Relationship challenges are one of the most common struggles my coaching clients ask me for help with.
Whether it’s at home, at work or school, or just being out in the world, our lives are filled with navigating human relationships.
In this episode, we talk about what relationships really are, the lie that many of us believe, and the freedom that comes when we acknowledge that adults (including you) can show up in life however they want.
The full episode:
Hey! Thank you for being here. I hope your day is going well wherever you are and whatever you’re up to. Here it is a rainy, spring day. The robins are out and about, and I’m sure they’ve got their eye on the big spring wreath I hang on our front door. It must be prime real estate in the bird world because either robins or rose finches build a nest in that thing every single spring, just days after I hang it. And I’m not sure if the snow is officially behind us, but I am going to choose to believe that it is. My boys want to know if they can wear shorts to school simply because there isn’t snow on the ground and we’ve had to establish some boundaries around that. They wanted to play outside without coats last weekend and I had to explain it was only 34 degrees even though they described it as being “so warm” out.
Even though I’m recording this episode a bit early, when you listen to this it’s our school’s spring break week. I’d like to say you can find us sprawled out on a beach somewhere, but, you will not. It’s a staycation I guess. That sounds more exciting than “hanging out at home”. What about you? Have you been doing fun things and traveling on your spring break, if you have one? I wanna know about it. Maybe I can live through your adventures.
So. Episode 14. Let’s do this. Today we’re going to talk about relationships. As people, we’ve become really confused about how the world works, especially when it comes to relationships. We’re under the impression that we have to be able to control things in order to feel good – and this includes believing that we have to control other people in order for us to feel better. We’ve created so many rules for our relationships, and these expectations are keeping us from experiencing them as we should.
Now, I have a feeling what I’m going to be sharing with you is a lot different than you might anticipate. I laugh sometimes in preparing this content because I’ll think, “They may think I’m absolutely nuts when I tell them this, and that’s totally okay.” Because, as you know, the way our brains work on autopilot, left unsupervised, the things it allows us to believe, are often wayyy different from what is possible to think and believe. And, if you’re anything like me, then you’re going need to process this relationship stuff a bit.
Let’s start by defining a relationship. Pretty easy, right?
I just googled the word relationship and here are a few different definitions that came up:
The first one says, “the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.”
The next one defines a relationship as “the state of being connected by blood or marriage.”
The third one says, “the way in which two or more people or groups regard and behave toward each other.”
Today, we’re talking about relationships in any form. Or any human form, I guess I should say. Spouses, parents, kids, friends, co-workers, in-laws, neighbors, clients, acquaintances… even yourself. I would say most of us would also answer along the lines that a relationship is how two people regard each other or are connected to each other. Seems pretty straightforward, right?
And this is where I want to offer something different. You may agree with this or you may opt not to, but I’d like to invite you to just to consider what I’d like to share with you about relationships today. What I want to offer to you that all a relationship is is our thoughts about another person.
That’s right. That’s it. Relationships are simply our thoughts about another person.
That is to say, it’s not about what someone else does or says or who they are. Your relationship with someone is your thoughts about that person.
What tripped me up when hearing this the first time was the misunderstanding that relationships have to involve two people. I seemed to think this was a given. And that the interactions between the two people are what create a relationship. But I think I had it wrong.
Let’s take an example. Maybe you have a friend – we’ll call her Kate – who you think is one of the most amazing people in the universe. Her good qualities are never-ending. She is the wisest, smartest, most fun, most awesome and trustworthy person you know. You would do anything for her. And yet, someone else out there may not like her at all. How could this be? Your friend hasn’t changed. She’s still the same Kate. It’s not that you know two different sides of the same person. But the other person? The one who doesn’t really like Kate? That person has a different experience of your friend because that other person thinks different thoughts about her. It’s both that simple and that complex. The thing is, that other person’s relationship with Kate depends on that other person’s thoughts about Kate, rather than on Kate herself.
Take a minute and think of someone you wish you had a better relationship with. Maybe just go with the first one that comes to mind, because if it pops up first, it’s probably for a reason. Next, ask yourself, why is this relationship the way it is currently?
What’s going to happen is that your brain is going to give you evidence. And lots of it. It likely may point out things the other person has done or said. Or things they haven’t done or said. It may bring up past experiences. Or events. Happenings. Your brain may also offer things you’ve have done or said to this person as evidence for why this relationship is how it is. And let’s remember why our brain is doing this. First of all, our primitive brain’s job is to protect us. It can defend us by showing us others’ missteps and wrongdoing, right? If we don’t have the greatest relationship with someone, and our brain can give us evidence as to why that is, we believe it. We accept that as the truth. And not only does our brain like to keep us safe and comfortable, but it also LOVES to be right. So by giving you evidence of how someone else is to blame, it’s proving to you that you are right to feel this way. So from here, we believe past circumstances – have created the reality of the present day relationship we have with this person.
But it’s just not true. It takes real intention on the part of the other component of our brain – the more evolved and discerning part that sets us apart and makes us human – that can see over this attempt at protection. And it’s this part of our brain that can choose to think differently. And to know this is to know the secret to all relationships.
Are you dying to know what it is?
The Secret to ALL Relationships is to know that your relationship with anyone (even yourself) only depends on your thoughts about them.
It has nothing to do with what the other person does, says, or even what they think of YOU.
So let me say that again. The secret to your relationship with anyone depends on your thoughts about them. You can choose to have loving thoughts toward someone who dislikes you. You can have a relationship with someone you don’t know, simply because you have thoughts about them. You can even continue to have a relationship with someone who is no longer here – either some who is no longer physically near you, or someone who has died. And this is because the relationship only depends on the thoughts you have about them.
It’s kind of mind-blowing once you let this truth sink in. So often we base the status of our relationship with someone on what they do or don’t do. We have expectations for them, and our thoughts about them depend on whether or not they meet our expectations. We have thoughts – a lot of thoughts – about what they do or don’t do. Or what they did, or didn’t do – in the past.
Often in life, we hand off the power over our thoughts and feelings to someone else. The problem is that, when we base our personal thoughts and feelings off of how someone else is living their life – we become the victim. We wait around, waiting for people to change, and believing that once they change – once my kids start behaving, once my spouse starts showing me he loves me, once my friends start to be more reliable – we think, THEN I’ll feel better. Then I’ll have a good relationship with my kids, a good marriage and better friendships.
But if we keep waiting for people to change so that we can have good relationships with them? We’re gonna be waiting a long time. We also may be waiting for forever. Because they may never change!
The best part is, they don’t have to change. You can change the relationship simply by changing your thoughts.
Do you think you have a horrible relationship with your kids because they don’t behave? They don’t meet the expectations you have for them? Do you believe it will make them changing, and becoming the well-behaved kids you imagine – in order for that relationship to improve? When you believe that they need to change in order for you to feel better, you’re handing over your power. You become the victim. But what if you decided that you have awesome kids, whom you have very loving thoughts about – and it just happens that they don’t always behave? When you believe this, you’re both acknowledging the reality of the situation while also giving yourself the gift of having the relationship you want with your kids.
Now, I know in-laws can be a big topic of relationship challenges. Let’s talk about your mother-in-law. Maybe you could write me a list of ALL the ways your relationship with her is a hot mess. But did you know, that no matter what she does or says to you, your spouse or anyone else, YOU get to decide how you want to think about your relationship with her? Does it seem backwards to believe you could think good thoughts about someone who may not like you very well? You absolutely can. And you can make that change for yourself. For your well-being and peace. Because believing it FEELS so much better than the alternative. And waiting around for other people to change because that’s what we believe needs to happen in order for US to feel better? It’s one of the many lies we believe. It never serves us well. Even if your mother-in-law isn’t someone you don’t want to speak to often or spend time with, you can still choose to have a great relationship with her just by choosing the thoughts you want to think. Isn’t that incredible? To have that kind of power?
This revelation is kind of like unlocking a superpower, if you think about it. Because we do have these expectations of all kinds of people in our lives. We have thoughts of how we should think people should be – spouses, kids, friends, bosses, neighbors, parents, in-laws… We want to control them, and yet in our thoughts that tell us the rules of how someone else “should be”, we end up hurting ourselves. Because when we want others to be something they’re not, in order for US to feel better? We end up disappointed, resentful, bitter, and just not showing up as the people WE want to be.
When it comes to our relationships with other adults, I want to tell you one of the most powerful things I’ve learned that has completely changed the way I view other people. And that is this belief:
Adults get to do whatever they want.
When I arrived at this belief, I found it really works for me. It serves me so well to know that other adults can be and do whatever they want, and it has nothing to do with me. Trying to change them is pointless. So is expecting them to be a certain way. People don’t like to be controlled by someone else. They get to be them, and they get to be responsible for what they say and do. Same with you. You’re an adult. And this means that YOU get to be and do whatever YOU want. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. Now, some of you are going to think, wait, isn’t that selfish? I suppose we’d have to dig deeper on the specifics of what that looks like for you, but in the big picture, you get to decide what works for you. You get to decide what is serving you well in your life, or isn’t. And this doesn’t make you selfish – it just makes you a human being who has free will.
It’s important to know that you aren’t responsible for how someone else feels. Now, this doesn’t mean you decide there are no consequences for your choices or behavior. But it’s vital that we understand that someone else’s feelings are that person’s responsibility. So many times we do things or don’t out of people pleasing. We aren’t being true to ourselves, but rather doing or saying what we think the other person wants to hear. We’re trying to manipulate and control the other person’s feelings. Did you know you actually can’t be mad at SOMEONE? You can only have thoughts that make you mad. Also, someone else can’t hurt your feelings. Isn’t that crazy! I mean, as a parent, many of us take this as a truth and teach our kids they hurt people’s feelings, and that other people can hurt theirs. But it’s just not true. What happens is people say and do things to us, and we have thoughts about that. Sometimes we have thoughts that hurt. That’s it. They’re just thoughts. And you get to choose your thoughts about any circumstance.
One circumstance this is helpful to consider in is when you don’t want to do something. Many of us do, or don’t do, things because of how we think it will make someone else feel. But again, let’s remember that we aren’t responsible for how someone else feels if we don’t want to do something. Adults are responsible for their own thoughts and feelings.
Now, there might be something you want to do BECAUSE someone wants you to, but this is different from feeling like you have to do something because they’ll be mad at you or punish you if you don’t. The things is, adults can do what they want. They can lie, steal, cheat, forget things, not call you back, and not show up. They can come home late, be messy, be lazy, be critical and controlling. And you can be passive aggressive, give them the silent treatment, complain, freak out and yell or do whatever you want. But when you start to let go of the idea of trying to control them, trying to change them, you realize how much of your own energy you’re wasting. Time and energy you’re wasting trying to get others to behave in a way that makes you happy.
The best news is that you can stop. Right now. You can stop waiting for that person to change. Whomever he or she is.
How you do do this is by working on your own thoughts. Intentionally choosing thoughts that create what you want to feel. If you want to, you can love them anyway. No matter how they decide to show up in life. If you want to, you can remind yourself that you’re responsible for you, and that’s it. You don’t have to change them at all. It’s freeing for you AND for them. Others appreciate the freedom of being who they are without criticism or judgment. It’s an incredible thing to have someone just love you for who you are and who isn’t trying to change you. On the flip side, it’s freeing to be able to love others for who they are, with zero expectation. Just loving them no matter what.
The big picture lesson here? We have to let go and let adults be adults.
The last thing I want to touch on today is a question you might already be asking. What about people in your life you don’t want to have a relationship with? And what about toxic relationships?
Firstly, I don’t believe it’s a kumbaya world where everyone can just be happily simpatico and BFFs. In fact, I don’t think that’s the way it’s even supposed to be for us. And yes, even though our relationships ARE our thoughts about another person, and we can choose those thoughts, I do for sure think there are relationships we won’t want to continue. There will be people we chose not to have in our lives because the thoughts we have about those people, and the feelings those thoughts create, just don’t serve us well for one reason or another. And that’s the beauty of it being our choice. And that’s the beauty of free will AND my belief, which is that ultimately, who know what’s best for you. And maybe that’s influenced through prayer or your faith belief systems, but ultimately, I believe that free will can give you the discernment to know what’s best for you.
Secondly, toxic relationships. What about those? Well, maybe I’ll do an episode all about this specifically, because many of us attribute a lot of our life challenges to toxic relationships. I’ll raise my hand and say I’ve for sure had my share of these thoughts. But the news I have to deliver is that there’s no such thing as a toxic person. Yes. I know. Take that in for a minute. Let it simmer.
Think about what the word toxic means. Poisonous. When we believe there are toxic people, we believe that there is a poisonous quality to them, almost contagious in a way, like once we’re exposed to them and breathe it in we’re doomed. And we have no control. Now, someone might say to me, “But haven’t you ever been around one of those people who, after you’ve been around them and their negative energy, you just feel like you’ve absorbed it and can’t get away?” And even though I know exactly what they’re describing, because I’ve been there, I also know now that people aren’t poisonous. People aren’t toxic. When we say someone is toxic and blame them for making us feel a certain way? We’re giving them all of our power. While in some ways it can feel almost protective to blame a “toxic” person on us feeling a certain way, it’s just not useful. And the best news is that no one is that powerful. No one is so powerful they can affect you that strongly with their presence – UNLESS you allow them to.
So, you might ask, if there aren’t really toxic people, why do I feel this way around some people? And that is because certain people trigger thoughts within you. And those thoughts create feelings. Right? Because we know that ALL feelings we have are created by a thought in our brain. Not by another person. Not by a circumstance. Always by our thoughts.
So yes, there will be people who trigger uncomfortable thoughts in your brain.
There will be people who test your boundaries.
Who challenge you.
There will be people who dislike you; who behave in ways you think are unkind.
And here is where I’d like to remind you of two things.
First, adults get to be and do what they want. The same that is true for you is the same as the person you’ve previously felt was toxic.
Second, you get to choose what to think about that person, and you get to choose the people you want to be surrounded by in your life. You get to decide who you spend time with. You get to choose. Always. Just make sure you like the reason you have for making that decision.
Like I mentioned, this topic of toxic people and toxic relationships could be it’s own episode, so for sure, if questions are coming up for you, feel free to send them my way! You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on instagram, where my handle is @beckyhoschek.
I hope this episode was helpful in giving you some perspective on what relationships really are, the freedom that comes with realizing that adults are allowed to do whatever they want, knowing that only you are responsible for your own thoughts and feelings, and understanding that there really aren’t toxic people.
Usually right about now I share what the next episode will be, but the truth is that I don’t know yet! So I’ll leave it here and I’ll be back with you next week for episode 15. Talk soon and have the best rest of your day.