Relationships That Work

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Relationships are one of the most important things in our lives, yet also one of the most challenging life decisions we have to make.

Relationships take trust, vulnerability, time, commitment, shared goals and similar values. Not an easy feat; however, the investment is well worth it.

Most of my clients come in due to relationship issues. Even if they are presenting with depression or anxiety and sometimes even medical, there is usually an underlying issue of poor relationships.

We take time to think through a job decision very carefully, we hire financial experts to manage our money, and yet often we end up in relationships without thinking too much about it.

It was a hard lesson in my life, not just once, or even twice, that just because you like/love someone, does not mean they are good for you. This can be a friend, business associate or even a romantic partner. That “good” feeling when you meet someone new is really the dopamine in the brain enjoying someone exciting and fun. We confuse this feeling to mean “it is meant to be,” or “they are the right one.”

This is not to say they are not, but we have to look beyond the chemical response and think through such questions, as “does this person share similar values, goals, interests as me?” “Are they capable of the type of relationship I am needing/wanting?” “Do their actions match their words?”

So many of us grew up with the fairy tales that we are all just going to meet the right person, or think that the person will change once they know us, or that someone else thought they were a good business associate/friend. Therefore we have to think about our relationships before we make a commitment to them. Once we attach or make that commitment, it is much more difficult to get out, to leave, or change the relationship.

The chemical that can keep us attached to a wrong person is called oxytocin. This oxytocin affect can last up to two years and on occasion four years. Once this is released, it is difficult for us to think logically about that person. It is when this chemical stops being released people come into therapy and wonder how they got themselves into a relationship that is lacking what they need and want.

However, when relationships are good, they encourage us and want us to be at our best, yet we’re accepted at our worst. They motivate us, enhance us, and bring joy and a sense of peace in our lives.

The key to good relationships is knowing when it is time to let go of the ones that are not good for us, thus allowing the space for a good one to come in. Not an easy thing to do for most of us. There are many reasons we do not let go of relationships. The fear of being alone is the most common, and yet we can be more alone in a relationship. We may not leave because we have too much invested with that person, be it time, money and/or children. Maybe it is a financial fear. These fears can be real, but when we allow fear to be greater than our desire to have healthy relationships, it costs us our self-esteem, happiness, and again, the possibility to truly have a great relationship.

Healthy relationships build our immune system, increase our happiness and improve our chances of success. They allow us to take more risks in life and improve our self-esteem.

I have never had a client regret letting go of a relationship that does not work for them.  And the majority of the time they do find that friend, partner, associate that can meet their needs, but you have the courage to let go of what does not work.

We have to have this courage because, as Matthew Kelly wrote in his book, “The Seven Levels of Intimacy: The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved,” “Life is about love. It’s about whom you love and whom you hurt. Life’s about how you love yourself and how you hurt yourself. Life’s about how you love and hurt the people close to you. Life is about how you love and hurt the people who just cross your path for a moment. Life is about love.”

Contact Shelly Zavala at or [email protected].


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