How to fix relationship problems

Posted October 6

In this edition of LIFEadvice Coaches Kim and Nicole teach how to take more personal responsibility for the problems in our relationships and they show how to fix them. (Deseret Photo)


My relationship with my adult children is not good. They are disrespectful and unkind in spite of all I have done for them. They have hurt me deeply in the past, but I forgive them, why can’t they forgive me for past mistakes? I have had so many things go wrong in my life the last few years and I just need them to understand I’m doing the best I can. How can I get them to see how their behavior isn’t right? How can I get them to stop blaming and shaming me?


The problem is you cannot change or fix other people. You can have a mutually validating conversation with them and really listen and validate them, after which you ask to share how you feel and ask for different behavior moving forward, but that doesn’t gaurantee they will change, and their future behavior is totally out of your control. The only person whose behavior you have any control over is yours.

The path to change or fix any situation starts with taking personal responsibility, owning your part in it, and working on your part. Often we are so wrapped up in our fear of not being good enough that we prefer to cast the blame on others. When we do this it just makes the situation worse, and no one wants to be around a person in shame and blame.

It takes a very motivated, mature and clear person to be willing to see their role in every problem, take responsibility and be willing to grow and to change. Ironically, this is the kind of person that everyone wants to be around.

We all want people in our lives who are clear, have appropriately proportionate reactions and behaviors, and who own their mistakes and apologize when they make one. We are drawn to and respect people who are strong enough to own their faults. However, too often, we see people too afraid to wear any responsibility for their actions and decisions at all, and usually their lives and relationships continue to spiral downhill.

Stop here for a minute and ask yourself an important question. As you were reading the first part of this article … were your thoughts on how others really need to own their part, or were you honestly thinking about your own behavior?

If you were already in blame mode and more focused on how the other people in your life need to read this and own their part, chances are this is a pattern in your life and you are struggling to own your part.

(If you were focused on your own behavior, you are probably good at seeing your own part. Some of you may even have the opposite problem of blaming everything on yourself and you may need to do some work on repairing your self-esteem.)

Either way, you probably have some deep fear of not being good enough. You may have had this fear most of your life and it may have created a subconscious tendency to point fingers, judge and even be angry at other people, because focusing on how bad they are quiets your own fear of failure a bit. (Or you may always point the finger at yourself. What we are shooting for here is balance.)

Please be honest with yourself about your pattern, especially if it's a tendency to point fingers. You probably don’t consciously chose to blame others though and take the victim role. You subconsciously do it. It is just the way you were programmed to see things throughout your life. The good news is, you can change it.

One of the best ways to take greater personal responsibility in your life is to realize that this situation, though it may not be all your fault, is your responsibility. Unless you take responsibility for the lesson showing up (because you apparently have something to learn in it or a way to grow from it) you won’t have any power to change it. You must own that. Though others may need to change too, your focus must stay on becoming more mature, wise, calm, balanced and loving yourself. You must work on you.

You may not like how this sounds, but the buck really does begin and end with YOU and your behavior. In every person’s life there is a time when they must step up and take responsibility for what they have created around them and for their own happiness. It is no one else’s job or responsibility to make you happy!

Look around you and take note of what is working and what isn’t working in your behavior. If being mad and angry at the kids isn’t making you happy, you might want to try something different. If telling them how horrible they are treating you isn’t making them love and respect you, you might want to gain some other skills or tools to try. If the people you love don't want to spend time with you, what behavior in you might be causing that? Where is the stress, unhappiness or imbalance in your life showing up?

What are you willing to change in yourself to create something different?

There are many ways in which you can take personal responsibility and create change in your life:

  1. Become aware of the most common feedback you receive from others. Hearing feedback can trigger fear if we let it. We can feel taken from, mistreated and judged. Instead of allowing the fear of loss and fear of failure to be triggered, adopt the attitude that feedback is not failure, it is just helpful information. Until we know what we don’t know, we can’t make changes. In fact you may be receiving a great gift in the feedback that can help you improve your communication and relationships. Remember that feedback doesn't change your value. You have the same value as every other human being on the planet.
  2. Look for common themes or behaviors that show up again and again in your life. Do you feel mistreated, angered, outraged, have you experienced loss or do you feel like a doormat? Do you have the same fights again and again? Maybe this is an opportunity for you to take note. If the same themes come up for you this is often a result of you having boundary, emotion or communication issues. There are 12 particular psychological inclinations within us all, and many really struggle to place their needs above others, which results in unbalanced relationships where we get taken from or treated like a doormat. There are other psychological inclinations that excel at managing conflict and confrontation that may even be too harsh and can come across as arrogant and difficult. (You can visit my website for help to figure out which psychological inclination you are in.) Try to step out of ego when it comes to this analysis and really look into the past with objectivity, ready to learn from your mistakes and make positive changes for your future. For tools on how to create healthy boundaries in your life and move out of these behaviors, check out our Setting Healthy Boundaries Worksheet. You can get it here.
  3. Choose not to feel or act like a victim. When you feel like a victim you often display behavior that is needy, co-dependent, pitiful, mean, angry or aggressive. These behaviors push people away from you. Your unbalanced behavior probably comes from your fears of loss or failure, both which drive you to get offended and behave badly. Taking personal responsibility for these feelings enables you to be more loving and honest. Understand that what you feel is always valid, but don’t let it lead to poor behavior that is immature and beneath you.
Feeling like a victim is not productive, but you may feel you are not equipped to navigate your way through it and change your thinking at this time. For skills on how to move out of this state, consider investing in some coaching or counseling to boost your skills and move out of a victim state more quickly.

I promise you, when your children see you take personal responsibility for your part of the problems and see you learning, growing and changing, they will not only feel more open and loving towards you, but they may be more likely to look at their own bad behavior and be ready to grow too.

We all desire more connectivity, respect and a life with less conflict and confrontation. Understanding your own behavioral patterns and getting some new tools and techniques to express yourself and connect with others really can change everything.

You can do this.

Kimberly Giles is the president of She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.


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