Is there a personal relationship in your life that you would like to improve or you are not sure about? For each of the statements in the following list, note the statement a, b, or c that most accurately describes this relationship.
a. I feel totally free to be myself in this relationship.
b. I feel free to be myself most of the time.
c. I feel constrained and dominated in this relationship.
a. I never or rarely feel angry with this person.
b. I sometimes feel angry with this person.
c. I often feel angry with this person.
a. I am never or rarely critical of this person.
b. I am sometimes critical of this person.
c. I am often critical of this person.
a. I can always rely on this person.
b. I can usually rely on this person.
c. I can’t rely on this person.
a. I spend the right amount of time with this person.
b. I want to spend more time with this person.
c. I want to spend less time with this person.
a. I share a lot of common interests with this person.
b. I have some interests in common with this person.
c. I have very few or no interests in common with this person.
Now add up the total number of points you have given for the relationship using the following scores:
Statement 1: a = 6; b = 4; c = 0.
Statement 2: a = 3; b = 2; c = 0.
Statement 3: a = 4; b = 2; c = 0.
Statement 4: a = 4; b = 2; c = 0.
Statement 5: a = 6; b = 3; c = 0.
Statement 6: a = 7; b = 4; c = 0.
Your final score will be somewhere between 0 and 30.
If the relationship scores between 0 and 9, you might wish to consider why you are still in the relationship. If you still want the relationship to continue, you will need to work hard on several of the issues (as identified in the next section: relationships scoring between 10 and 19).
If the relationship scores between 10 and 19, you have some serious work to do to improve the relationship. Look at the areas where the relationship has scored low and think carefully about how you can change the way you behave in order to improve things. Don’t try to change the other person because this usually fails. If you change your behaviour, you may be surprised at the results. Here are some clues as to how you might approach particular areas of concern:
- I feel constrained and Decide on something you really want to do and do it with or without the approval of this person. Start with something that is not too difficult. Try not to justify why you want to do this thing, and be open about what you are doing. You may find this extremely difficult to start with, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t succeed initially. Remember, you don’t need permissionto be yourself.
- I often feel angry with this person. Think carefully about what makes you angry. How can you change the way you behave so you feel less angry with this person? We usually feel angry because the other person is not behaving in the way we want them to or how we think they should. Or putting it another way, we want to control their behaviour. But we can’t control their behaviour; we can only control our behaviour. So the key to eliminating anger is to change the way we behave.
- I am often critical of this person. This is similar to anger. You are trying to make this person how you want them to be. Criticism will not change this person and will probably destroy the relationship. If you want the relationship to succeed, think carefully about how you can change what you are doing so you no longer feel the need to criticise this person. Instead of criticising the person involved, try telling him or her how you feel. Tell him or her if you are upset, lonely, or betrayed. There is an important difference between letting someone know how you feel and criticising him or her. If he or she really isn’t interested in how you feel, there is not much hope for the relationship.
- I can’t rely on this person. This is a serious problem, but it is important to try to understand what has led to this situation. For example, it may be because the person is totally stressed out by work or other responsibilities. Or perhaps, something happened in the person’s life, or in your relationship, that causes the person to be unreliable. You need to talk, make it clear to the other person how you feel, and discuss what you can both do to improve the situation.
- I want to spend less time with this person. Ask yourself why. If you really don’t enjoy being with this person, you need to be clear about why you are still in the relationship. However, this is not always a bad sign – it may mean that you need more time apart. The danger in this situation is that the other person feels threatened, or undervalued, by your need for more space. Explain how you feel but reassure the person that you value the relationship.
- We have very few or no interests in common. This is pretty serious because it is difficult to make a relationship work if you do not have things in common. If you still want or need the relationship to work, you need to think about building up areas of interest that you can share. No relationship can survive on thin air. You need to spend time talking to one another or doing things you both
If the relationship scores between 20 and 30, it is working well. But it is still worth trying to improve areas with low scores by using some of the suggestions listed earlier.
There isn’t a set recipe for success in relationships. The important thing is to recognise areas where a relationship could improve, be open and honest with the person involved, and be willing to change your behaviour. Be creative and original in your relationships with people, and try to meet their needs as well as your own.
Try to spend more time in relationships that you enjoy and less time in those that seem to drain your energy. You don’t have to force yourself to break up a relationship until you feel ready to do so. It will happen naturally, as you develop more self-esteem and form more creative and constructive relationships in your life.
Relationships are very precious; it is through relationships that we learn about others, and more importantly, it is how we learn about ourselves.
The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.
Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist (1875 – 1961
Extract from my recently published book: