To Have and To Hold -Guidelines for Intimate Relationships


#1        I am responsible for my own feelings, thoughts and behavior.  I’m not responsible for the feelings, thoughts or behavior of other adults, though I may have important influence there.  Contrary to what is commonly believed in our culture, I don’t make people feel happy, sad, angry, etc. I don’t have that kind of power.  As an adult, I do have the ability to take care of myself.  If I find I lack a skill I can seek help without losing my autonomy.  If I act in my own best interest, that will in the long run be best all around for me.

#2        Although I am not responsible for the feeling of others, if I want to preserve a relationship, I need to be mindful of how those I care about may be impacted by my actions.  Beginning with infancy, I have used my intuition, fantasized or guessed what others will do, feel or say in response to me.  Although I can’t usually predict with accuracy exactly how they will be impacted, as I get to know them well, I’ll have a pretty good idea.  So being respectful, kind and striving to be my best person will be in my best interest, as well as the interest of those I care about.

#3        I have a responsibility to myself to explore my own truth and act in accordance with that truth.  My relationships with myself and with other intimates will be limited to the degree that I withhold my truth.  This doesn’t mean I must share every discovery, observation, feeling, thought, belief or behavior.  It means I am responsible for how well I know myself and how well I let others know me.  Withholding my truth limits the potential fro emotional closeness (intimacy).

#4        If I want a relationship to grow (be safer and more nourishing), I need to commit to helping clean up any messes made in the sharing of my truth.  This means I won’t run out just because a discussion is difficult.  I will look for respectful ways to resolve differences, and I will give others time to respond and adjust to my truth and to explore their own.  This commitment makes sharing the truth safer, and increases the likelihood that intimacy will grow.  This is not an obligation to stay in an abusive situation – remember point #1.

A few other thoughts:

When you define others, things will get messy; when you let others define you, things will get messier.

When one person in a close friendship or a couple has a problem, the friend or the couple both have a problem together.  They aren’t going far as friends or a couple until the problem is resolved.

Steve Paul says, “Accept your friend or partner’s limits and stay or go based on your own.”

Jae Brainard, M.S.W. 919.481.0574

edited by Bob Dick, Ph.D 919.256.2190

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