How Self-Awareness Can Improve Your Relationship

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How Self-Awareness Can Improve Your Relationship
Love

What is self-awareness in relationships?

If you’re married, have you ever pondered the evolution — or de-evolution — of your relationship from an emotional and communication standpoint?

Have you ever wondered how you went from hanging onto your soon-to-be spouse’s every word to having a knee-jerk reaction to everything they now say?

It’s so easy to be aware of every little annoyance inflicted by the other person. And yet, that awareness never solves anything.

So, how can self-awareness improve your relationship if other-awareness can’t?

RELATED: How Self-Awareness Can Improve Communication & Positively Impact All Your Relationships

It's all about change. 

Words like "improve," "grow," and "evolve" are really just positive expressions for "change."

As we all know, the only thing consistent in life is change. But the defining element for the nature and quality of that change is awareness.

Without awareness, change has no direction and no higher purpose.

Being aware of what is going on outside of you is far easier than being aware of what is going on inside of you.

What others say and do, how they say and do it, traffic, weather, politics, love, hatred, kindness, and war — who has time to self-examine when there is so much to focus on "out there"?

And by focusing "out there," you’re opening yourself up to being judgmental and placing blame.

The problem with blame.

If you focus on the outside and blaming others, your power evaporates. You can’t change anything because you have no stake in the game.

You become and remain a victim.

Having no responsibility means you also have no power. And having no power means you can’t affect change when and where you want.

As a victim in your own life and relationships, you retreat into defensiveness to protect yourself from a world that you assume is against you.

Fundamental attribution errors.

To borrow a term from social psychology, you make a fundamental attribution error.

The other person, in your mind, behaves out of ill will toward you. You jump to conclusions, make assumptions, and behave accordingly.

Before long, you’re looking at a marriage trampled by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And all this because your awareness is pointed in the wrong direction.

So how can self-awareness help improve your relationship?

There are a few things you need to know, first.

Self-awareness is a dimension of emotional intelligence, which is all about recognizing and managing your own emotions and helping others to do the same.

It is a moment-to-moment perception of what is going on in your own body, mind, feelings, and behavior, involving the recognition of the interconnectedness of everything that comes from and affects you.

How can self-awareness help when your relationship is struggling and you don’t know how to fix it?

Well, what's the one thing that drives everything in relationships?

One thing: Communication.

When couples start fighting and distancing themselves from their former level of intimacy, there is inevitably a breakdown of communication at the core. One or both partners aren’t feeling heard or aren’t getting their needs met.

In the daily rush of life, it becomes easy to throw the blame onto the other person.

"You never..."

"You always..."

"Why can’t you...?"

"You don’t care..."

"If I mattered, you would…"

RELATED: 4 Things People In A Relationship Need To Do Separately In Order To Be Happy As A Couple

It is far quicker and easier to go that route than to check in with yourself and start digging for answers.

But digging for answers is at the heart of self-awareness.

And once those answers reveal themselves, they stand at the ready to assist in moments of tension and negativity.

Consider the fact that "not feeling heard" is the fundamental issue of much marital discontent.

What goes into feeling heard? What does that communication style look like?

Active listening is key. 

One of the reasons that working with counselors and life coaches can be so effective is that active listening is foundational to their practices.

If you've ever worked with a counselor or life coach, you will recognize the impact of eye contact, body language, and open-ended questions. You will notice, if you think about it, that the sessions are about you and not what the professional projects onto you.

In a marriage, it can become easy to lose your grip on this important commitment in your communication style. And the only way to lose your grip is to lose or never have self-awareness.

If communication is at the heart of a healthy relationship, how can self-awareness help?

Getting in touch with your own emotions isn’t as easy as you might think. And recognizing what emotions are at bay and what emotions are on-deck can be tricky, especially when tempers are flaring.

Your body delivers powerful signals and information to you.

Flushed cheeks, quickened heart rate and respiration, and the tension in your muscles — these are all ways your body informs you of underlying emotional information.

When you are self-aware, you don’t let that physical, sensory information go by without acknowledging it. You ask it to lead you to the underlying emotion.

Are you angry? Afraid? Sad? Worried?

Once you pinpoint the underlying emotion that is manifesting in physical form, you can tap into the history behind it.

"Have I experienced this fear before? What was happening in my life at that time? Is this really the same circumstance, or is it just a trigger to those old feelings and fears?"

You may also recognize belief systems, assumptions, and other derivatives of your personal history popping up to shape your reactions and behaviors.

Self-awareness empowers you to own those influencers.

It also helps you to separate their message from the message you are receiving from your partner.

By dedicating time to the process of becoming self-aware, you (re)shape your communication. You are no longer a victim, but a facilitator of the change you want to see.

It doesn’t always feel good to revisit those old wounds whose scars like to get attention.

But when you own them and take responsibility for how you live with them, you automatically shift the responses you get.

You control your own behavior, soften the mood, and decrease the intensity between you and your partner.

All this because you took the time for self-examination. All this because you learned and owned your own story.

All this because you became the change you wanted to see in your relationship.

RELATED: How Being Self-Aware Can Help You Value Life’s Simple Pleasures

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Dr. Karen Finn is a life coach. Her writing has appeared on MSN, Yahoo!, and eHarmony, among others. You can learn more about Karen and her work by visiting her website.

This article was originally published at Dr. Karen Finn's blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.