Your Relationships—Are You Suiting Up and Showing Up?

Your relationships say a lot about you, and about what’s going on in your life. For example, are you in mutually supportive relationships, or have you assembled enablers around you? Are you an enabler to someone incapacitated by an addiction right now, or are you seriously trying to get your addicted loved one to the help they need? Are you in a power and control relationship? If so, which role have you taken?

The Inside and the Outside of Your Relationships

Your relationships mirror what’s going on in your own inner world, apart from anyone else’s influence. In fact, how you think, feel and behave in a relationship says a great deal about you—who you are, and what your beliefs, patterns, and habits are. You can only bring to a relationship what capacities, qualities, and potentials that exist within you. And, you have to determine which of those you are willing to suppress, repress, or allow to flourish.

Sure, you can grow and develop a healthy relationship and the other person is immensely important in that, but essentially a large part of what happens occurs in ‘conversation’ with yourself. There is always a deeply meaningful internal process in your relationships when they are healthy for you. Having the support of another person as you explore, grow and develop is invaluable. It makes your relationships into safe holding environments for your own internal growth.

Keeping a Handle on Yourself and Your Relationships

Since how we interact with others is related to what goes on inside us, it is always helpful to check in with yourself occasionally to see how things are going internally. It’s a good tune-up for you and the relationships you have. Particularly during conflict or heightened stress in your relationships, it is valuable to take a step back and take stock. Below are some prompts and ideas for how to go about your self-assessment:

  • Do you back yourself up? Do you support your hopes, dreams, wishes, desires, opinions or beliefs? Do you do that for others? Are you one-sided in your support? Do you support yourself and not others? Do you support others, but not yourself?
  • Are you in relationships that support you and back you up, or do you feel your hopes, dreams, wishes, desires, etc. are not supported?
  • Have you been letting yourself down lately, neglecting yourself, or letting others down and neglecting them?
  • Do you give more than you take? Or, are you the taker in a one-sided relationship?
  • Do you feel worthy of others’ attention, love and affection?
  • Are you in a relationship with someone you hold in contempt, feel pity for, or feel superior to?
  • Are you in a relationship with someone who treats you as less than, demonstrates contempt for you, or treats you as inferior?
  • Do you trust yourself to show up for you when you need it?
  • Do you trust others to show up for you when you need it?
  • Do you show up for others when they need you?

These types of questions reveal a great deal about us, what kind of relationship we have with ourselves, and what kind of relationships we have with others. They reflect the intricate relatedness of all such aspects and are great prompts to return to whenever you need to evaluate your relationships with others and/or yourself.

Making Your Relationships with Others Work

Every relationship you have doesn’t have to be work. Some flow easily and happily along with very few stresses and strains upon them. This often happens because those relationships are not the primary ones in your life that would feel the burden of life’s up’s and downs. Other relationships, however, are exquisitely sensitive to your stress levels and any life circumstance that shifts your focus, energy, and attention. Parent-child relationships, or relationships between romantic partners, are the most common relationships that require the most ‘work’. This is due to their foundational roles in our daily lives and the interdependent nature of the people involved. Family members are bonded in many ways, including emotionally and financially, for example, and shifts in any member can cause a ripple effect through loved ones as well.

How we ‘work’ at our relationships is, of course, an individualized experience. However, there are commonalities we all share in that regard such as:

  • Cultivating a supportive environment for everyone involved to have their needs met
  • Securing a physically and psychologically safe environment
  • Providing respect to all involved
  • Safeguarding the personal boundaries and needs for privacy of everyone
  • Supporting the personal goals of each
  • Having effective communication
  • Successfully resolving problems together
  • Successfully making joint decisions that affect all
  • Sharing resources
  • Being emotionally available when one party is in need
  • Nurturing the well-being of all
  • Having shared goals, projects, activities of mutual benefit

Making Your Relationship with Yourself Work

As a mature adult, it is your responsibility to care for yourself in many ways. If we are healthy and functioning well, we should be able to do such things as the following for ourselves:

  • Set and work toward personal goals
  • Identify needs
  • Manage and express our emotions safely and appropriately
  • Maintain independent living
  • Attend to basic health needs
  • Engage in meaningful and purposeful activity
  • Structure and adhere to a healthy life routine
  • Communicate clearly and effectively with others
  • Seek out support and resources that are needed
  • Have mutually supportive relationships with others
  • Participate in group and/or community life
  • Set boundaries and limits to keep yourself safe

Toxicity in Your Relationships

Unfortunately, not all relationships are healthy, and most of us will have to decide at some point how to maneuver out of an unhealthy one. This is very different than the nature of most relationships we have with a romantic partner, friend or family member, for example. Unhealthy relationships create a toxic environment and toxic dynamics for the individuals involved. There is no mutual benefit or support, but rather, the opposite.

It’s natural to find yourself in a relationship that simply fades away because the two of you grow and develop differently, or to come to a mutual understanding that you are moving on and saying goodbye. Even in lasting and happy relationships, there are times when things don’t go well and a choice to recommit to the relationship must be made. Just in the course of healthy living, some of your relationships will require serious re-evaluation from time to time.  You might find yourself wondering how to improve the relationship, or even considering whether you want to invest further or not. Toxic relationships, however, are an entirely different matter.

Toxicity in your relationships can mean that you are in physical danger, but it certainly always means that you are in chronic psychological distress or danger. If you are a parent, your children are exposed to traumatic events or dynamics as well. Mentally and emotionally you are vulnerable to low self-regard, depression, anxiety, chronic stress, tension and anger, self-depreciating thoughts and even dangerousness to yourself or others. At the very least, a toxic relationship creates a volatile, unpredictable and disruptive environment in which a healthy and orderly life direction is continually sabotaged.

Suiting Up and Showing Up for Yourself

When your life isn’t going well, neither are your relationships. And, particularly, your relationship with yourself suffers when all of the above is off track.  For example, we might become self-critical, or more so; we might get discouraged, lose confidence and become filled with self-doubt… Some of us even sink into self-loathing and engage in self-sabotaging or self-destructive behavior. We can feel we’ve gotten ourselves into a hole that’s inescapable, but that’s simply a feeling. There is a lot you can do to repair the conditions in your life.

There is a motto from 12 Step circles like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous (AA and NA) that suggests what we need to do when all this is happening. It tells us to just suit up and show up… to just put ourselves in the right places so we can get better, and keep doing that until things are better. It’s a great piece of wisdom and a good recovery plan.

Suiting up and showing up for yourself can mean a lot of things, and you’ll have to decide what fits for you and your circumstance. However, here is a list of the ‘right places’ people have ‘shown up’ at for valuable help:

  • Addiction counseling or addiction rehab
  • Mental health counseling, individual sessions and/or groups
  • Codependency counseling
  • Psychiatric consultations
  • Self-help community support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Alanon, Codependents Anonymous, etc.
  • Family therapy
  • Couples therapy
  • Domestic violence shelters or counseling

Suiting Up and Showing Up for Your Relationships

Sometimes we realize that we play a major role in our failing relationships. It can be hard to accept, but that realization is a great first step toward healing yourself and your relationships. Of course, even though you might work hard to make dramatic changes, there’s no guarantee that the people in your life will still want to participate in a relationship with you. That’s a chance you have to take, and you may come out the other side of your healing process having to grieve your losses. However, working on yourself to correct dysfunctional relationship patterns and your behavior in your relationships is always a win-win for you. If you have gotten to the point of needing help, reach out for it. You can ‘show up’ for your relationships in lots of ways as you begin your recovery. Here are some powerful ways to do that:

  • Addiction and/or mental health counseling
  • Family or couples therapy
  • Parent-child oriented therapy
  • Parenting education
  • Codependency education, support groups and/or counseling
  • Skill building groups such as anger management and stress management
  • Batterer’s counseling