Author – Charlotte McLaughlin
More often than not our relationships are a reflection of our inner state. How we feel about ourselves can often be determined by the type of relationships we are choosing to invest our time and energy in. So clients in different stages of their recovery are often attracted to different types of relationships.
Am I in an ‘unwell’ or a ‘well’ relationship?
Whilst I don’t believe there is a definitive answer to this, it is an important question to enquire into. Whose needs are getting met in this relationship? Are they yours or your partners? Are you aware of what your needs are? If so, how are they (or not) getting met? Is your eating disorder getting fed through this relationship, or how may it be feeding the relationship?
People suffering from eating disorders often have a fractured sense of self, bound in layers of low self worth and shame. Could you be pursuing this relationship in order to feel validated and worthy?
Or in the case of more ‘toxic’ relationships, are you pursuing it in order to have your feelings of low self esteem reinforced? Which patterns or behaviors are being reenacted through your current relationship?
Healthy or ‘Well’ Relationships
I find that working with people in the earlier stages of recovery often find it very difficult to get their needs met, or even to know what their needs are. The beauty and joy of undertaking the therapeutic journey is rediscovering who you are; your needs, desires, feelings, thoughts, passions, beliefs, sensations, dreams – the whole of you.
Recovery involves developing a deep relationship with yourself. It is about rediscovering who you are beneath the layers of shame and the layers of should’s and shouldn’ts that have been imposed on you. It is about rediscovering your core.
As this process begins to unfold, the types of relationships you begin to desire and attract may change. Questions you may start asking yourself are; does this relationship support my higher purpose, my continued growth, my wellness? Is this relationship meeting my needs? If it’s not, then am I able to let it go?
“We are all whole and enough in ourselves.” The fundamental work in creating and maintaining a healthy relationship with a partner, is creating and maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself. This means developing a real sense of who you are; including your strengths, your vulnerabilities, your edges. As you get to know and accept yourself on a deeper level, you do not need to look outside yourself for external validation and acceptance.
There isn’t a prescriptive rule as to what a healthy or well relationship have to look like – we’re all unique and it can take many forms. But these are the building blocks, from which it becomes possible to build your own unique structure.
It’s about being able to first connect to yourself with love and self acceptance, and then meeting your partner from this place. With these foundations, relationships have the potential to take on a very different formation. From here, you will find your own definition of what a healthy relationship needs to look like – one that is unique to you.
How do we develop and strengthen our core self?
At the clinic we advocate several different tools for this including:
-Mindfulness and meditation
-Getting to know yourself through journaling, painting, drawing (and other creative pursuits)
-Using therapy groups to get to know yourself on a deeper level
-Through practicing self compassion and self acceptance
-Through cultivating your passions.
Questions to ponder over:
Where are you in your recovery process and how does this impact your relationship? How connected are you to your core self in this moment as you’re reading this? Where are you at in developing your own building blocks for a healthy relationship? And what does your unique structure look like?