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Do We Have Mature Relationships with Others?

By Alainnah Robertson December 19, 2022 Family

It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

—Epictetus (50–135 CE)

Relationships Are Vital

Our relationships with others can make life a delight. If our lives are full of family and friends with whom we have a loving and fulfilling relationship, we have a treasure beyond price. When we’re sad, they can help us lift our spirits.

When we’re troubled, they can help us navigate our way through any challenge to a successful outcome. When we are happy, they can increase that happiness by sharing it with us. On the other hand, when our relationships with other people are dysfunctional, we will never know the pleasure or joy that comes from truly loving relationships.

What Is a Mature Relationship?

A mature relationship with others is one in which we ourselves behave in an emotionally mature fashion. Here’s what that means:

  • Self-aware, and self-reflective, we act with emotional restraint. We do not act like babies and throw things around, or deliberately hurt other people.
  • We respect the other person’s autonomy, and the most important facet of any relationship, whether between individuals or groups of people, is that the autonomy of the other is respected. We give them freedom from our control. The desire to control others is an immaturity.
  • We love non-judgmentally, accepting the other person exactly as they are. We do not criticise negatively.
  • We work with the other person, instead of imposing our will on them. We sit down and talk with them unemotionally about any problems.
  • We practice empathy, making the effort to see the point of view of the other person. We try to put ourselves into the shoes of the other person.
  • We listen carefully and patiently to what is said before answering. We let the other person talk and present their point of view, without interrupting.
  • We honestly present our point of view in any situation. We speak our truth, recognising that this is how we see it.
  • We set clear boundaries that we are not prepared to have crossed. We do not let our own integrity be breached simply to please another person, or out of fear of the consequences.

Do You Set Boundaries in Your Relationships?

All healthy relationships have boundaries. When setting these we have to:

  • Recognise our feelings.
  • Know how we want to be treated.
  • Recognise when and how our boundaries have been crossed.
  • Recognise how we need to set our boundaries.
  • Communicate what boundaries we need to set.
  • Take care of ourselves first, before we can take care of others.
  • Recognise our feelings, and allow ourselves to feel them, when a hurtful event happens in our life. We may need to talk about our feelings, whether to a trusted family member, friend, or counsellor. We need to explore what happened and gain an objective understanding of the event, including the behaviour of all concerned. We can stand back and look at the big picture to put the incident into perspective. We can establish boundaries around ourselves to protect our own integrity. We can then take the necessary action to rectify the situation.

Do You Make Healthy Choices in Your Relationships?

We all have choices we have to make in life, and we are responsible for those choices. One important choice we can make is to be happy. If someone or something hurts us, we can choose to react as do the Stoics: we can control our reaction.

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said it’s not things that hurt us, it’s our judgement about those things. We can look at the big picture and put everything in perspective. We can analyse the situation, knowing that there are always many viewpoints, and choose to let it go. We can choose to be happy regardless of the behaviour of others.

What Does a Mature Relationship Look Like?

Let’s take the example of parents whose teenage daughter has been staying out well past midnight lately. In a household where the relationships between family members are mature, the parents would sit down with their daughter and discuss quietly, without emotion, why they need to set a curfew for her.

They would listen to their daughter’s perspective and show that they understand that she, like most teenagers, wants to go out with friends and have fun. They could then go on to explain that the curfew is being put in place out of concern for her safety. They could make clear that as long as she is in their care, they have a responsibility to safeguard her welfare.

The win-win would be if they could come to a common understanding on how the daughter will organize her social life so she can go out with her friends but come home at an acceptable, safe time.

How to Be an Adult in Relationships (2021) by David Richo is an interesting book and a useful tool in helping build healthy relationships.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you have mature, loving relationships with your family and friends? Can you see where you may need to change in order to develop such relationships? Are you prepared to do the work required?

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7 Comments
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Ginny Carnohan

Thank you for a wonderful and right-on-the-mark article. I embrace your wisdom.

Alainnah Robertson

Thank you, Ginny! :)

Leslie McCarthy

Boy can this be tricky. It’s so hard not to react, but things only escalate from there. Great article and worth pondering and trying to implement. Thanks!

Suzie

Agree, great read with my morning coffee Merry Christmas Leslie, Margaret and everyone in our wonderful community 🤗

Alainnah Robertson

Thanks for your comment, Leslie!

I find nowadays that the least I say the better. When I don’t reply, the other person continues to ramble on, then often will simply change the subject. This leaves me unruffled, not having wasted any energy, and having avoided a problem. It’s taken me quite a while to learn this. I wish I had done so sooner.

Patti Haskell

What wonderfully wise words to live by. This helps me to understand and heal from some difficult family relationships.

Alainnah Robertson

Thank you, Patti! I’m so pleased to hear that this has been helpful! Have a lovely festive season!

The Author

Alainnah has lived on three continents, and always had a strong desire for community. She has founded various groups, including one on mindfulness and self-development. Alainnah has compiled her group study sessions in a book, Mindfulness Together. The ebook is available now on her website: alainnahrobertson.com. Printed version soon.

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