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The seven series blog postings on the Seven Signs of a Healthy Relationship continues to truck along this week with the fifth sign of a healthy relationship. This sign of a healthy relationship really hits home for me, as it is something I am constantly working on as an individual and as a partner in my own relationship. The fifth sign is: partners practice self-compassion. I think it only makes sense to add to this sign and say partners not only practice self-compassion, but also relational compassion.
When I think of self-compassion it is necessary to answer this question: are you kind to yourself first- or critical to yourself first? Begin to consider how the answer to this question then translates into your relationship. Are you kind to your relationship first- or critical first, then kind next? If you find you are critical first, there is an opportunity to focus on self-compassion and relational compassion.
The times I have felt as if my relationship was most challenged have been when I have been most challenged myself.
Think of yourself in this scenario: when you are not feeling positive towards yourself there tends to be a general negative view transferred to other parts of your life as well. Things around you in your environment are naturally more criticized and negatively viewed. What is typically the closest to you in your environment? Your relationship will likely be closest to you and take the critical hit. The natural train of thought can become: I need to change this in myself…my relationship needs to change this…everything around me needs changing!
Your self worth and relational worth can begin to be negatively impacted due to the lack of self-compassion. Patterns can emerge individually and relationally where criticism is the norm and self-compassion is a challenging afterthought. It can be helpful to become curious and ask where the criticism is coming from. For example, maybe you have navigated through life as a perfectionist where expectations for yourself are high, so high the pressures of meeting them create stress. This stress may then create criticism. This could be an expectation you learned from your family, from your friends, or from your overall experience through school or work. It is never too late to begin to challenge any ingrained way of how you view and perceive yourself. Challenging your initial critical view can begin by considering the following:
Come from a place of compassion versus criticism.
Self criticism- “I’m a failure, I am not good enough, I am falling short…”
Self- Compassion- “I am working towards something, I am good enough, and good enough is enough...”
Relational Criticism- “He/she is not meeting my needs and will not ever be able to, this person will always fall short…”
Relational Compassion: “He/she is trying to meet my needs and is doing his/her best, he/she is putting forth effort which is worth acknowledging…”
This approach may sound simple when first considered, but you may be surprised how often you can catch yourself criticizing yourself or your partner first before being compassionate. Replacing criticism with compassion can create a healthy pattern for yourself and your relationship. Your individual experience and relational experience is not always easy and being compassionate of these difficulties that are naturally experienced can go a long way.
*DiDonato, T.E. (July/August 2015). Article Adjustment Bureau. Psychology Today, 93.