The principles of my relationship therapy are universal. These aren't concepts that apply specifically to one situation or person -- they apply to anyone. I say this with confidence because every single one of us has a past -- experiences that, unless critically analyzed, will catch up to us. This is where our "emotional baggage" comes from.
You may have had a decent upbringing, with parents who did their very best for you; perhaps there were no major traumas or losses, or any one particular moment that defined the rest of your life. Maybe you can't see an obvious reason why you haven't found happiness in your relationships, but somehow it's not happening as you envisioned. You can't seem to locate the answers that will bring everything together.
Don't give up, or become angry that you're not getting what you deserve. Understanding is a journey, and if you're curious enough about where it could lead, then you can move ahead.
The Core Principles of Relationship Therapy
There are certain basic concepts about managing a relationship that you must understand. You've probably never taken a course that has forced you to look at these issues, so think of the rest of this book as that course, one that will give you a "relationship education."
Let's take a look at the following four relationship principles:
Core Principle #1: Your Past Sets the Stage for Every Single Thing That Happens in Your Life
Like it or not, you can't escape your past. Recently, I saw a movie in which one of the recurring messages was: You may be through with the past, but the past may not be through with you. This is prophetic, and very true. Your memories and experiences matter, and they set the stage for everything you do in life.
The partners you pick, the relationships you create, the jobs you choose -- it's all based on past experiences. If you don't believe me, then evaluate some of your friends who have ended up in unhappy relationships. I'll bet you can see that they never understood their pasts, and they're repeating old patterns over and over -- which brings us to the next point.
Core Principle #2: If You Don't Understand Your Past, You're Destined to Repeat Previous Failures
I should say that you're doomed to repeat old mistakes, because you'll continue to pick the same types of partners, make the same poor job decisions, and end up in the same unfulfilling situations in your life. The pattern is set in place, leading you to spiral downward in a vicious circle of destructive decisions, unless you follow the next principle.
Core Principle #3: You Must Begin to Process an "Objective Analysis" of Your Life
You don't need to relive every experience or memory in detail, but you must start to look objectively at previous relationships in your life, including the ones you've had with your parents, siblings, family members, friends, and people you've dated. This includes an analysis of the positive and negative points of these experiences. This means that you need to make the commitment to look inside yourself -- most people are quite frightened to do so.
Sometimes patients will walk into my office on day one and say that they can't handle the process of talking about their life because it's too painful. So, they avoid the tough conversations with themselves and their partners.
I tell them that my hope is that by looking within, they'll enrich themselves and become more free. A key to good mental health is looking inward for the answers, rather than depending on others to provide direction, for what happens if they don't have the right answers and you decide to follow their advice?
One of the primary concepts people with successful relationships know is: In order to understand another person, you first have to take a good look inside yourself. These individuals are aware that in order to do so, they have to follow their hearts -- but it's also necessary to use their brains and logistical skills in addition to their emotions.
Core Principle #4: Your Relationship Therapy Begins with Your Asking "Why?"
How do you go about looking within? First, you must be curious about your motivations and your partner's motivations in the relationship. A real therapist asks "Why?": Why are you doing that? Why are you embarking on this path? Why are you feeling this?
Likewise, your challenge as your own therapist will be to also ask those (and other) questions of yourself, and frequently.
Why did I feel like that?
Why did I get angry with my spouse?
Why didn't I do the household chores when I said I would?
Why did I choose an incompatible partner again?
Why am I attracted to a certain type of person?
Why am I never happy?
Why do I feel as if I never get what I want out of a relationship?
The list of questions could go on and on, but approaching your relationship in this way can lead to some wonderful and productive discussions between you and your partner.
Developing a True Understanding of Your Current Relationship
Now you're probably asking, "So how am I going to start doing this? I don't think that way!" I'll counter with my belief that you can think in this way if you put your mind to it, because the alternative is to be ignorant about what's driving your relationships.
A practice of questioning will lead to a true understanding of your current relationship and previous experiences in life. Understanding leads to control about relationship choices, which leads to true freedom to make rational and positive decisions. All of this flows from the habit of using the word why in your daily relationship interactions.
I want you to keep this paradigm in mind:
Asking why a leads to an understanding of previous life experiences and current relationship issues, leads to true control and allows freedom to create a positive relationship.
The most important why questions that I want you to keep in mind throughout every day of your relationship are these:
Why am I with this particular partner, and why am I in this particular love relationship?
Why do I allow my partner to do certain things that upset me or make our relationship difficult?
Why don't I get what I need out of our interactions?
Why do I exhibit behaviors and emotions that could potentially end the relationship?
I know that at this point you may not have the answers to these questions, but the next thought that ought to follow any why question should be an answer that begins with "Because I . . ." This process forces you to think about your motives and behavior in the relationship, and from this will come an understanding of your choices.
©2001. Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hay House, Inc. www.hayhouse.com
A Relationship For A Lifetime: Everything You Need To Know To Create A Love That Lasts
by Kelly E. Johnson, M.D.
A book on everything you need to know to create a love that lasts for a lifetime. It's therapy without having to go to the office. You can create the relationship of your dreams, if you do the work to become your own relationship expert.
About the Author
Kelly E. Johnson, M.D., the author of A Relationship for a Lifetime and Relationship Problem Solver, is a nationally recognized psychiatrist and relationship therapist. He has extensive media experience, having appeared regularly on television shows such as The Jenny Jones Show and Montel as their “relationship expert.” Since receiving his degree in psychiatry from Northwestern University, Dr. Johnson has maintained a private consultation practice.