The Proven Path to Healthy Relationships
Are you continuously finding yourself in relationships that just don’t feel right? Are you tired of dimming your light to keep your partner satisfied? If you have reached a point where you need to feel valued and you’re tired of relationships taking a toll on your self-esteem, it’s time for you to get to the root of the problem.
Ask Yourself Why?
The first question we need to ask ourselves is, how do we end up in these unhealthy dysfunctional relationships? What is it that draws us to the same type of people repeatedly?
A theory called “operational conditioning” can help us understand why we behave in a certain way when pursuing relationships.
An example of how we condition people to treat us was confirmed by psychologist Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov fed dogs each day, and before feeding them, he would ring a bell. Every time the bell rang, the dogs associated it with eating soon.
Interestingly, after a while, Pavlov would just ring the bell, and the dogs would begin to salivate, even without the anticipation of eating.
That is what we’re doing when dealing with people. Consciously or unconsciously, we condition people how to treat us by how we respond in our interactions with them.
Have you ever wondered why everything often seems too good to be true in the early stages of dating? When it comes to romantic relationships, most men have three main goals. They want to feel respected, needed, and valued.
So, when a man opens the door, buys you gifts, or brings you flowers, he is shaping the expectation that if he does these things for you, you will lower your defenses and he can get his needs validated.
The same principle applies to women. Women respond to men who make them feel safe, special, and secure. When a woman is seeking a man’s attention, she may start to put extra care into her appearance and behaving in a noticeable way (both of which are culturally conditioned) to get the attention she wants.
We are coming to the table presenting two things:
- An expectation based on the fantasy that we project on the other person
- Something they do in response to the attention
These interactions cause us to fantasize or imagine we are being validated and satisfied. This validation is the laying the ground for conditioning. The problem begins once we get what we want. That’s when the shift happens. Appreciation morphs into expectation.
What to do when the real “you” starts to show up?
After we get the wanted attention, the script flips. Now the real you (and the real them) show up.
This is the time you need to pay close attention to how you respond to each other’s actions and reactions. The two of you must find a balance between who you are, individually and collectively, at a core level and what’s driving the other person’s expectations. This is where teaching people how to treat you kicks in.
Here’s the tricky part. The brain doesn’t like change. Suppose we allow dysfunctional and self-serving interactions to become our norm. In that case, we accumulate more and more reasons to validate our behaviors which increases the odds that we will stay rather than leave as things become increasingly dysfunctional.
Therefore, it becomes more difficult to tell the truth, to express your opinion, or to leave someone, even when you know that the only thing the relationship is causing you is pain. Hence, operational conditioning.
The only way to escape this cycle is when the pain of change becomes less than the pain of staying the same.
Human nature is to pick and do the familiar. Your brain prefers a familiar environment. The only way to have meaningful and lasting change in anything is through disruption. And that disruption sometimes necessitates telling someone (and that someone is often yourself) that this toxic way of relating to each other is not acceptable.
The importance of knowing yourself.
If you want to teach others how to treat you, you first need to understand yourself. Stop looking for an external solution to an internal problem. Staying in superficial relationships is the equivalent of treating the symptoms rather than getting to the core of the disease.
Here are five simple steps to create a more fulfilling relationship.
- Put it on paper. The first thing you need to do is write something down about your family history. Think about your family’s dynamics and gender roles and cultural origin.
- Get a good understanding of yourself. What makes you feel loved and valued? What are the things that trigger you, and what are the things that suit you? What do you need, and how much do you need it?
- What’s your relationship with wellbeing? Do you love and respect yourself? Do you feel worthy? What were the core beliefs and values?
- What are your weaknesses? What are some things you know you don’t need to continue doing? The ultimate goal is to be fully honest with yourself and recognize your weaknesses rather than convince someone that you’re never the problem.
- Don’t ignore the red flags. We often don’t want to believe that the person we have strong feelings for could be hurtful or dishonest. But in most cases, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Your goal is to be true to yourself because until you do that, you will either keep manipulating other people or be manipulated by others. You cannot expect someone to come in and rescue you from yourself.
In the end, we must be that which we seek. That means elevating our awareness and migrating in a meaningful way toward a vision we have for our lives and moving away from what we have seen, experienced, and lived.
Dr. D. Ivan Young is a highly sought-after keynote speaker and media personality. Dr. Young an expert on human behavior and building fulfilling relationships, and a Master Credentialed expert on personality type. Dr. Young is an ICF Credentialed Master Certified Coach, Certified Professional Diversity Coach, a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach, as well as a Credentialed Master MBTI Practitioner.
His TEDx Talk on Emotional Intelligence: Using the Laws of Attraction, has received over three million views. He combines his knowledge, vast experience, and exclusive theories to help motivate, educate, and energize any audience, understanding how to connect ‘human to human’ even when addressing the masses. For more information visit www.drdivanyoung.com and www.divanyoung.com.
Doctor young congratulations on everything that you are doing
This article has my name on it! Really! What I found most intriguing was not ignoring the red flags. It was hard for me to understand that the person I cared about didn’t care about me.
I would text or call him and it would be days or weeks before I would hear from him. Sometimes I would never hear from him. When I did talk with him, his excuse was he was “busy”.
I have learned that if you care about someone you are never too busy to send a short Good Morning text or just call to say hello.
Thanks again Dr.D Ivan Young for your expertise and stimulating articles!