Have you ever been in a relationship? If you’re someone who has other people in your life, then the answer is yes! A relationship is when two (or more) people interact for a purpose. Any human being has several relationships that require some kind of commitment and effort. Friends, colleagues, family, and of course our partners, all require we give something of ourselves. Let’s keep all relationships in mind, but just for creating a context, think about that “special someone” in your life. Think back to the time when you first met him or her. Focus in on those initial moments and remember the excitement and the chemistry you felt. Did you want to spend all your time with that person? Did you sacrifice sleep, get out of other commitments, and do things you wouldn’t normally do, just to build on that relationship?
Beginnings of relationships are wonderful. We also tend to go that extra mile to show that we are invested. However, we all have needs. A lot of relationships, either intimate or otherwise, fail because people don’t get their needs met. It is up to us to not only identify our needs, but to also figure out how we can communicate them, or have them met. In the beginning, you may be willing to sacrifice some of your own needs to get things moving, but that is not sustainable in the long run. So let’s look at some basic rules through which you can still be true to yourself while building a relationship that you cherish.
Rule 1: Avoid pretending: Have you ever pretended to like something just because you wanted to fit in, or for the other person to like you? We may do this in social situations but pretending to be someone you’re not is extremely dangerous for any intimate relationship. It will be next to impossible to maintain the pretense because your own needs will scream for attention. For example, if you really need some time alone when you come home, but you pretend that you don’t, it will only take a certain amount of time until you start to become irritable and resentful. This resentment will start showing up and poisoning your relationship, even if it is the relationship with your children. So if you’re starting any new relationship, just be sure to be yourself, at least about the things that are truly important to you. If there are things that you don’t like to do, just be honest. Ask the other person to do the same. At times, we may not realize that we are pretending, at least in the beginning. If this happens, don’t worry, just say something as soon as you begin to figure out that you’re not really being true to who you really are. Remember, if you don’t, it will eventually show up in a way that will be destructive to the relationship.
Rule 2: Talk about expectations: Human beings always have expectations, but it’s not uncommon for us to walk over them. What is an expectation? An expectation is something we need to have from the relationship, for us to be happy and fulfilled in that relationship. Ok, you may not like the word expectation- think of it as a need. A lot of us think that the other person will automatically know what we expect, but this is a very dangerous assumption. Instead assume that if you haven’t made your expectations clear-the other person does not know what they are. I know of someone who got married never having had a conversation about money. She was afraid that if she brought it up, he would be offended. It wasn’t the done thing in her culture. In Pakistan, it was always assumed that the man would be the provider, at least so she thought. She had a very rude awakening when she realized that her husband had no plans of supporting her financially. He was only willing to pay for entertainment costs which mainly included his parties and alcohol. She had to pay for food, and rent. She was afraid to have that conversation before getting married, but that led to huge disappointment later on. Having this conversation may require your being honest and vulnerable, but isn’t it better to know that you’re on the same page, then feeling frustrated or disappointed later on? Being clear about your expectations, and knowing the other person’s too, allows you both to be who you truly want to be.
Rule 3: Maintain your own interests: A lot of relationships require so much of us, that we forget who we are. Sometimes, we voluntarily give up what we want in order to make the relationship work. Remember a relationship needs YOU. If you’re not there, there is no relationship. Take a little time away to do something that you enjoy, or something that you find fulfilling. When you take that time out, you will come back into the relationship feeling rejuvenated and have a lot more to give. Being burnt out, or spending all your time meeting the other person’s needs will only read to resentment and the relationship being damaged in the long run.
Rule 4: Seek to understand: We have talked a lot about being you in a relationship- but we can’t leave this one out. One of the main frustrations that we face in relationships is that we aren’t understood or heard. If you have felt that way, remember that other people feel that too. We all want to be understood, but for that really happen, we need to understand the other person first. Be sure to listen to what the other person’s needs and expectations are. Respond honestly, and if you’re unclear about something-then be sure to ask. Not only will your relationship become stronger, but you will know what you’re committing to whether its time with friends, in-laws, or that new special someone. And if something comes up that is a deal-breaker for you, you will be able to address that too!
Sayeda Habib is a life coach to Muslim individuals and organizations from all over the world. To contact Sayeda, email [email protected]