No wonder it’s so hard for us to get out of our comfort zone to explore new relationships. New relationships can awaken a myriad of fears and sensations that usually remain hidden. Although this experience is common in romantic relationships I believe that many of these components also apply to other personal and professional relationships. Our fear of not being liked, or being rejected. Insecurity about showing who we really are and saying what we think. Doubts about what behaviors are appropriate, and the interpretations of the words and behaviors of the other person. A wave of emotions and thoughts that don’t occur when we’re in an established relationship. When roles have been assumed and we have, wrongly or not, a clear interpretation of the shared environment, values, rules, and expectations.
We are not all equally likely to worry about these uncertainties in new relationships. Our level of self-esteem, our personality and the degree of interest we have play an important role. Although I imagine that some of the things I have mentioned so far may ring bells with experiences in different environments for many of us.
These situations depend, of course, on the two people exploring the new common territory. However, I think we may have the ability to manage the experience and influence it in a positive way. Those of you who read my content regularly, know that I like to approach challenges step by step in both in the workplace and in life.
Step one: Choose your expectations well
Ever since we were little, we’ve been taught what is acceptable for every kind of relationship. Or we have drawn up our own list of requirements. For example, in Spain there is a joke about a boyfriend who wears white socks with shoes not being a good choice. Although it may seem a little comical, there are expectations that are merely cultural or belong to another vital moment that the one we are at this time. Hence these expectations could be irrelevant and useless for this relationship.
On the other hand, it is important to know what we really value in another person so that we do not betray ourselves, entering into new relationships with people who cannot provide us with what we truly consider important, for example, sincerity.
Expectations are the cause of frustrations on many occasions so being selective with our expectations, and keeping only the important ones, can transform the experience.
Step number two: All models are valid
There are as many ways to live relationships as there are people in the world. There are many labels in use that have already some generally accepted features: boyfriend, girlfriend, friend, boss, colleague, partner, ex. The specific needs that can lead to a successful relationship are uniquely personal to the circumstances of both parties. Pursuing the prototypes that society dictates can create unnecessary barriers, rather than creating our own model where our needs and those of the other person can be found in harmony.
The characteristics can be defined by us. We have the ability to define the rules of that game, as long as they are beneficial for both parties. This way success is more likely. Watch out though, this point has a catch.
It is important, and not always easy, to be true to ourselves about what we want. Sometimes in our desire to meet the expectations of the environment or wanting to please the other person we are not honest. Neither with ourselves nor with the other, thus embarking on situations that are not what we need or desire deep down.
Self-care is the basis of our well-being and the health of any relationship. Pursuing our needs while respecting other person’s is not only acceptable but recommended.
Step three: Communication is key
When there is good communication, other important things can grow like trust, sincerity and respect. From an early age we have learned to silence certain feelings and thoughts to avoid conflict. There are things that if not expressed can lead to all kinds of challenges for a relationship, misunderstandings, frustrations, disappointments and, ultimately, a gap.
Being able to express ourselves honestly, albeit gently, is very important. To do this it is also necessary to listen, to listen for real. Trying to understand each other’s position without judging, without drawing conclusions of our own, or getting defensive. This includes asking for the things we want openly, albeit without demands. Others don’t have a crystal ball, even if they know us really well.
Step four: If it doesn’t serve you let it go
Our interaction with others is both a great source of satisfaction in life and difficulties. Sometimes we have a hard time letting go of our personal and work relationships for many reasons: the role that person plays in our lives, practical physical or economic considerations, the fear of being alone and many other reasons.
Waiting for the other person to change is not a strategy that usually works, we only have the ability to change our own behavior or attitude. When we have given our best to a relationship, and have related from a mature and adult place, if the relationship, or the other person doesn’t give us what we need, the healthy step is to end the relationship.
I think sometimes the end of relationships are very traumatic, because when they are carried out there is already a significant history of mutual wounds caused during a period of decline. If we are able to let go of the relationship before entering that phase of difficult terrain, we can reduce suffering and, it is also more likely that the relationship can evolve to a new form rather than end completely.
We are human and, throughout life, we will continue to face situations that make us feel outside our comfort zone, especially in our interactions with others. These four steps are my guide, in case of doubt and when I am not sure what to do. I hope they work for you too and I’d be delighted if you share your suggestions that can strengthen them.