You are having a conversation with a friend. He/She is going on and on about something he/she feels passionate about. You don’t completely agree and can see where he/she is mistaken in your mind.
You nod your head in agreement, while internally you think, “I don’t agree with this.” or, “Here they go again, with the same old dysfunction.”
This is where you have just destroyed the essence of what true friendships and great relationships are all about.
Your need to please, to not offend, supersedes your own truth and will rot the relationship from the inside out.
A relationship framework:
I have a way I conceptualize relationships that has guided my life-coaching work for years. I want to share it with you.
Every relationship is really made up of three individuals. There is “You.” There is “Me” and then there is you/me (i.e. Ume).
Ume can only be as strong, honest, and giving as the weakest of the two individuals involved in the relationship. One person may be strong, secure and centered, but if the other person is insecure, needy and unstable then the relationship will necessarily lean in that direction.
Imagine a flow of energy that goes back and forth between two people. In the center of that exchange, where the two energies meet, a ball of energy is formed. That “energy” is Ume and it has presence, identity and influence as if it were a separate entity.
Ume can be a source of love, honesty and integrity for the relationship. It can also be a source of strength and stability. At its best, it serves as an energetic reservoir that gives “You” & “Me” more strength and power as individuals than they could muster on their own.
At its worst, it serves as an energetic bolster for one and an energetic drain for the other. Unfortunately, many relationships end up in this unequal footing whether we are conscious of it or not.</p>
One quick clarification. I am not talking about temporary states. In any relationship the flow of energy is not equal all of the time, but rather equals out overtime. The negative consequences occur if there is a long and sustained tilt in energetic and emotional resources from one person to the other.
The energetic drain
When the energetic and emotional resources of one person in the relationship start to dominate, an imbalance begins to occur.
“Me” becomes drained by the relationship while “You” is being charged by it. If this pattern continues, the relationship will soon be on shaky ground. It is my opinion and experience (both personally and from working with couples) that this dynamic almost always ends in some sort of fracturing of the relationship.
It may not necessarily mean a breakup (romantic) or dissolution (friendship) of the relationship, but it almost always results in a reallocation and balancing of energies. This is where secret affairs come from and why best friends may shift to new best friends.</p>
Why does is happen?
The why behind this dynamic has to do with three things:
First, we have to be aware enough to spot this dysfunction. Can we get past our own delusions, whether it be insecurity or arrogance, to see the relationship clearly?
Insecurity makes us feel like everything is our fault. Arrogance makes us believe everything is the other person’s fault. The truth is blinded by these two forms of delusion.
To help the situation, honesty about: the need to please, attempt to manage another’s emotions, controlling of or acquiescing to others has to be present.
Sadly, our human need for comfort and certainty makes us miss these critical dynamics. It’s ironic because ignoring them may delay a relationship split, but it usually only makes it worse when it finally comes.
This is why you see so many people seemingly sabotage relationships that looked “perfect” from the outside looking in. When we see these relationships implode in the messy world of affairs, hidden lives, addiction, etc., we can now understand what was happening.
We humans are not islands unto ourselves and we will, one way or another, get our emotional needs met. If a relationship is not equitable and balanced, we will form other relationships to compensate.
These could be other friends, lovers, escapism, drugs, food, etc.
The confusing thing is that we will want to assign blame. Our brains like to keep things neat and tidy in this way. It seems logical to say, “’You’ has drained “Me” and, therefore, “Me” sought to be charged elsewhere.”
It is not nearly that simple, however. Just as often, “Me” has been dishonest, whether consciously or unconsciously. He/she has created a false relationship where he/she chooses to be the one teaching, serving, loving and supporting. While, also choosing perhaps, not to receive.
This often gets missed, but we all know people who feel, for whatever reason, they must be in charge and in control. They enter into the relationship with their friend or significant other under these conditions and then find they can’t maintain this constant giving without receiving.
As a result, they go and give elsewhere because, for a short time, this giving charges them. But its charge rarely lasts. Eventually, as humans, we need love, appreciation and support too.
Additionally, it is not always a case of one giver and one taker. Just as prevalent, the “giver” can be a false giver with the “taker” essentially being duped by entering into a dishonest relationship, whether the other party realized they were being dishonest or not.
This is why understanding your emotional needs is critical, but communicating them is even more essential.
Own your emotions & let them own theirs
Which brings me to the most critical part of this discussion, and the one that causes almost all the pain, confusion and strife in relationships.
In the end, “You” is responsible for his/her emotions. No one else is. “Me” is also responsible for his/her emotions. If each person understands this and takes on this task fully, most issues are averted.
“You” can’t make “Me” mad, sad, frustrated or anything else. Nor can “You” take these things away. It is not “You’s” responsibility, It’s “Me’s.”
If “You” lies to “Me” in order to not hurt his/her feelings, then the relationship is dishonest. As soon as this happens, “You” denies “Me” the opportunity for true connection, growth and understanding.
Of course, there will be emotional responses from each person. There will also often be consequences. “You” speaks his/her truth, and “Me” speaks his/hers. This type of honest communication either strengthens and bolsters the relationship, or dissolves it.
This vulnerable, emotional integrity exposes weak, unbalanced relationships and elevates strong, reciprocal ones.
Level ten relationships always operate from this place. “You” is not responsible for “Me” and “Me” is not responsible for “You.” Their respective emotional reactions are theirs, and theirs alone, to manage.
What holds this type of relationship together? Compassion, empathy and a commitment to growth.
Honesty without compassion is cruelty, and no relationship can, or should, endure that. The key insight is: there is no crueler act than dishonesty.
Denying a friend or loved one your truth is preventing them from knowing you. It is creating a false relationship where the person never gets to know you at all.
Relationships are perhaps the most important growth promoters for any human. It is through relationships that we confront our dysfunctions, needs, strengths and weaknesses. Without relationships, we become delusional in our own circular, arrogant thoughts.
Relationships have the potential to elevate us to places we could never go by ourselves, but not if we sabotage them from the start by holding back who we actually are.
If you truly want great relationships, then be open and honest about yourself. Speak honestly, and with compassion about your needs. Honesty and a forced confrontation with our own emotional baggage are gifts that should be given freely in any strong relationship or friendship.
It is direspectful to not trust another person to handle their emotions. It is dishonest to try to manage and control another person’s emotional reactions.
Be there lovingly, compassionately and empathetically, but speak your truth. Give them all the information, and let them manage their own emotions. “You”, “Me” and “Ume” will end up stronger and brighter in the end.</p>