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Who are you in relationships?

One measure of the quality of my relationships is the qualities that emerge from me when I interact with the people in my life.  One of the first things that I noticed when I began dating the woman I am now married to is that she brought out the best in me.  This is not to say we never have any conflicts or challenges in our relationship, but for the vast majority of our time together, the way we interact brings out the positive aspects of my personality. My ability to be the best version of myself in this relationship is what makes it harmonious and happy. 

Each of us plays a role in our relationships and our interactions with these people can trigger both positive and negative behaviours and emotions. Whether in intimate relationships, friendships, work colleagues or our broader family, the role we play and the elements of our personality that are most prominent in that role can vary depending on who we are interacting with. The traits we exhibit can be triggered by positive or negative experiences in our past, beliefs and strategies developed over time, fears and insecurities, or the mental models through which we see the world. Any number of influences can impact who we are in relationships. 

I have led teams where different individuals brought out positive and negative aspects of my leadership style.  I have had bosses who inspired my best qualities and others who brought out more negative aspects of my personality. The same is true of past intimate partners, friends and colleagues. In some cases, I could choose who I wanted in my life and in others, I could not.  If friends or lovers bring out the worst in you it is possible to end those relationships.  This may not be as easy when the person who brings out the worst in you is a colleague, parent or sibling. You can never control all the outside conditions that trigger negative emotions and behaviours in you, so what else can you do?

My relationship with my wife may bring out the best in me for a variety of reasons and one of these is that I have worked on myself.  I have worked to heal past traumas and improved my communication skills.  I have recognised unhelpful beliefs and strategies that distort my perception and trigger negative reactions.  When you recognise the patterns in you that undermine your relationships you will have the awareness to allow change.  Awareness allows change! When you recognise who you are in relationships you will more easily determine if the change needed is within you or outside of you.  To quote Esther Peres, “The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.” So, in our quest to live happier, more successful lives it is important to reflect on who you are in relationships. 

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