As I touched upon in “What is Co-Dependency”, we are all wired with the desire to have healthy relationships in our lives.  As a result, we need to make sure we bring our best we can be to the relationship process. A relationship can only build to be as good as the ‘least common denominator.’  The least healthy attitudes in the realtionship will dictate how healthy the realationship can be.  As a result, to really bring healthy relationships to life, we must be able to bring ‘health’ to our relationships.   One way in which we can do this is by focusing on good boundaries and learning about others and ourselves in relationship to them.

Rather than allowing others to own their own reactions to situations, co-dependent attitudes believe that another person should respond in a way defined (and usually desired) by us. In many situations, this desire isn’t necessarily “evil” in its motive – many of us want our family members to be happy and satisfied with life and with us – that isn’t evil in motive.  We desire love and nurturing relationships. We want our bosses to approve of us and like us. We want our neighbors to like us.  We want our parents/children to love us.  We want our friends to think we are wonderful.  None of these desires are wrong unless they get in the way of living life in an honest way where we are feeling responsible for other people. 

It is important that we learn to live life in a way that is true to who we fundamentally are and what we believe. We need to stop adjusting our presented-self to others in a way that we believe they want us to be – so that they are pleased with us.  To live our lives in such a way is to live in a falseness-of-self that will always come back to haunt us. We can’t “make” anyone feel, act, or be someway they don’t choose to be themselves…that is their choice (not ours) to make. Often times a person can get trapped in this cycle when involved in a relationship where he/she really cares about how the other person feels about him/her.

Remember back to your youth…as a teenager, we often would discover someone and develop a huge crush on him/her. We would wonder what they liked to do and what kind of things happened that resulted in smiles and laughter in their lives…we look for those things that made them “tick.”  Then, we might have tried to emulate this type of person so that the object of our desire would be attracted to us, too.  Maybe, if we were able to perform perfectly, dress perfectly, behave just so – this person might even fall in love with us.

We did our homework. We discovered what was important to him/her and then snared them in the trap of our charm. Weeks or months later, we possibly discovered that there were things about him/her that we weren’t all that wild about. Maybe we became sick to death of going shopping or having football games on t.v. every Sunday. We may even have tried to change them a bit…maybe bringing up other options for entertainment that were important to us – we encouraged them kindly (or forcefully) to just try and see how wonderful these things could be. We wanted them to change to fit what our real desires were – what was really in our hearts.  Instead of respecting who they were and living true to whom we really were – that person behind the persona of “perfect.”

Does this scenario sound familiar? Unfortunately, it is all too often the case in relationships – even past our teen years. The passionate infatuation stage wanes and we find ourselves tired of trying to be someone we aren’t and then wanting to have our partner “just love me for who I really am.” We may also attempt this same type of manipulation with our parents or other significant people in our lives. Trying desperately to gain approval, acceptance, love – it just doesn’t work. We cannot (nor should we even try) get people to feel things they do not want to feel – even love. (Sorry Cupid, those arrows really don’t work!)

The best we can hope for and actually what we should be striving toward, is being true to who we are in our hearts. That doesn’t mean to be blindly accepting of our behaviors (both good and bad). But rather to live true to our values, skills, personality, and all those gifts that enrich our personhood. We need to discover, learn and grow in who we are. Then, we bring our “best” self to the table of any and all relationships. If the “object of our desire” isn’t receptive – that may be quite sad (and sometimes devastating) – but it is his/her choice.  We shouldn’t try to manipulate this process. It is the best for all involved.

If we think about it logically and remove our personal feelings from the observations, it really makes a lot of sense. If we are respectful of others’ boundaries and desires as well as our own, the result will be good matches rather than manipulated partnerships. Everything will be out on the table with no surprises. We won’t be trying to change anyone and no one will be trying to change us. We will all be living in truth rather than wishing for what “could possibly be if he/she would change.” The result will be an honest connection between people who share common values, beliefs, convictions, interests, etc. Not only will we be loving someone as they are – we will be loved for who and what we are – “loved for being me!”