At the beginning of a relationship, it is easy to become intoxicated and consumed by another person. We often give in to our infatuation, allowing our other relationships, obligations, and interests to take a back seat. And while many may think that this is normal, most would agree that it is not healthy for any of the parties involved.
Although this often happens in the early stages of romantic relationships, an unhealthy preoccupation with one person can occur with any meaningful relationship in our lives, whether with our partners, friends, co-workers, or family members. When we prioritize one relationship over all others, we inadvertently lose track of ourselves and start making decisions that disregard our own self-interest. Perhaps we dismiss our own wants and needs, doing what the other person wants to do and saying things we think they want to hear. As a result, there’s not enough mutuality in the relationship and an imbalance incommunication, understanding, and respect.
When we stop considering what we need as we interact with the other person, our desires become eclipsed by those of the other person. We begin to lose touch with ourselves. To avoid this temptation, we need to resist engaging in actions that prioritize the needs of others above our own, such as:
• Dropping everything else for the relationship.
• Doing anything to make the relationship work.
• Ignoring problems/red flags in our relationship.
• Silencing our own voice.
To start speaking up, find the “I” statement: “I would like to meet for coffee and not drinks today.” Perhaps we rehearse it. Then we say it to the other person clearly and non-defensively. If our relationship with this other person is headed in a good direction, he or she will listen and be interested in what we have to say.
If we begin listening carefully to our wants and needs, we will hear our voice deep within us, inviting us to speak up. It isunlikely that we want to live in the shadows of someone else. What we genuinely want is for both of us to share ideas, to speak freely and honestly, and to honor one another. When we do this, we discover that we finally obtain what we want the most: secure, fulfilling, and satisfying relationships with the significant people in our lives.
Nancy L. Johnston, MS, LPC, LSATP, MAC is the author of Disentangle: When You’ve Lost Your Self in Someone Else (2ndEd.) and works in private practice in Lexington, VA. With forty-two years of clinical experience, Johnston is an American Mental Health Counselors Association Diplomate and Clinical Mental Health Specialist in Substance Abuse and Co-Occurring Disorders. She offers presentations, workshops, and retreats for self-recovery.