Lesson 4 of 7  - optimize your relationships:



Improve Your Relationships

By Peter Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council


The Web address of this page is https://sfhelp.org/relate/guide4.htm

 Updated 03-07-2015

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  Objective - studying Lessons 1-4 will empower you to assess the quality of any relationship so you can reduce any stress and raise your satisfaction from it. The concepts in this lesson apply equally to the dynamics among your personality subselves and the people in your life. 

      This brief YouTube video outlines the main topics in this Lesson. The video mentions eight lessons in this self-improvement Web site -  I've reduced that to seven.

      This fourth self-improvement lesson proposes options for optimizing your relationships. The lesson assumes you've made significant progress on Lessons 1 thru 3. You can assess your knowledge of these lessons by taking these quizzes. If you feel knowledgeable enough, you can skip some or most of the "review" items in these parts.

      Lesson 4 is divided into sequential parts:

1) relationship basics

2) relating to yourself,

3) how to solve relationship problems

4) primary relationships, divorce, and ex-mate relations; and...

5) relating to a Higher Power.

      Lesson 5 in this online course focuses on family relationships, and Lesson 6  focuses on parenting children and teens. Lesson 7 focuses on stepfamily relationships.

Why Study This Lesson?

      Overall, do your current relationships enhance or degrade the quality of your life? Would you like to improve the quality of your relationships if you could?

      We humans are social animals. Adults, kids, and infants need other people to help fill a range of needs like companionship, affirmation, love, support, learning, stimulation, and belonging. Many factors determine our relationship satisfactions, and our society doesn't teach people how to understand and manage these factors well. The evidence is everywhere - divorces, domestic violence, abuse, neglect, abandonment, "not speaking," affairs, crime, and so on. 

      Premise - any time the existence and/or actions of person "A" has a "significant effect" on person "B," they have a "relationship." Using this definition, how many relationships do you have now? Among them, identify the most satisfying relationship you have. Now think of one or more stressful relationships. What makes the difference? This lesson offers a practical answer.

      You can only control your half of any relationship. Do you know how to optimize your half now? Do you know how to identify "relationship problems" and negotiate effective solutions? Can you choose "compatible" people to relate to, and avoid "problem people?" Did the adults who raised you know these things? Are you teaching the young people in your life how to do them? 

      The main reason to study this lesson is to raise your awareness of the relationships that shape the quality of your life and your opinion of yourself. Another reason is to grow your ability to analyze and resolve "relationship problems" effectively. On a scale of one (very ineffective) to ten (very effective), how would you rate your abilities to do these two things now?

      A third compelling reason to study this lesson is to help you evolve a high-nurturance family (Lesson 5), and improve the lives of a multi-generational fan of living and unborn people that you are affecting.

Status Check - mentally Review the top five of your current life priorities. Is progress with Lessons 1-3 (reducing wounds / learning communication skills / doing good grief) included? With your priorities in mind, rank how important improving your relationship skills and satisfactions is now:

_ very important  _ moderately important  _ unimportant.

      If you have limited time and patience, and/or you're a visual/auditory learner, get a preliminary understanding of this lesson by viewing all the videos in YouTube playlists 4a (relationship basics) and 4b.(marriage and divorce). They total about 15 hours. Most of the articles below include one or more of these videos.

      You'll get the most from investing time in this self-improvement Lesson if your true Self guides you and you choose an undistracted time and place to learn. You can enhance your learning by finding a like-minded partner or group to discuss these learnings with.

Lesson 4. Part 1 - Relationship Basics

     This part exists because our wounded society struggles with "relationship problems" without understanding what causes them and how to resolve them. This part will help you grow a knowledge base for the other four parts in this lesson. Check each step off after you complete it.

__ 4-1)  Review What's a "Grown Wounded Child" (GWC)? (Lesson 1)

__ 4-2)  Preview the lethal [wounds + ignorance] cycle (Lesson 5)

__ 4-3)  Take this quiz to learn your current knowledge of relationship fundamentals.

__ 4-4)  Compare these premises about relationship problems to your beliefs.

__ 4-5)  Study these Q&A items about relationships. How many can you answer?.

__ 4-6)  Learn the distinction between surface needs and primary needs.

__ 4-7)  Consider Dr. Abraham Maslow's proposed "Hierarchy of Needs

__ 4-8)  Consider these ideas about how people's attitudes affect their relationships

__ 4-9)  Review this perspective on gender and communication (Lesson 2).

__ 4-9)  Compare these ideas about respect with your beliefs

__ 4-10)  Read this article on "...the early roots of empathy," and meditate on how empathic you are. Option - ask others who know you to rank your empathic ability from low to high.

__ 4-11)  Compare these requisites for a mutually-satisfying relationship to your beliefs.

__ 4-12)  Compare these ideas about liking and disliking people to your ideas

__ 4-13)  Learn to distinguish anger from frustration, and how to benefit from them.

__ 4-14)  List the most satisfying relationships you've had so far. Then identify why you select them.

__ 4-15)  Preview - what's unique about family relationships? (Lesson 5) .

__ 4-16)  Perspective on friendships, and 8 options for improving them

__ 4-17)  Perspective on the importance of appropriate physical touching

Lesson 4, Part 2 - Relating to Your Self

      Do you treat yourself as well as you treat people you care the most about? My clinical observation over 30 years is that most Americans treat themselves poorly - i.e. unhealthy diets, too little exercise and quality sleep, too little preventive health care, and choosing unbalanced, stressful  lifestyles.

      I propose this is largely due to the pervasive [wounds + unawareness] cycle that is relentlessly degrading our society. The purpose of this part is to increase your awareness of how you treat yourself, and to motivate you to improve that.

__ 4-18)  Review this perspective on your unique personality (Lesson 1)

__ 4-19)  Review this comparison of true Self and false-self behavioral traits. Does your Self (capital "S") guide you in most calm and stressful situations? If not, keep working on Lesson 1!

__ 4-20)   _ Read this perspective on wholistic health, and then _ rank yours from 1 (low) to ten (high)

__ 4-21)  Do you love yourself? Vividly picture the person/s you love most now. Enjoy the feeling of respect, delight, and admiration you  have for them. Then study your reflection in a mirror. Do you feel the same about that amazing person?

__ 4-22)  Review options for improving self-love and self-confidence (Lesson 1)

__ 4-23)  Review options for reducing excessive guilt to normal (Lesson 1)

__ 4-24)  Are you a shame-based person?  You may have been taught that you don't deserve to care for yourself. (Lesson 1)

__ 4-25)  Consider these options for forgiving yourself and others

__ 4-26)  Review options for reducing excessive fears to normal (Lesson 1)

__ 4-27)  Are you living on purpose"? Experience this brief video ("the Dash") on what you do with your life  Then experience "The Man Who Planted Trees" for inspiration.

__ 4-28)  Consider these ideas on awareness. Then try this simple self-awareness exercise at random times for a week or more. See what you learn.

__ 4-29)  Identify your current priorities, as judged by your actions, not your words. Is maintaining your wholistic health among  them?  

__ 4-30)  _ Review this sample Bill of Personal Rights. Then _ draft your own , and use it in conflictual or uncertain situations. Option - encourage any young people in your life to make their own Bill.

__ 4-31)  Review these ideas about the skill of assertion (Lesson 2). Then rank yourself as an asserter from one (ineffective) to ten (very effective). Do you usually rank your needs as equally important as other peoples' needs? ("No" suggests psychological wounds.).

__ 4-32)  Meditate on this research summary on American self-neglect. Does it apply to you?

__ 4-33)  Think of someone you know who clearly values and cares for themselves as much as for other people. Would people who know you describe you that way?

__ 4-34)  Consider this news report on "bad habits." Does it apply to you? If so, consider these ideas (video);

__ 4-35)  Read this perspective on sleep deprivation. Does it apply to you?

__ 4-36)  Read these reports on U.S. obesity, emotional eating, and "fat and happy." Do they apply to you?

__ 4-37)  Read this perspective on the four kinds of addiction. Do you have an active addiction? (Lesson 5)

__ 4-38)  Review these ideas on getting enough healthy physical contact.

__ 4-39)  _ Review this perspective on spirituality. Then _ evaluate whether your religion and/or spirituality is nourishing or toxic

__ 4-40) use this profile to gauge how mature you are

      Pause, breathe, and notice your thoughts and feelings. What did you just learn about relating to your Self?

Lesson 4, Part 3 - Solve Relationship Problems

      Premise - a "relationship problem" occurs whenever the attitudes, values, and/or behavior of one person significantly hinders another other person from filling some primary needs. Our society doesn't teach people how to avoid or resolve relationship problems effectively. That's why these steps exist:

__ 4-41)  Study these nine common barriers to satisfying relationships. Are they affecting your life?

__ 4-42)  Study this proposal for analyzing any relationship or social-role problem effectively

__ 4-43)  Review this framework for win-win problem solving (Lesson 2)

__ 4-44)  Consider these options for resolving most relationship problems

__ 4-45)  Review and try these options for improving communication with adults (lesson 2) and kids (lesson 6)

__ 4-46)  Browse this menu of common relationship problems and options for resolving them.

__ 4-47)  Study this perspective on improving relationships with co-workers.

__ 4-48)  Consider these options for regaining lost trust

__ 4-49)  Learn how "not hurting someone's feelings" can harm both of you

__ 4-50)  Review this brief YouTube video about what causes "approach-avoid" relationships, and options for responding to them.

__ 4-51)  Review this menu of effective responses to common irritating behaviors. (Lesson 2)

__ 4-52)  Consider these options for adapting to interpersonal rejection, and creating an effective rejection.

__ 4-53)  Learn options for dealing with scapegoating, being a "black sheep," and/or bullying.

__ 4-54)  Identify several "significant' relationship problems in your life now, apply what you learned in this part, and see what happens. Option - journal about your experiences.

Lesson 4, Part 4 - Primary Relationships, Divorce, and Ex mates

      Current and former primary relationships have some unique features. This part focuses on optimizing such relationships. Option - see the related YouTube videos in playlist 4b in the "Gerlach" channel. Here "marriage" means a committed primary relationship.

__ 4-55)  Review these four factors required for mutually-satisfying relationships

__ 4-56)  Read this proposal on the keys to a satisfying marriage and compare it to your experience.

__ 4-57)  Study this worksheet on what needs typical mates try to fill in their relationship.

__ 4-58)  Study these Q&A items on dating, marriage, and divorce, See how many you can answer!

__ 4-59)  Review these five epidemic hazards and these common barriers to mutually-satisfying relationships

__ 4-60) Compare these ideas about marital love problems with your experience

__ 4-61)  Mull these  courtship danger signs  for childless and stepfamily couples. Divorce begins with unwise courtship choices.

__ 4-62)  Read this brief article on couples who cohabit without marrying.

__ 4-63)  Compare this opinion about healthy marital priorities with yours. If you and/or your partner feel you have "too little time" to nourish your relationship, discuss this.

__ 4-64)  Review this timeless research on couples' communication

__ 4-65)  Consider these ideas on improving communication with anyone (Lesson 2)

__ 4-66)  Review and discuss these ideas about marital intimacy

__ 4-67)  Compare this perspective on marital affairs with your beliefs

__ 4-68)  If appropriate, consider...

  • ...these options if your mate is addicted and/or psychologically wounded; and/or...

  • ... these ideas if you are a same-gender couple, and these options for confronting prejudice.

  • ...these basic considerations for dealing with someone's ex-mate; and/or consider...

  • ...these options for managing sexual desire and/or activity between ex mates (lesson 6).

__ 4-69)  each of you mates fill out this strengths/stressors profile and discuss it honestly together

__ 4-70)  Consider these 16 alternatives to divorce,.

      My experience as a family-systems therapist for 36 years is that marital trouble and divorce are caused by...

  • mates' psychological wounds + ignorance of grieving, communication, and relationship basics (Lessons 1-4 here) and...

  • public denial of, and tolerance for, the lethal [wounds and ignorance] cycle.

      If this is so and you experience "marital problems," then avoid counselors, therapists, and marital programs who aren't aware of these causal factors or minimize them. Such well-meaning helpers usually focus on superficial issues, not the primal ones - specially not on psychological wounds.)

Lesson 4, Part 5 - Relationship with a Higher Power

      Many psychological wound-reduction experts propose that a firm belief in a benign (vs. stern, jealous, wrathful, punitive) Higher Power is essential for progress. Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) are either...

  • indifferent to spirituality,

  • atheists or agnostics,

  • passive believers in a Supreme Being, or...

  • active believers who pray and worship regularly. They may have a fear-based faith (e.g. fearing sin, God's "wrath," and eternal damnation) or a nourishing faith in a benign, loving, responsive God. 

      Some of the latter have a one-way relationship. They do not expect to converse with God. Others are open to a two-way (mutual, interactive) relationship with their Higher Power - i.e. having meaningful real-time dialogs. Premises - a two-way spiritual relationship is achievable by anyone who intentionally increases their awareness and seeks to be guided by their true Self.

      This is a complex topic which deserves its own Web site. The "assignments" below are offered to increase your awareness and enhance your relationship with a reliable, caring Supreme Being.

__ 4-71)  Define the difference between religion and spirituality out loud. Are you religious, spiritual, both, or neither?

__ 4-72)  With your Self (capital 'S') in charge, read this perspective on toxic and nurturing religion (vs. spirituality).

__ 4-73)  Meditate and reflect: which childhood people - specifically - most influenced your religious faith and practices? Why?

__ 4-74)  Reflect: were those people following someone else's idea of God, or had they formed their own opinions from reflections and mature experience?  

__ 4-75)  Do you feel you were encouraged to explore and form your own understanding and ways of worship, or were you required to accept someone else's ways?

__ 4-76)  Define _ "prayer," _ "effective prayer," and _ "answered prayer" out loud.

__ 4-77)  if you pray, do you listen for a response (thoughts, feelings, hunches, and/or "senses")? If not,  why? If so, do you trust and follow your "still, small voice"? If not, why?

__ 4-78)  Review these proposed 12 steps for Grown Wounded Children in recovery. Are you motivated to _ adapt these steps to fit you, and _ live by them?

__ 4-79)  Do you depend on some Holy Scripture and church official to interpret God's guidance, or do you trust your own communion with your Higher Power?

__ 4-80)  Do you think there are truly "evil" people, or are they highly wounded, unaware survivors of childhood trauma and parental ignorance?

__ 4-81)  Options - study "Conversations With God" by Neale Walsh, and/or When God Becomes a Drug, by Fr. Leo Booth.

+ + +

__ 4-82) Congratulations - you've finished Lesson 4! Take this quiz again to assess what you've learned here. Then (a) keep working on Lessons 1-3, and (b) move on to Lesson 5 - improve your family's functioning.

      Options - re-study and discuss selected topics here in important relationship conflicts and/or on anniversaries. Consider alerting other family members and friends to this ad-free online course.


      This fourth self-improvement lesson provides 82 "assignments" in five groups to help you optimize your internal and external relationships:

1) relationship basics

2) relating to yourself,

3) how to solve relationship problems

4) primary relationships, divorce, and ex-mate relations; and...

5) relating to a Higher Power.

These assignments will help you choose and evolve more enjoyable relationships and significantly reduce stress. They're based on

  • personal awareness, and...

  • having your true Self guide you in all situations (Lesson 1), and...

  • learning to think and communicate effectively (Lesson 2), and...

  • knowledge of relationship basics (Part 1 above).

+ + +

Learn something about yourself with this anonymous 1-question poll.  

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this study guide? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

 This guide was very helpful   somewhat helpful   not helpful    

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