thoughts and feelings, it becomes so consuming that we end up with very little regard for how others may feel. If you are involved in a feud or disagreement, the other party will also be navigating the discomfort that comes with that. Bear in mind that they have lived a completely different life to you, including their own childhood trauma, insecurities and mental health issues that contribute to them having the perspective that they do. It can be helpful to gain some sensitivity and understanding of why a person is the way they are, even if you don’t agree with them.
6 Know when to mind your own business!
You may have opinions on how your partner raises their children, or the relationship they have with their children’s mum, but it’s not always your place to express that, or expect them to do things the way you would do them. Patience will also play a big part here! It can be a good idea to establish boundaries that you and your partner feel comfortable with surrounding the level of input you have in certain situations. It is also good practice to ask whether your partner would actually like your advice, before delivering any unsolicited opinions!
7 Support your partner
No doubt your partner will be feeling the strain and worry of difficult dynamics between the closest people in their life. Protection of your relationship is what is most important in this situation, and ideally facing your challenges as a united front. It should be you both vs the problem, not you vs each other. Be mindful of how your partner is feeling, and how you can minimise adding more stress to an already stressful situation.
8 Up your self-care
When our thoughts are predominantly on other people, it hugely impacts the focus we have on ourselves. This in itself can cause a whole variety of problems! Stress is draining, so it’s important you are recharging as much as you can. Whatever brings you joy, do more of it.
9 Don’t be selfish!
Whilst whatever you are feeling is always 100% valid, gentle reminder – it’s not always just about you and what you want!
10 Know when enough is enough
Unfortunately there isn’t always a clean cut resolve to every situation, and there will be some sacrifices you are just not willing to make. Your love and respect for yourself comes before all else, and if you feel as though you have acted fairly and appropriately, and are still being disregarded or disrespected, you may have to be prepared to think about calling time on your relationship.
If you are experiencing difficulties within your relationship, or would like help with anything discussed in this post, you can book you complimentary consultation here.