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Issue 10,  June 22, 2009     —      Daniel Linder, The Most Important Relationship

In this issue:   FEATURE: Deepak Chopra, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success     Geri O'Neill, Your Amazing Brain   Christopher K. Randolph, Asking the Right Questions   Guy Finley, Realize Your True Self in Stillness   Daniel Linder, The Most Important Relationship   Desiderata / Sharon Elaine, Affirmations, Patience   Wider Screenings, World Cinema and The Secret    Events   Reviews   Earlier issues   Submit Article

What does having an intimate relationship with yourself mean?

It means treating yourself like a real live person. It means feeling worthy and capable of achieving your purpose in life. It means being aware of what is happening inside yourself on a feeling level. You talk to yourself about the situations you find yourself in. You ask yourself questions, and you answer them. You have ongoing conversations about what you need and what you need to do, and then you do it. The relationship you have with yourself is characterized by the same qualities as any intimate relationship: you know, trust, accept and respect yourself. These qualities must emanate from within before they can be shared with another person.

The most important relationship is with yourself
by Daniel Linder

Having a solid relationship with yourself means respecting, trusting, accepting and knowing yourself. It means that you are aware of your wants, needs and feelings, and that you can let them be known. When your partner doesn’t respond the way you want him/her to respond, you have a place, a “home” in yourself to go to. You’re self-reliant, not relying on your partner to make you feel good. You can tolerate feelings of insecurity, uncertainty, frustration, helplessness, anger and rejection. And if the matter is not resolved, you have a refuge until you and/or your partner can be in a calmer, clearer frame of mind to communicate. You wouldn’t be so inclined to jump to conclusions about your partner or the relationship, or act hastily in an emotionally heated moment.

Operating in the interest of the relationship you have with yourself is tantamount to healthy self-interest. There is always someone there to protect you when the situation calls for protection. Your home is your primary asset.

Having a relationship with yourself also means being self-aware. Self-
awareness makes it possible for you to accurately represent yourself. If you re cut off or out of touch with what you’re thinking or how you’re feeling, you will not be able to accurately represent yourself. Being able to make it known how you think and feel is absolutely necessary in order to communicate intimately.

Unless you have role models or experience in intimate relationships (such as your parents' relationship with each other or your relationship with them), an intimate relationship with yourself does not come naturally. You need to make a conscious, concerted effort to develop one by honestly communicating about your feelings and needs whenever the opportunity presents itself, whether in the dating arena or in other relationships and in all stages of relationship.

For example, let's take a recent experience with my wife, Barbara of 17 years that made me realized that I was all I had. There was no one else I could rely on. If I didn't already have what I considered to be a strong relationship with myself, I’m sure I would have exacerbated the situation. At worst, I could have reacted in a way that threatened its very existence.
With all of the day-in and day-out responsibilities of raising and providing for our family, it was a typically stressful time for us. She was caught up in her life. I was caught up in mine. Not only were we apart most of the time, when we were together, the children demanded our attention. Not much sex either, as you may have imagined. By the time we got them to bed, we were too tired to have a coherent conversation. We just wanted to go to sleep. After a string of days like this, I began feeling estranged from her. I felt neglected and hungry for more contact.

So what did I do? Tell her how I'm feeling, right? Being a therapist -- an intimacy and communication expert no less -- this should come naturally. I thought, expected and hoped that all I'd have to do is talk about how I was feeling, she'd change, and we'd feel close again.

After telling Barbara I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied and discontent because of her unavailability, things immediately got worse. She interpreted what I said to mean that she wasn't a good enough wife, that she had fallen short, and that I was going to leave her because of it. In an effort to avoid the pain of what was in her mind the end of our relationship, she became more distracted and distant from me, to protect herself.

After this interaction, my negative feelings intensified and multiplied. In addition to feeling neglected and resentful, I felt misunderstood and helpless.
As pained as I was, the thought of ending the relationship never entered my mind. Nor did I ever question our love for each other. Rather, I backed off and went into myself. I was aware that what we were going through was, to a large extent, unavoidable, part of the process of life and relationship. Neither of us wanted it to be this way, but at that point, there was nothing we could do to change it. It wasn't the first time I (or she) felt this way, and it wasn't going to be the last. It was a tough time, but I knew it wasn't going to go on indefinitely. I trusted that we'd resume the conversation when we were both ready to do so, which eventually happened. When it did, a couple of days later, it became clear that we had been missing each other a lot and that we both wanted the same thing -- to get some time alone together, which we were then able to make happen.
In this situation, my relationship with myself served me in a number of ways. I trusted myself enough to act on how I felt, to take a risk. Rather than stuffing my feelings or feeling wrong for having them, I made an effort to communicate. I remember moments when I tried to talk myself out of my feelings and rationalize them away: “It's just a rough period we're going through. It's no one's fault. Barbara isn't intentionally hurting me. If I say anything, her feelings might be hurt, which would only make matters worse.” As it was, I sat with these feelings for over two weeks.
I knew I was quite resentful and angry. I knew why I was angry: because some of my needs for attention and affection were not getting met. I wanted more contact and to feel closer physically and emotionally. Nor did I ever doubt whether she or our relationship was “right” or good enough. I was able to see that the way she reacted to me initially had to do with prior relationships. My self-esteem did not hinge on her response. Regardless of her response, it was not going to pose a threat to how I felt about myself or our relationship. I believe that my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being is ultimately my responsibility.
Barbara's reaction obviously wasn't what I wanted or hoped for, and I had to wait even longer before there was any resolution. Initially, I was enraged. I was, however, able to deal with my anger because I had a “home” in myself -- a place to go to buy some time waiting until she and I were in a calmer, clearer frame of mind before resuming the conversation. If I wasn't truly comfortable being with myself, I wouldn't have had anywhere to go. I could have easily acted out of desperation, in a way detrimental to our relationship. I was able to grant Barbara some time and space to respond in her own way, when she was ready to. I also believe that if I weren't accepting of my own struggles, imperfections and limitations, I would not have been able to tolerate Barbara's.

My experience brings attention to the key aspect in creating and sustaining intimate relationships: our relationship with ourselves. It is this relationship that determines the quality of all of our other relationships. How we act when we are challenged -- when we find ourselves in situations we would prefer to avoid but can't -- is what makes or breaks a relationship; and how we act is a function of the quality of the relationship we have with ourselves.

Although relationships are integral to your growth and well-being, they are limited. While there are some basic needs that should get met in an intimate relationship, such as the need for understanding and caring, there are many needs that go unmet. No one can make you feel totally satisfied and secure. The irony is that when one’s needs get met, another pops up. One minute you may feel perfectly contented with your partner. The next you may feel completely disgusted. This is why you must be able to rely on yourself to get through these situations and turn them into opportunities for growth. When you are angry, hurt, vulnerable, helpless, confused, disappointed, frustrated or alone, you must be able to care for yourself. Ultimately, you are the best friend you've got!

 Excerpt from Daniel Linder's, Intimacy, The Essence of True Love, Inkstone Press
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Also from Daniel Linder in No Limits:
Me, You, Us

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