Knowing what you don’t want will only take you so far. But how do we shift from thinking in the negative to thinking in the positive—with the confidence to know who we are and what we want out of life?
Samuel had been in several not-right relationships. Probably about 5 by the time he was 32. When he came to me he could itemize what he was not looking for in a relationship. “Well, Isabel was very passive and would never participate in any decision making. It was exhausting.” When I asked what he wanted instead, he skirted the question. “I don’t want someone like Trish. She was bossy and aloof. I never knew what she wanted… unless she was barking orders at me. The rest of the time I had no clue what she was thinking.”
It took me awhile to get Samuel to realize that he had no clear idea of who he was as a person, and thus no affirmative understanding of who might be a good counterbalance for him in a relationship. It’s not that he was nondescript. He was a vivid, interesting, funny, quirky guy but he could not create a bullet list of even three qualities he liked about himself. That was something he had to work on before I could help him in his relationship quest.
So I came up with an exercise for Samuel, and I’m going to share it with you. In order to get what you want you in your life and relationships you must first be crystal clear about yourself and what you want. How?
Imagine a body of water. A lake in a mountain ravine on a clear day. It expands and contracts depending on the elements. It is transparent and reflective. It keeps its shape but within that, it moves. Imagine yourself as that body of water.
Calm Your inner sense of calm is the result of being comfortable with yourself, regardless what others think. When you can get to this place, you will be able to access your inner knowing when it comes to who is compatible and comfortable for you to be with.
Liquid. By this I mean you go with the flow. You can accept your imperfections and those of others without taking them personally. Your imperfections do not mean you are bad or unworthy, and theirs do not mean that they don’t love you or themselves. When you achieve that “liquid” flow, you can love yourself and others wholeheartedly.
Anchored. Any body of water, even a river, even the ocean, is authentically itself…. It flows, yes, but stays true to itself all the while. The lake does not try to be a river. The river does not try to be a mountain spring. When you feel grounded in your worthiness, your sense of yourself will be secure. It is then that you can see others truly and love them.
Reflective. This is where you look closely at what you’ve learned from past relationships. Not to create a list of negatives—things you don’t want in another person—but to figure out what they have taught you about you. Who are you in a relationship? What is important to you? What is challenging? How do you envision your ideal partnership?
Inner change. There’s change, and there’s change. Tweaking the “outside” things—looks, location, lifestyle—is not the change I’m talking about. Inner change is the willingness to grow individually… and as a couple.
Transparent. Transparency is about honesty. Be honest with yourself. Part of that is knowing your core values and what it’s like to live in alignment with them. As honest as you can be with yourself, be so with others. Share openly and honestly. Hide nothing. There is no requirement of perfection in order to love or be loved, but shielding the truth, or falsifying it, is guaranteed to sabotage you.
Yielding. If you can be vulnerable—like the waters of the lake, everything that touches you will affect you, and you will be okay. Your authentic self is anchored and secure, so you will always be true to that. Feel and speak your truth about what you need and want. Be willing to share your vulnerable self.
Let’s take this water analogy all the way to the finish line. Think of your relationship as two streams coming together on a lifelong journey to the sea…. Be vigilant about icebergs or deal breakers! Know what they are so you can avoid any Titanic calamities in your relationships. Keep in mind what C.L.A.R.I.T.Y is all about. It’s your to-do list for self-awareness and relationship health.
Your understanding of yourself will help you understand what you do want (as opposed to a vague idea of what you don’t want) in a relationship. It will also help you navigate a relationship successfully, with transparency, honesty, flexibility, and confidence.