Seesaw Relationships

A very wise person once told me that all relationships are equal and that they are balanced like a seesaw. Sometimes one end might be up; sometimes the opposite end might be up, but in order for it to work at all, there has to be equal weight on each end. In relationships we are magnetized to each other because we see in the other person something that we need. In our relationships we strive for equal weight on each side.  We are meeting someone’s need and attracting our own need. This is true of friendships, work situations, and partnerships of all kinds.

Years ago, at a seminar, a matchmaker told the audience, “I will tell you a secret about the people you attract into your life.” Everyone sat up straight, their attention riveted on the matchmaker who was about to impart her wisdom. She said, “I know you won’t want to hear this, but you are attracting at the level you’re at.” Pandemonium broke loose at those words with cries like “I’m not like him (or her)…he’s impossible, and she’s a nag.” No one wanted to own up to the fact that maybe there was some truth to what the matchmaker was saying. And this doesn’t mean that you are exactly the same as the other but that you are on the same continuum. For example, if someone is aggressive, he may attract someone who is meek. In fact the meekness may bring out the aggression in that person. Both need to learn from this awareness: one needs to learn to set boundaries and the other to respect boundaries.

If we can learn to respect the boundaries of others, draw our own healthy boundaries, have the courage to say no when it’s appropriate, confront and talk about what we don’t like in a relationship or friendship, we might just be able to save a relationship or friendship that otherwise would have been destroyed. When we hold onto resentments, they build and build until relationships break when maybe they could have been saved. Maybe the relationship doesn’t merit saving. If so, don’t waste time and seek relationships that fit you better.

Have you ever noticed that when a relationship is in full bloom, there is an energy about it? There is enthusiasm and communication of the good or bad kind. This means that we are learning, that this relationship has something to teach us, and we are fully engaged in the learning process.

Then sometimes, with no apparent reason, all the energy goes out of the relationship. There is no enthusiasm for the job, the people at the job, a particular friend, or whatever partner may be in our life. This seems to indicate that we may have learned all we can from that particular relationship, and it may be time to move on to another one of life’s lessons. Sometimes people feel bad when they feel they must end something, instead of giving themselves the freedom to see that the next best thing is coming into their lives and they need to make room for it. If we don’t move on as we grow, we would all still be in kindergarten with our kindergarten classmates.

If you want to attract better situations, the first step is to pay attention to what you have learned from previous relationships. All experiences give you knowledge, and nothing is a failure since everything gives you information. You learn little by little what makes you happy and what doesn’t, so give some thought to what makes you happy. Apply the lessons you’ve learned and pay attention to any red flags that come up. 

The next step is to reflect on yourself—since you are the common denominator in all your relationships—and be the person you’d like to meet, work with, or be friends with. Then don’t be afraid to be alone for a while if that’s what life puts before you. In spending time alone, you are giving yourself the opportunity to get to know yourself and to incorporate and integrate the experiences that you’ve had into the new you that is emerging. 

One of the most important relationships we will ever have is the one we have with ourselves. One of the biggest misconceptions people have is thinking the past can detract from the rest of their lives. We learn with each year that goes by and with each relationship we have, and we learn just as much if not more from the relationships that don’t work as the ones that do. So let’s be as gentle and loving with ourselves as we are with others in our lives!

In loving memory of Sherry Kulakowski, who has moved on to her future. Sherry, a longtime contributor to Tidewater Women, died suddenly in October. Her wise words, caring spirit, and gracious ways remain behind to remind us to think good thoughts and to be caring people.

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