How We Find Safe Relationships with Others

May 06, 2022

After 30 years in the profession of helping people, I have come to understand something: we cause much of our pain by the people we choose. In every kind of clinical issue that psychologists deal with, relationships are a big part of the picture in some way.

(Now, I'm not saying that victims of abuse are to blame. I'm talking about general relationship issues. Abuse is never your fault!) 

Consider these questions:

• Are you experiencing the same problems or feelings that you’ve experienced in previous relationships?
• Do you find that you continually pick people to fall in love with or become close friends with who hurt you in some way?
• Do you find yourself wondering if there are any “good ones” out there?
• Do you often go through periods of emotional turmoil as a result of choosing someone who wasn’t good for you?
• Is “How did I get myself into this?” a frequent question you ask yourself?

A lot of people can relate to these feelings. Their relationships leave them lacking in some way, leaving them to wonder why they end up in the situations they do. They wonder what they are doing wrong, why they “deserve” to be treated in such a way, and if it can ever be any different.

The truth is that poor relational choices are self-inflicted, but can be changed with a little work. Most people find themselves in one rotten relationship after another, and don’t stop to analyze why they make these choices. They just assume they are unlucky, often not considering there may be a better way to make choices in relationships.

Before we talk about choosing, though, let’s look at hurtful selections people make. What makes a poor choice? In a word — character. The quality of someone’s makeup determines whether or not they’ll be good in a relationship.

 We are attracted to someone’s outsides: their looks, their status, their intelligence, or achievements. But, we experience their insides: their character. The character makeup of a person determines what they’ll be like in a relationship. If they do not have the ability to do certain things that require good character, then they won’t be able to be good in relationships.

It would be nice to spot those issues and steer clear of problem people, but none of us are certain how a person is going to react to certain situations. Today they may seem like a person who has a healthy respect for boundaries, but six months from now may be hoarding all your time and attention. None of us can evaluate another perfectly.

But we can get better at it!

The way we learn to find people who we can have a healthy relationship with is only partly based on knowledge. The biggest part of the solution has to do with our own character. To pick people of good character, we have to first become a person of healthy character. To find someone who can connect, we have to connect. To relate to someone with good boundaries, we have to have good boundaries of our own. To be with someone who is real, we have to grow past our own perfectionism.

The process by which we make the necessary changes in our own character is called growth. As we grow inside to become the person we were created to be, we find that we have better and better character ourselves, and as a result, make better choices in significant relationships. This requires work in our personal lives and makeup, and that’s not an easy process. But for those who have taken this challenge, they find that the work is worth the effort.

So, you have to put the work in. Find a good community where you can learn how to grow in your ability to connect, be free from the control of others, be real, and be equal. Develop different realms of your life in such a community, as you learn to relate to others in a deeper way. The lifelong rewards will surprise you.