Relationships are complicated. When we think about all the different things that affect our roles and behavior in relationships, it is no wonder they often become strained. One of the biggest indicators of how we approach our relationships is our family background. Sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle, adaptations are made in order to successfully navigate childhood. We are also influenced by our childhood peers and how we perceived, compared, and understood their family relationships.
Although it has changed somewhat over the course of time, society’s influence also affects our romantic relationships. We are bombarded by messages that try to tell us what are ideal and/or acceptable male/female characteristics or traits. In essence, how we “ought to be.” Finally, any previous intimate relationship we have been in has left us with some idea of what we “ought not to do” or “should do” next time.
So, many things affect the “filters” we use in negotiating our relationships. We interpret verbal and non-verbal communication, behavior, personality, intellect, and mood – all of which influence our actions in relatiosnhip. Our filters process this information and from there we begin to interpret, conclude, and believe what we think to be true. Seldom do we actually take the time to seek clarification, or check out our belief with a partner, friend, family member, or professional.
How we receive information is complicated – but so is how we present information. Often there is a tendency to blame the other person for what they are or are not doing. This tendency does not allow us to be accountable for our own thoughts, feelings, and behavior. It almost immediately puts the other person on the defensive and robs us of the chance for learning and growth. Having this information may allow us to navigate our relationships more successfully, but not having the information will almost inevitably backfire.