Love

4 Steps To The Healthiest Relationship You've Ever Been In

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Romantic couple running in field holding hands.

The single most important relationship skill is not communication, it is taking ownership. Successful relationships require taking ownership of your experiences. 

I have found that the easiest way to take ownership of your experiences in a relationship is to remember the triad of facts, judgments, and feelings.

  • Facts are normally measurable events: “The sky is blue.”
  • Judgments are the meanings we attach to that event: “The blue sky is pretty.”
  • Feelings are our range of emotions and sensations: Warm, cold, happy, sad, etc…

Often when we are upset or excited, we make judgments about something and erroneously assume those judgments are facts — “You’re a jerk,” “I love you.”

These are not facts, no matter how passionately we may believe them to be true. They are judgments.

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An event or stimulus occurs giving us a certain experience, and we react by giving meaning to the experience and forming judgments. Our judgments then stimulate our emotions, resulting in feelings of anger, sadness, gladness, fear, shame, etc. And it all happens in the blink of an eye.

The question is, how will you react after an experience? 

You can react consciously or unconsciously. 

   

   

If you react unconsciously, you will respond thoughtlessly according to your feelings and judgments at the moment — whatever they are. Conversely, if you react consciously, you will separate facts from feelings and judgments, and you will thoughtfully decide what meanings to accept and what actions to take. 

The following four steps will guide you into consciously reacting to the experiences in your life.

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Here are 4 steps to the healthiest relationship you've ever been in:

1. Review the facts

“OK, the sky is blue. We’re walking in the park together. The temperature is about 76 degrees. I just said, ‘It’s a beautiful day’ and my friend responded ‘No, it sucks.’”

2. Review your judgments

“Hmm, I believe it’s a gorgeous day and that walking here is wonderful. But I judge that my friend isn’t feeling that at all.”

3. Identify your feelings

“I’m glad it’s such a beautiful day, but I am also sad that my friend is troubled and not enjoying it. I am also frustrated and angry at my friend’s negativity.”

4. Make a conscious choice

Once you’ve separated the facts from your judgments and feelings, you are in a much better position to decide what to think, feel, and ultimately how to react. 

Notice in the above example that the judgments and feelings are mixed, which is common. 

If you are conscious, you can choose which of the available judgments and feelings you will embrace and act upon, and which you will discard. 

For instance, in the above example, you might decide to focus on your sadness that your friend is having a bad day and choose a compassionate response, rather than getting angry that your friend is not “getting it.”

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The power of taking ownership

It is our nature to have lots of thoughts, judgments, and feelings. Some that we want to identify with; others that we don’t.

It is common to confuse judgments with facts because we believe them so strongly. It is also common to confuse feelings with judgments (e.g. “I feel like you’re so wrong about that!”) and to have conflicting reactions, such as “You’re a jerk” and “I love you” at the same time. 

While our experience is involuntary and overwhelmingly strong and real for us at times, as conscious beings we can pick and choose our truth and what we say and do about it.

   

   

Ultimately, we are responsible for what we feel, think, say, and do. There are no victims in the conscious adult world

Taking ownership gives us power over our choices and destiny, and thus is the key to a successful and happy life full of rewarding relationships.

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David Steele is a writer and founder of the Relationship Coaching Institute and a pioneer of the relationship coaching profession.

This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.