You’re not going to separate your relationship issues from the issues with which you struggle as an individual— or vice versa.
I WISH it was the case that we could “quarantine” relationship and individual issues and problems.
If that was the case, then we could work one each domain in nice, neat little packages of time and energy. From a therapy point of view, it would be so darn efficient.
Sadly, that’s not the way it works.
What we struggle with as individuals, will seep into our relationships.
What we struggle with in relationships, will boomerang back on us as individuals.
It’s really, really hard to create and sustain a healthy life if you’re immersed in toxic, exploitative relationships.
It’s really, really hard to create and sustain healthy relationships if you’re daily wracked with depression, anxiety, or addiction.
Mind you: that’s not to say that we need to “solve” our individual issues before trying to have a relationship.
A lot of people seem to think that. They think that there’s no point in trying to connect with others if they’re struggling with something on their own— that such attempts to connect will only ever result in failure and disappointment.
To the contrary: relatively often it is the case that we actually NEED certain relationships in our lives if we have any realistic hope of overcoming our individual struggles.
As anybody who has benefitted from a therapy relationship, a therapy group, or a Twelve Step fellowship can attest, relationships can sometimes be the key that finally unlocks what we need to do and be to overcome our individual struggles.
The point is, don’t think you can address individual and relationship issues in isolation.
Don’t imagine that, if you want your relationships to grow and thrive, you can just keep putting off that depression or anxiety or addiction problem.
Also don’t imagine that, if you want to live a productive, peaceful life, it’s possible to continue subjecting yourself to relationship dynamics that result in you feeling inadequate, lonely, and frustrated.
Emotional and behavioral problems and solutions exist in dynamic systems.
The word “system,” in psychology, means that what happens at one end of an equation, necessarily affects the other end.
“Dynamic” refers to the fact that systems are always in flux. Something that is dynamic is always changing and changeable.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because I want you to have the best possible shot at solving— or at least chipping away— at your sources of unhappiness.
And in order to do that, we need to be as realistic as possible about what creates and sustains our problems and challenges.
If we get it in our head that we can somehow “quarantine” our relationship problems to our relationships, and our individual problems to ourselves, we’re not living in the real world.
We’re setting ourselves up for failure and frustration.
The good news is: once we concede that our individual and relationship problems coexist and interact, we can use that fact to our advantage.
We can use our strengths as individuals AND relationship partners to help address both our individual AND our relationship problems.
We can approach our problems from multiple directions— because we’re being realistic about the fact that our problems have multiple dimensions.
The fact that our individual issues interact with our relationship issues turns out not to be the bad news— it’s actually the good news.
But only if we unflinchingly see and accept the situation as it is— not as we’d prefer it was.
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