Could your lack of self-parenting be ruining your relationships?
Did you ever fly off the handle and break up with someone only to regret your decision later when things calmed down? Do you often wish that things would be different in your relationship, but you’re not sure how to make the change happen? Do you stay in an unhappy relationship, just because change is scary? It’s possible that all this can change when you develop your self-parenting.
To understand self-parenting, we need to understand that three different people live inside of you:
- Your adult self, who sets the goals and dictates your life’s direction. In the car model, this would be your driver process or your flow state.
- Your inner child, who holds the hopes and fears close to their heart. In the car model this would be your 10 year old and your 3 year old processes combined.
- Your inner parent, who is the bridge between the adult self’s goals and the tenderness of the inner child. In the car model this would be your co-pilot or your auxiliary process.
Self-parenting, which originates from your co-pilot state, is the mature, compassionate inner guidance that connects your grown up everyday life with your inner child’s desires. When these two are brought together, and they move in unison, your purpose emerges. Technically speaking the inner parent part of you is what builds the bridge between your adult self’s goals and the emotional turmoil of your inner child’s hopes and fears. As a result, you discover your life’s purpose in the healing process of bringing those two together. Without a solid inner parent the adult self and the inner child can oppose or even rebel against one another. In our inner relationships, this plays out as what’s known as the power struggle. The same rings true for our external relationships.
Most people don’t consciously develop their inner parent, and this is the number one reason why some experience deep dissatisfaction in their lives and their relationships. Since the inner parent helps the inner child heal from their hurts and traumas, without developing the appropriate skills to help the child, most people’s inner parent is unable to support the inner child through experiences such as rejection or fear of abandonment. We all know these issues can damage and end relationships in our outer world and with our loved ones.
Talking about inner parenting in relation to relationships is important because without recognising the responsibility of attending to your own inner child’s wounding proactively, having a sustainable and growth-oriented relationship in the outside world is close to impossible. And when growth stops, power struggle reigns.
Without individual growth through inner parenting, most relationships have a bitter end. People either leave each other in anger or they stick it out and stay together in resentment. Either way, the unhealthy cycle continues in and out of the internal dialogue and the external relationship. Have you ever noticed a friend attracted to a certain type of person only to break up with them and end up with someone very similar to their last partner? Has that ever happened to you?
The issue is not that there are no good men and women left on the planet. The issue is that wherever you go, you take yourself, including your inner child’s hopes and fears with you, and if your inner parent lacks strength, soon the inner child runs the relationships with their emotions. They are either hopefully and entirely in love or feeling hurt over what someone else did or didn’t do. This way of relating to others feels truly disempowered.
Most of us don’t realise that struggle is unnecessary. While no relationship is “happily ever after,” most relationships can not only be saved but enhanced as well. Many of our gender work clients, having mastered their inner parenting work, report renewed and deepened love for their partner, even if sometimes the partner has hurt them and completely broken their trust. Relationships can recover and soar, even after a lull or a deep hurt. But as a disclaimer, I want you to know that you need to own your part in what happened and self-parenting provides the easiest way to grow.
Surprisingly, most still don’t realise that for you to be happy in the external relationships, things have to be good “at home,” meaning within yourself and between your adult self, inner parent and inner child. How you show up for yourself in the space of internal struggle looks similar to how you show up in the struggle of your outer relationships. In those times, you often have a high level of self-condemnation and a low level of self-worth. It’s much more comfortable to project this onto other people than to parent yourself through it, and this is why most people never take on the responsibility of self-parenting; it’s simply too challenging.
But self-parenting matters. If you commit to taking it on and staying with yourself through thick and thin, the rewards will blow you away. The normalcy of negative incidents lessens. People respect you more. Happy and satisfied become your go-to state. You grow more patient and the things that used to bother you no longer have power over you. You learn to navigate the tricky conversations with your significant other to work out if you are the right people for each other, and once compatibility is established through mutual respect and compromise, you can find yourself in a place of deep trust and intimacy. It’s like you fall in love again. Only this time more deeply and more wholly.
Next time you are in a situation of conflict with your partner, try these steps
- Keep your cool: Listen to your partner’s point of view without getting defensive. Remember, it is possible that the two of you hold different points of view on the issue and that neither needs to be made wrong for the issue to be resolved. It is only when you assume that someone else thinks of you as a bad person, that you get defensive. While their wording might suggest otherwise, try to accept that they are actually condemning your behaviour, not YOU as a person.
- Step back from the situation: Leave your emotions behind and look at the issues logically. Have the ‘next step’ conversations with your partner to work out where each of you is individually and where you want to go to next. Your inner parent, when thoroughly practiced, has the power to hold your inner child from jumping to conclusions about what your partner may or may not want. Remember to listen!
- Retreat and re-approach: Become aware that you feel triggered or overwhelmed, then step out of the conflict to look at your “story” and see how it’s contributing to the conflict. Take time out from the conflict to give yourself the inner parenting guidance you need to work through the inner child’s insecurities.
- Be proactive: Even though your hurt wants you to hide away and blame everything on your partner, choose to become proactive with your approach to your relationship. Learn to take feedback without attaching emotion to it, and try different things with your partner to find common ground. Communicate with your partner and offer commitments of change. Even if your partner initially does not reciprocate, if you stay true to your commitment to harmony within the relationship, eventually they will come around and begin to look at different ways of being for themselves.
- Follow-through: Keep yourself on track with your relationship commitments and remind yourself to stay the course to actualising your relationship goals.
Remember, relationships are the ultimate emotional contact sport. But like anything in life, if you stay the course, your stamina and skill set will make you a much better player and a much better partner.
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