Most folks live, work or play with other folks. We all need the skills to play nicely together. Where do we get those skills and tools? And, what are they? It is not rocket science to understand that our early training continues to play out in our lives. What we did in our families tends to be our base line until we decide to consciously change our minds. There are far too many people...believe me, I know, having been a therapist for years...who spend their lives blaming their families for the present conditions of their lives. Sure, some people have been badly treated, even abused, and I am not dismissing their pain in any way. Most folks have not, however, and many continue to hold on to the 'if-only' and 'they done me wrong' mentality as a defense against moving forward in their lives. You can change your mind at any time, can't you? You can choose to play on your own team and be your own ally in creating the life you say you want. Do you ever let the old patterns you learned or observed in your family life infringe on your current relationships? Do you have a fear or an unwillingness to trust new folks on the basis of your history with other folks? Is this serving you well? I doubt it. When I was a therapist, couples would come to me. One, or both, would complain of being compared to their partner's last love, lover, wife or husband - and, usually not favorably, either. I can think of one case that was particularly overt. The man complained that his partner was flaunting her sexuality at every man she met. He said she even spent too long chatting with the checkout person in the grocery store, longer than was necessary in his opinion, and he considered it flirting. He said that, when she bent down to choose groceries from the bottom shelf, she did it in a sexually aggressive way. Having seen this woman in the community for several years, I had not noticed any overt sexuality on her part. As we worked together, it turned out, as you have probably guessed by now, that his former wife ran off with another man. His belief was that, if he had been more vigilant for the signs he was now hyper-vigilant of in his current partner, he would still be married to his first wife and at home with his children. His current partner was in a no-win situation. Although she was now more conscious of everything she did and was feeling quite anxious and tense about her every move, there really was nothing she could do until this man took the pain of his last experience and left it behind with his former wife. Certainly, you learn from experience. Hopefully, you become wiser. It is unfair, however, to transfer one experience to another in such a paranoid fashion as this fellow. Wisdom, yes; paranoia, no. To have rich rewarding relationships with others as partners, co-workers, colleagues or relatives, you have to have a rich and rewarding relationship with yourself. IT'S THAT SIMPLE! Do you approve of yourself? If so, great; If not, what would you have to do to earn your own approval? Popular magazines tell you that you must be your own best friend. What does this mean? Stop. Ask yourself if you are willing to do for yourself what you are willing to do for your friends. Some folks will put themselves out to do something for another person and yet they won't get off the couch for themselves. They may be more comfortable spending money on another than on themselves. They may go places that interest them with another but they will not go alone. If a movie is worth seeing, it's worth seeing, isn't it? Really great relationships begin with really great relationships with yourself. There's another important ingredient, though. Before you say anything about your partner, co-worker or relative, ask yourself if you are doing what you want them to do. I notice in my life with my husband that I cannot complain about what he doesn't do if I am not holding up my end completely. Life gets much easier when you are first sure you are living up to your own expectations of others. The conversation you have with yourself is much more straightforward. Be sure you're doing what you expect them to do...and that you have been demonstrating this behavior over some time. No fair pointing out that he/she needs to participate in an exercise program if you have not been demonstrating consistently that you value exercise. This is dirty pool. No fair saying someone else is putting on weight and it is unattractive unless you are at a reasonable weight. Why is this simple equation so often overlooked? Because we project - we project our shortcomings on others. It's easier than taking responsibility for our own, isn't it? Want really great relationships? Have a fantastic, honest relationship with yourself. That's the only way!