Other People Make Relationships Difficult – 3 Questions To Ask Yourself

“Some people have all the luck,” my friend recently told me.  “I always choose the wrong men.”  She went on to explain her latest relationship fiasco and how her partner got defensive, “as he always does,” and broke up with her.   Her immediate response was to blame him for not being good at relationships, for not caring enough and for not appreciating everything she did for him.


The part that my friend left out of the equation was the subtle and not so subtle ways that she pushed her partner away and stopped him from feeling safe in her presence.  She forgets to mention the numerous times she unfairly criticized him, told him what she thought he should or should not do, and refused to listen to his perspective on a problem.

There is a simple sign to indicate that the problem in a relationship (business, friendship, family, intimate) may not be the other person but may have something to do with your consciousness.  Take a good look at what tends to happen in your interactions with others.  Take a closer look at how YOU respond when things don’t go the way you want, desire and expect.


      • Do people tend to get upset with you when you tell them how you feel about something they have done?
      • Do you find yourself frequently listening, helping and caring for others yet they don’t seem to reciprocate?
      • Do you say that you want to have a close relationship yet you are afraid you will get hurt again?


If you have been experiencing any of the above feelings or responses, this may be a perfect opportunity for you to examine your own motives and modus operandi.  For the most part, other people are not inherently inconsiderate, naturally unfair, overly sensitive and hyper-reactive.  Yes, there are some individuals you may interact with who exhibit extreme emotional reactions due to a mental health issue.  But if you are often finding others to be uncooperative, self-centered, unwilling to reciprocate, defensive, angry or verbally criticizing you, it may be time to stop looking out there and start looking inside yourself.

The real crisis is our present level of consciousness, and not in the conditions that serve to reveal it.  ~  Guy Finley ~    If Your Relationships Are In Crisis, The Solution May Be In Your Consciousness

You reap what you sow.  Pay Attention to What You Are Reaping Now, What You Have Sowed In The Past, And What You Are Sowing Now For Your Future

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  If people are often responding in ways that surprise, hurt, confuse or upset you, stop looking out there for the cause.

If you are the recipient of frequent defensiveness, hostility, and lack of reciprocity in your relationships with other people, here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

Is there something I have said or done recently or in the past that may be influencing this type of response?

In our relationships with people we have known for some amount of time, the past may be influencing the present.  One of us may have some unresolved emotions from several past interactions with each other that are affecting the way we respond today.

Have I intentionally or accidentally invalidated, dismissed, criticized or even insulted another person with my words or actions?

Many of us believe that a good relationship is one in which we are able to say exactly what we think and feel.  We expect that the other person will be able to fully accept us and appreciate our honesty.  When we prepare for a business presentation, we do not blindly blurt out facts and figures.  Usually, we spend a good deal of time preparing to present the information in the most favorable light and in a way that the audience might be receptive to our ideas.  Why do we tend to think that we don’t need to prepare when we are dealing with a friend, colleague or intimate partner.

Did I begin this conversation by acknowledging something I believe is good, competent, special, unique and valuable about this other person before saying what I feel is not right or needs to change?

This simple preface before any personal interaction with another person can open the door to powerful and mutually beneficial conversations.  Every one of us wants and needs to feel acknowledged.  We do not want to be “told” who we are and what we “should” do.  We become much more receptive when we are asked appropriate and open-ended questions that allow us freedom to respond in our own way.

Think about a difficult conversation you have had recently.  Please share how you handled it, or mishandled it, in the comments below.

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Dr. Erica Goodstone is a Spiritual Relationship Healing Expert helping men and women heal their bodies and their relationships through love. Having presented her comprehensive relationship healing programs throughout the U.S. and Canada over several decades, she has helped literally 1000's of men and women to heal through learning how to love. Dr. Erica believes "Where There is Love There IS a Way". When you love, accept, listen and pay attention to your body, trust your own sense of what you truly desire, and strive to understand, appreciate and really know the other people in your life, anything and everything is possible.

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44 thoughts on “Other People Make Relationships Difficult – 3 Questions To Ask Yourself

  1. Hi Dr. Erica,
    This is a great topic and you said it right. If nobody seems to reciprocate, it’s time to look within.
    My business coach always says this whenever times tome when he needs to talk about relationships. He talks about the Window and the mirror approach where people who have bad relationships with others are those who look in the mirror when things are going great. They look into the mirror and appreciate the man or the woman who is doing such a great job.
    But when they have things not going well, they look outside the window and blame somebody else – their partner, their coach, their associates. Somebody else is responsible for things that are not right.
    He recommends that we should reverse the approach and our lives will become beautiful. I found this to be so true and practical. Don’t you think?

    Thank you for sharing and hope my two cents here add some value…

    • Kumar,

      I love what your business coach says about people looking in the mirror, praising them self, when their relationships are going well. And then they look out the window and blame somebody else when things are going wrong. We should look in both directions in both cases. Look at what is really going on, your part in the growing or disintegrating relationships as well as the other person’s part.


      Dr. Erica

  2. Hi Erica,

    Thank you for this helpful article.

    Sometimes, a person may say the wrong thing but with no intention or sometimes a person just listen on the other side without seeking clarification and then suddenly jumped at the innocent person. These situations are easier to handle.

    There are such few instances I experienced with friends (both real and virtual) but with all honesty, I don’t take it to heart but continue to keep in touch and the day just came that they realised it wasn’t my fault at all or sometimes, if it is my fault and the other person bring it up to me and that I find it is really my fault then I will apologise. But once, there was no fault of other people, I read something at the time when I was in very bad mood then suddenly the good turn bad. It happened to me once but this friend of mine captured my attention and love again for his sincerity.

    This is just to share a simpler misunderstanding with friends I have had before but not on intimate relationship yah :-)…. the “love” for people always win if we want to win people’s heart 🙂 BUT it has to be real and genuine, not sweet talk 🙂

    Thanks and Cheers 🙂
    Pearly Quah

    • Pearly,

      It can be difficult to feel love for someone when we are blaming them for something. Sometimes we need time and space to able to see the situation more clearly. And if we are authentic, we will apologize if we discover we were wrong. Nobody has to be perfect all the time. Being able to admit when you’re wrong and to love others even when they have wronged you in some way can remove many relationship problems.


      Dr. Erica

  3. Pingback: 5 Tips for Having a Successful Interfaith Marriage – Guest Blog Post

  4. Dr. Erica,
    well, here I am commenting at your great topic of relationships and how or what it takes to make it smooth.

    Your suggestions (knowledge) are so valid, so to the point and it seamed odd that we do not get it while we are into a relationship… but they are very clear once we are out of the relationship.

    I once read that when two people have the seed of love, true love within each others, everything else will be worked out along their relationship, because no matter what would come up, they could always get back to the implanted seed… BUT if there is no true love seed, well, we all know the outcome since there is more brake ups lately than marriages haha 🙂

    I learned a little in keeping a relationship, after many, many years of trail and errors, but I must confess, so far could not find a perfect one yet… not because I cannot find or my lady cannot find it, but because (as you stated in one of your video) all this relationship turmoil (my word) may have started way before we where born, so as I see it there is no way we get it right, no matter how much we keep on working, but by working we can keep on going and that is already a step forward 🙂

    Thanks so much for doing such a great job to teach most of us what it takes to have and keep great relationships…

    • Nick,

      I agree with your statement about the seed of love, if it is present, being enough to bring you back to love. My father’s favorite saying was: “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” I have changed that to: “Where there’s love, there IS a way.”

      To respond to your other comment, I have a new realization. “Love is a simple game played by complex people.” Think about animals. They are so obvious when they love, when they hurt, when they are excited. Their love is simple, consistent and enduring. People, on the other hand, have complex minds that cause all sorts of distractions.


      Dr. Erica

  5. Before Ian and I were married, his sister teased us by saying, “I can see it now… the canoe goes merrily over the waterfall, and those two won’t even notice because they’ll be engrossed in conversation!” It was true then, and it’s just as true now, more than 30 years later. I’ve always felt that that is the single strongest reason our marriage is so good… that we can, and do, keep the communication lines open. I think it also helps that we try to put the most positive spin on what the other has said or done. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ian loves me and would never intentionally do anything to hurt me. So when something does hurt, I can talk to him and trust him no matter what.

    • Willena,

      You have explained what so many people do not understand. They have a feeling inside that their partner does not really love them, that he or she does not really care to understand them. Knowing with assurance that Ian loves you and would not purposely hurt you enables you to get through any difficult situation by sharing what you think and feel. And it seems that he is receptive. What a gift of love – the topic of my next article.


      Dr. Erica

  6. Dr. E,

    Relationship management is so much like eating, we do it automatically without thinking. The things that come out of our mouths to another have an instantaneous affect on our relationship with them. If one comes from a heart centered place in all their interactions chances are they will benefit from the interaction. And, many times we just plain react with the first thing that comes to mind. I know I am guilty of this. It’s the “why did I say that” syndrome.

    People serious about developing or maintaining a relationship would do well to follow your suggests. Better yet, they might consider speaking with you about the subject.

    All the best,


    • Rick,

      Thanks for admitting that you sometimes just blurt out words you are sorry you said afterwards. That is one reasons I have difficulty with programs that require scripted conversations with a partner. That is all well and good when things are fine, but when you get into an angry state the words just flow automatically – no matter how much cultured training you have received. The key is how you handle the aftermath of your inconsiderate and spontaneous inappropriate responses. We all do that at certain moments.


      Dr. Erica

  7. Relationships aren’t easy, but it certainly is easier when you take some of the other party’s thoughts and feelings into consideration. You do have to accept that you won’t always see eye to eye.

    When I had been married, my ex-husband and I made sure that when bed time came around, anything that had been in conflict was talked about. It sure helped take away the stress in doing that.

    • Nile,
      You were wise to discuss whatever had not been resolved before going to sleep angry and upset – and then holding a grudge for days or even weeks. Some couples give each other the silent treatment for awhile. But those conversations can be difficult.


      Dr. Erica

      • I get heartburn really easy and that stress makes it difficult to go to bed if there is some conflict. My dad always brought us (my sisters and I) up to try to clear the air before the end of the day

  8. Dr Erica, Wow what a fantastic article! I agree that it is so important to take into consideration what you may be doing in a relationship to cause problems. So many times we may blame the other person as the source of the issues without admitting that we may be the problem. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom on how to make our relationships better!

    • Thanks for your supportive words Shelley. Relationships are so beautiful when they work well but when the communication is poor, all sorts of problems occur.


      Dr. Erica

  9. Hi Dr Erica,

    What I find difficult in relationships is the initial stages when I am trying to let the other person know that I care about them. I am much more patient now but there were times in the past when I really got frustrated when people treated my genuine (at least to myself) efforts to show some care and friendship. I find that people have been so hurt, so many times that it’s hard to believe that someone can simply want to be a friend.

    These days, I just continue to show love and care until they realize that what they see is really what they are going to keep getting. I have some really great relationships now as a result of patience! Not being too quick to judge the other person’s actions and being as honest as possible without being careless with my words as you rightly wrote has helped me a whole lot.

    Thank once again.

  10. Good advice for dealing with relationship “attacks”, Dr. Erica.

    When we are attacked, belittled or humiliated, it’s often justified as a reaction to things we’ve said or done, or left unsaid or undone.

    We can be angry and defensive, but our growth comes from accepting our responsibility as a key party to the transaction between the attacker and the attacked.

    • David,

      Often we have set up the reaction in a another person by what we have said or done in the past. However, sometimes the other person is triggered by their own past and their incorrect interpretations of us. So the best approach is to not get defensive, to look within our own self first, and to evaluate where the response is coming from and whether or not we may have played a part in it.


      Dr. Erica

  11. Dr. Erica,

    It is amazing to me how people almost never look at themselves as possible sources of the problems in their own relationships. I read Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win “Friends and Influence People” many years ago and here’s something something that I learned that I loved. His friend asked him after the dinner why he didn’t correct the other man when he obviously knew he was incorrect. He responded that there would be no point and it would just engender ill will. So the point is what you say and how you say it.

    • Jupiter Jim,

      What you are saying reminds me of a wonderful song about the game of Poker. “Know when to hold and when to fold.” Not confronting another person, keeping quiet at certain moments even though you are right and the other person is wrong, can sometimes be the most powerful way to improve a relationship.
      At some later time, if and when the circumstance and the other person’s receptivity is more amenable, at that time you may remind this person about what they had said or done in the past that had a specific meaning or effect.
      The solution is to not have to blurt everything out in the moment but to use discretion and wisdom in relationship communications.


      Dr. Erica

  12. Changing your perspective is so important – It’s a bit along the lines of what Leslie said about changing yourself if you want to change your husband. I’ve found that when I change the perspective, not only do I get an attitude adjustment but it changes the whole dynamic – and the other person usually changes too. very powerfull technique!

    • Marty,

      When I work with couples I encourage each one to make a small shift in perspective. If both people do that, the intimacy and trust and love just builds and builds. It is beautiful to observe.


      Dr. Erica

  13. Hi Erica. What an insightful article on relationships. One of our church leaders said, “If you want to change your spouse, change yourself.” Of course, when it comes to men and women, we really are from different planets, which complicates communication even further.

    I love Dr. Laura’s ‘The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands’. One of the things she points out is that your husband is not your girlfriend. I think women set high expectations of communication with the men in their life, and and they get mad when reality doesn’t fulfill fantasy. Hey ladies, if you like your men manly, don’t expect them to act like a girl!

    All the best,

    • Leslie,

      You are so right. Many women expect their men to behave like women. And – many men expect their women to be like a man, not sensitive, interested in sports, ready for sex without affection and intimacy.

      If you want to change your spouse, it is not enough to change yourself. It is also essential to get interested in learning all your can learn about your partner – what he or she wants, needs, desires and what helps your partner to feel loved and accepted and receptive to you.


      Dr. Erica

      • You are so right, Erica. We do need to make a lot of effort in that direction. And it’s not something that can be done in a few days. I’m heading toward my 40th wedding anniversary, and I’m still learning about my husband. And he reads me MUCH better than I read him. Sometimes I tell him he’s psychic!

        • Leslie,

          Wow! 40 years and still learning and discovering new things about your husband. What a role model you are as a couple.


          Dr. Erica

  14. Hello Dr Erica!
    Wow it has been a while since I visited here! I just love how you write, you always make me feel as though you are talking directly to me. Anyways I have had problems with being there for everyone, I have always put the needs of others before myself and this is something I have taken note of and have been working on.

    I have quite a few stories I could share with you but… Yeh You don’t have enough time to read them all HEHE

    Thanks for the great post. Chery 🙂

    • Cherry,

      When you put the needs of others first, it can help you to feel a bit superior as if you don’t need anything from anyone but they all need your help. It can also help you to feel a bit inferior since they seem happy to receive from you and don’t tend to give back.

      What I keep discovering is that people feel valuable and good about themselves when they are able to give to another person, when someone needs them. Receiving and being taken care of feels good in the moment but does not provide a sense of self-worth.

      Sometimes the most caring thing to do for someone is to not give them what they want and to encourage them to get it for themself.


      Dr. Erica

  15. It has been quite a journey getting rid of the ‘blame’ that was such a big factor in growing up.. So many in my life never took responsibility for their own actions… Shifting it on to myself, has certainly changed how relationships work, but certainly in a better way.. I often ask people what they can do to improve the situation, rather than looking at what the other can do.. It’s so much simpler to see what the other person is or isn’t doing.. going inside can be a very scary experience!!

    • Holly,

      I know how much easier it is to see what other people are not doing “right” and so much more difficult to realize that often their words and actions are responses to something we are thinking and doing. And the other person is just being him or her self yet we have such strong expectations. When we self-reflect and leave others alone, the relationships become so much more pleasant and productive.


      Dr. Erica

  16. Erica, I think most relationships get into a “rut”. At that point our attitudes change towards the other person…we get bored with them or only offer the same old responses or ignore them all together. It’s at then we need to stand back and check ourselves and look at what we found interesting/exciting about them in the first place.

    • When we first meet someone, our goal is to present our best self. We pay attention to how they are responding and we are careful about what we say and do, especially if we are interested in getting to know that person better. However, once we have been with someone for awhile, we forget why we are together and we start comparing them to others and the others often look better (only because they are unknown). Sometimes it takes a crisis to re-focus our attention onto our partner. That caring attention goes a long way to help each person feel wanted and loved.


      Dr. Erica

  17. This is a very sensitive topic for me, especially right now. I grew up in an environment where one side of the conversation was nearly always very critical toward the other person. As I got older, it was a real challenge to just stand by and hear it, and see the other person not saying a word about it. I need to forget that now though, and not bear any grudges about it. Thanks for doing your part to help people in their relationships with each other Erica, it’s wonderful how you’re doing that!

    • Julieanne,

      Most of us have grown up in families with less than optimal styles of communication. My father’s favorite saying was “Children should be seen and not heard.” I don’t see many parents overtly speaking like that anymore. It does take a long time and lots of self-reflection, soul searching and support from others to forgive those who hurt us (“Forgive them Father for they know not what they do”). And it becomes truly rewarding to experience our own expansion in understanding the ways of the world, how the mind works and what it takes to create loving relationships.


      Dr. Erica

      • I heard that saying also Erica about “children not being heard, especially at the dinner table”. Could you imagine children “not being heard”, if they don’t talk how can they learn and grow properly? Not only that, think of all the fun we’d miss out on, I love listening to children talk! I’ve just come home after my Dad’s service and spent time with Mum, helping through that awful time of losing someone she’d been with for over 60 years.

  18. Hi Dr. Erica,
    first of all, thank you so much for all the great food for thought you are providing.
    In German we have a saying that goes something like: As you call into the forrost so it will come back to you.
    Having said that I believe it is not only our words but also our subconscious beliefs which get reflected back to us. It is all done ‘for us, not to us’.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom!
    Love and Light

    • Yorinda,

      It can certainly look as if the other person or even God is doing it to us, purposely hurting or blocking us, but alas, whenever we continue to examine our lives we discover just how much our own consciousness, our own thoughts and actions have played into the circumstances and the responses of others. It is not so much what happens, what anybody else says or does, it is really about how we choose to respond – that makes all the difference.


      Dr. Erica

  19. This post brings to mind a conversation that I had with a friend. As we were out hiking, he was telling me in detail what has been wrong with all of his romantic relationships over the years. He described about 11 relationships. I remember telling him that there was at least one thing in common in all of those relationships–him. He looked puzzled…he had never thought to think about how he was showing up in them.

    And yes, before I said that to him, I told him that I loved him and he had been a great friend to me over the years 🙂

    • Rachel,
      Your clients must gain so much from your style of coaching. You reveal such wisdom and concern for the other person but not in a way that is too soft or too mushy. You do confront them with their own actions, but gently and suggesting and in a way that diffuses resistance and gets them to take a look at their own actions.


      Dr. Erica

  20. Hi Erica,

    The last question is excellent! All are really but shifting your focus to seeing the good can disarm virtually any person. Soften them up. Share a different perspective. A change in vibe and words makes relationships easier, then easy. Just ask my girlfriend 😉

    Thanks Erica!

    • Ryan,

      All too often in our intimate relationships we skip the formalities and niceties and go right for the jugular. We start by pointing a finger, blaming, and reminding the other person of all the ways they are not living up to our own demands and expectations. And when the other person becomes defensive and does not respond as we wanted, we up the ante and it builds to a confrontation and fight. But starting with a reminder of what we appreciate and love about the other person and about our relationship, softens the blow, disarms the other person and provides the space to have a real and mutually beneficial conversation

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