Thursday 27 October 2016

Dr Ciara Kelly: 'Be happy in your relationship. If you're not - do something about it'

Dr Ciara Kelly explores relationships and the reasons we might need to examine and change ours.

Published 23/11/2015 | 02:30

Getting on: Relationships, like most other areas of life, says Ciara Kelly, are relatively simple if you stay true to yourself. Photo: Gerry Mooney.
Getting on: Relationships, like most other areas of life, says Ciara Kelly, are relatively simple if you stay true to yourself. Photo: Gerry Mooney.

This week we're talking about relationships. Are you happy? Can you be? Many of us want to be in a loving relationship, but if your relationship isn't enriching your life, maybe something needs to change.

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There's nothing so important to the human condition as a feeling of connectedness with another living being.

All of us at some level want to be close to someone. Want to love and be loved in return. But for some of us the strong desire to enter in or remain in a relationship, blinds us to the fact that that relationship might not be good for us. Might not be fulfilling its purpose - might be past its sell-by date.

There are multiple good reasons why people want to be in a relationship. It provides security, a feeling of love, of being valued. It offers sex. It provides companionship. At its best, being in a loving relationship can make you feel like the best version of yourself.

But often people find themselves in a relationship that offers none of that. That instead leaves them feeling isolated, even lonely, within the relationship. That makes them feel unloved and sometimes unlovable. That undermines or makes them feel inadequate and like a smaller diminished version of the person they used to be.

This may not be all the fault of their partner. Abusive partners do exist; partners who bully, intimidate and erode your self-worth (my advice in those circumstances is always to get out and get out now.) But it isn't always about abuse. Sometimes over time, a messed up dynamic develops between two people. A miscommunication left unsorted. A failure to speak up about what's making you unhappy. A belief that nothing can change. A desire to avoid conflict. An ostrich-like response to difficulties, placing your head in the sand rather than sorting things out occurs.

Sometimes it's not that you don't make each other happy - it's that over time a series of compromises have moved you away from where you wanted to be, to a place you don't like and you don't know how to change that.

Relationships, like most other areas of life are relatively simple if you stay true to yourself. Because it may be a bit of a cliche, but the person you really have to get along with is yourself. If you're happy in that relationship - it bodes well for the others.

So ask yourself is your relationship making you happy? Do you feel valued? Can you really be yourself in it? Does it allow you to grow as a person? If the answer is no - something needs to change.

TIP: Warning signs I always think worth looking out for are: is the other person happy when you do well; are they possessive about you or your time; do they attempt to run you down - particularly in public?

If the answer to those questions is yes - then you're in a toxic relationship which will likely remain so. And you can waste months or years on trying to change that but probably the person you're involved with is not ready to be in a good relationship.

People often wish their partner would change, but it's worth remembering you can't make another person change. All you can do is try to change your own behaviour patterns - which can have surprising consequences. Because when you change what you're doing yourself, the people around you do change in response - but you have to change first.

And remember that just because someone says 'I love you' doesn't mean much if the quality of love on offer is poor. All love isn't equal. An 'I love you' from someone who treats you badly isn't the same as one from someone who treats you well. If it doesn't feel like love, it probably isn't in any worthwhile sense.

Romantic relationships aren't the only ones that get in trouble. A surprising number of friendships become toxic too. And adults are often unprepared for the upset that causes. I often talk to people who've had a friendship go south and are devastated by it or equally have a friendship where every interaction leaves them feeling uneasy, upset or belittled. Listen to your gut on this. Surround yourself with positive friendships that enrich your life and you enjoy. Not ones where you've to watch what you say and you suspect you're savaged when you leave the room!

A lot of relationships are down to timing, which is hard to accept when we're constantly sold the idea of there being 'the one for you.' There's lots of people you could be happy with, but sometimes things don't work out because of external factors and it's better to accept that.

TIP: Never be afraid to be on your own. It's always preferable to being in a bad relationship!

TIP: Assess honestly if your relationship is more about give than take. Assess honestly if you're happy in your relationships. If not identify what the problems are. Decide if they're fixable. If they are - Do it! Stop wasting time being unhappy when you don't have to be. If they aren't - Move on. Life is short - try and make it sweet.

Next week we'll be focusing on. sustaining positive change for the rest of your life Good luck. @ciarakellydoc #changeispossible

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