Between you and me: Cultivating authentic relationships

Between you and me: Cultivating authentic relationships

Lisa Vallejos

"Authentic" is a word that has been circulating around the personal development field for some time now. But a lot of people don’t really know what it means to be authentic, much less how to be authentic. By my definition, authentic is really about getting real with yourself about who you are, where you are and what you want. Being real is about assuming full responsibility for your life and making choices about how you will live it.

To get real is not an easy process, but it is relatively simple. First off, a person must acknowledge their own role in whatever happens to be going on in their life. This means no more excuses. If you are not happy with your life, you are then faced with the responsibility of either changing it or accepting it how it is and not complaining because you are choosing to not change it! That is perhaps the most difficult thing about assuming responsibility — it eliminates the possibility of making excuses or being powerless in a situation. Most often, we do have an option to make changes in our situations and even in the rare cases that we don’t, we have a choice in how we react.

In relationships, it is possible to cultivate authentic connection by being honest about who you are and what’s going on with you. The most important aspect, however, is taking responsibility for your role in whatever goes on. If you have a conflict with your spouse, children, boss or family member, you cultivate authentic relationships when you refuse to blame but rather take ownership for your part in the issue and encourage them to do the same.

The next aspect of authentic relationships is recognizing your own freedom. You are free to choose how you behave, who is in your life, what you do for work or fun, how you spend your time and money and what you choose to invest in.

The last aspect of authentic relationships is not living your life to others' expectations. This doesn’t mean being selfish and inconsiderate of others, because that is no way to have a good relationship! It simply means that you consciously choose how and in what ways you’ll conform and then you do it because you WANT to, not begrudgingly because it’s what others expect.

There is a movie scene from "The Breakup" where the couple is arguing about him not washing dishes, and she says “I want you to WANT to wash the dishes” and the male character says “who would WANT to wash dishes?” The point of this scene is not that she actually wanted him to “want” to wash the dishes but rather to want to do it because it would help her and would ease her burden. In relationships, it’s important to choose consciously what we are willing to do for others out of love, respect and affection rather than resentfully doing things because we are expected to do it.

Authentic relationships are honest. They are vibrant. They are built on a solid foundation of trust because you know that the person you are with is just as genuine as you are. You know that you can rely on them to be up front about things and to live according to their values. Authentic relationships are real, deeply felt encounters that enrich not only our own lives but the community in which we reside.

Lisa Vallejos, MA, is a dating and relationship coach in the Bay Area. She is originally from Colorado, where she is a licensed professional counselor. You can send your relationship questions to Lisa at lisa@lisavallejos.com or at www.lisavallejos.com.