The perennial question couples ask themselves goes something like this: “What is the most important thing we can do to improve our relationship?” When couples ponder this question, the suggestions are endless. Improve communication? Set common goals? Renew our commitment to date night? Replicate what brought us together in the first place?
Paradoxically, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, the authors of Healthy Me Healthy Us, would first answer this question by saying that each party must focus on themselves first and foremost. This philosophy is based on the notion that our relationships are only as healthy as each party is individually. And to be sure, this includes both emotional health and physical health.
Consider the following:
“If you try to build intimacy with another before you have gotten whole on your own, all your relationships become an attempt to complete yourself.” – Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot
The authors suggest health and wholeness are an emotional state of well-being and require the following three hallmarks in order to move forward in personal growth:
- Profound Significance (get right with your God)
- Unswerving Authenticity (get right with yourself)
- Self-Giving Love (get right with others)
As Drs. Parrot put it, “without significance, you’re insecure, without authenticity, you’re phony, and without love, you’re indifferent.”
Tuning Into Your Self-Talk
Profound significance suggests that we must work to adjust our negative self-talk, because it is the inner dialog that we have with ourselves that sets the tone of all other relationships. Our self-worth is often tied up in our achievements, however, these psychologists bring forward the idea that we cannot achieve profound significance or self-worth, rather, we receive it from God (or higher power), whose love for us is an unconditional gift that we simply must accept and recognize that we are worthy of love, happiness and healthy relationships.
Moving Past Your Past
When it comes to seeking and feeling profound significance in this world, dwelling on your past is counterintuitive. Drs. Parrot paint the picture that if we are driving a car but constantly looking in our rearview mirror or have a foot on the brake, we are not moving forward. The same can be said for our past. If we are constantly focusing on our past, we are preventing ourselves from feeling confident enough to move forward. For many, this means taking a moment to unpack some of our emotional baggage, so it will no longer weigh you down and define you, as you attempt to move forward in life and in relationships. In order to get beyond your past, you must take the time to go through it.
Uncovering Your Blind Spots
Once we comprehend and receive that we are unconditionally loved, we are able to be vulnerable and authentic. The concept of authenticity separates those who are genuine versus those who are phony. Drs. Parrot discusses the notion that until we explore and admit our frustrations, weakness and insecurities, we can never achieve authenticity and thus, be open to a relationship. The three common blinds spots include our dark side, limits and egoism. It is only through increasing our self-awareness to these blind spots that we can truly be authentic.
Facing Your Fears with Honesty
This involves stepping out of your comfort zone. We must be honest with ourselves and challenge ourselves to take risks and not lie to ourselves, making excuses to stay in our comfort zone. Drs. Parrot suggest that we often trade passion for security.
Reading Your Social Barometer
Drs. Parrot suggest reading your social barometer is not only understanding the cues that others are sending, but it also entails looking inward and focusing their own internal psychological experiences. “The healthy person is tuned in to their own experience with others not to find validation but as a means to more effective relating.” The challenge is overcoming the pitfalls of becoming socially secure. These pitfalls include comparing ourselves to others, shyness and sensitivity to criticism.
Stepping into Another’s Shoes
Once you have a sense of significance and are confident in who you are, you arrive at a place where your relationships can transform and become healthier and stronger. It is through stepping into another’s shoes that we may provide empathy to those around us and will find a true sense of joy, fully entering into a healthy relationship.
Written By: Julie Peterson, LCSW