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Have you ever said "I"m no good at relationships"? Here are some reasons you may feel that way and ways to improve your relationships.

Common Questions About Relationships, And Some Answers

I've never been very good at relationships, of any kind. I don't even know how or where to begin.

Relationships begin with you, because you are half of any relationship you join. So start with yourself! Don't count on a relationship to "cure" a poor self-image. It won't work. But here are some measures that can:

  • Make an inventory of your best, most attractive qualities and affirm them to yourself often.
  • Avoid unrealistic standards and all-or-nothing thinking: "If I don't make an A on every test, I'm a total failure."
  • Challenge yourself to accept and absorb compliments: a simple "thank you" raises self-esteem; negations, such as, "You like this outfit? I think it makes me look dumpy," lower self-esteem.
  • Remember that there are no guarantees. Making gains requires taking risks. Seek out new experiences and people; then approach them with openness and curiosity. Each is an opportunity.
  • Don't expect overnight success. Close friendships and intimate love relationships both take time to develop.

I don't think I have a poor self-concept. I feel pretty good about myself. But this is a big city, and it's easy to get lost in the crowd. How do I go about meeting people?

Your question implies that you see meeting people as something which requires effort, and you're right! No matter how stunningly attractive you may be, passively waiting for others to throw themselves your way not only doesn't work very reliably, it doesn't allow you to be very choosy. Here are some common-sense approaches which you may find helpful:

  • The best way to meet people is to put yourself in places where there are likely to be other people who share your interests and values: classes, ticket lines at sporting or cultural events, cashier lines at stores and restaurants, and workshops. And join an organization! Check with various organizations for information on groups based on religion, athletics, academics, political/special interests, ethnicity/culture, and service or charity.
  • Once you're with people, initiate a conversation by: asking a question, commenting on the situation, asking for or offering an opinion, expressing some interest, showing some concern, or offering or requesting help.
  • Have you ever said Im no good at relationships? Here are some reasons you may feel that way and ways to improve your relationships.Once you've engaged someone in conversation, let him or her know you're listening and interested. Make eye contact, adopt an open posture, reflect the feelings you hear, paraphrase what he or she is saying, and ask for clarification if you don't understand.
  • And, again, remember: no risks, no gains. Don't be discouraged if you and the other person don't "click" first and every time.

One thing that's difficult for me in relationships is "hanging on to myself." It seems that once I get close to someone -- roommate, friend, or lover -- I give in and accommodate so much that there's nothing left of me.

It's hard to experience fulfillment in a relationship which is not equal and reciprocal. The best way to avoid "giving yourself up" in a relationship is to develop some assertiveness skills. Learn how to express your feelings, beliefs, opinions, and needs openly and honestly. Here are some guidelines:

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  • When stating your feelings, use "I-statements." Avoid accusatory or blaming "you-statements." They usually only result in defensiveness and counterattacks.
  • You have a right to have feelings and to make requests. State them directly and firmly and without apology.
  • Acknowledge the other person's point of view, but repeat your request as many times as necessary.
  • Learn to say "no" to unreasonable requests. Offer a reason -- not an excuse -- if you choose, but your feelings are reason enough. Trust them.