Finding Healthy, Authentic Relationships
I vividly recall a therapy session in which one of my weight loss surgery patients, Georgia, walked in and began talking nervously about a new, potential friend named Vickie. They had just gone to lunch together, and Georgia wondered aloud if she had made a good impression on Vickie. She questioned if she “talked too much,” “said anything stupid,” and “had anything to offer to the friendship.” She talked at length about her concerns, at one point saying, “I just really wonder what she thinks of me.” I asked Georgia if I could interrupt and posed the following question, “Georgia….what do you think of Vickie?”
Georgia fell silent and looked at me rather perplexed. This is a common reaction when I ask patients about their reactions to a potential friend or relationship partner. I frequently find myself saying, “You’re so focused on what they’re thinking of you that you’re not reflecting on how you’re feeling about them.”
I am not encouraging my patients to be judgmental- I am simply encouraging them to carefully reflect on whether the other person’s personality, behavior, values, interests, wants, and needs fit with their personality, behavior, values, interests, wants, and needs. I have found that most of my patients, either because of past rejections, abuse, abandonments, or simple socialization, do not go through this exploration process—they simply try to please others, even if the others aren’t good for them. In fact, most have no idea what type of person would be a good, healthy, authentic fit for them. The result? Inauthentic, unhealthy, exhausting relationships that feel like work.
Personal Development through Self-Discovery
Is your experience like that of Georgia? Are you so busy worrying about what others think of you that you don’t reflect on how you feel with them? Have you given any thought to the type of person that would be a good fit for you in a friendship or romantic relationship? In other words, do you know what you’re looking for? If not, I encourage you to reflect on the following questions, which are drawn from my book, The Weight Loss Surgery Coping Companion:
- With whom can I be myself, feel comfortable, feel safe, and feel joy? What are the defining characteristics of these people? What are their interests? How do they spend their time? Think hard about these traits—and then consciously seek out individuals who possess them.
- With whom do I feel uncomfortable, anxious, or fatigued? What are the defining characteristics of these people? How do they spend their time? What are their interests? You will likely feel healthier and more authentic if your interactions with such individuals are minimized.
- What do I want and need in a friend or relationship partner? Spend some time reflecting on and clarifying your authentic wants and needs. For example, do you have strong needs for verbal communication or affection? Do you need security and safety? Do you really want your relationship partner to share certain interests or values? Then, consciously seek out people who meet these needs and wants – you deserve relationships that are fulfilling, energizing, safe, and real.
I hope that these questions are helpful, and I wish you the very best on your path to authentic relationships!