By: Dr. Gwen Smith

Does your intimate relationship disempower you? Have you been setting goals around intimacy in that relationship while still losing your sense of self?

As women, at times we have the tendency to create resolutions and goals solely around our intimate relationships and even other significant relationships regardless of the quality of those relationships and how detrimental they are to our mental health. While setting intimate goals around relationships may not be an issue by itself, if those relationships are downright painful, abusive and less than empowering, you may find yourself stuck in a pattern of powerlessness and feeling trapped.
Continuing this cycle year after year creates a situation in which you’ll hardly be able to see outside of anything else to begin to create a future for yourself that can bring you happiness and fulfillment. Life in itself can become a drain and you may find yourself isolated to keep silent about your experiences.
Yet setting goals with others in mind is a great thing to do, and is also important. Sustaining a sense of self requires that you simultaneously create goals that not just create intimacy but which also empower your personal life, especially if your intimate relationship is lacking and painful. Doing this allows an outlet for you to continue to maintain your well-being and to possibly see other perspectives or solutions to your situation.
It also allows you to be able to provide substance to enrich the lives of others including your children. You must first fill your cup so you can have the resources to support and fill others’. If your cup is not being filled by your partner or by another fulfilling outlet, you are not able to feel powerful in in your self-worth. This is not a selfish approach but rather a selfless one.
When you are filled, you in turn will have the ability to fill and to fulfill what is important to those you love.
It is therefore becoming for you as a woman to take on the responsibility of planning and executing on your personal goals. The first place to start is with yourself, even while you plan for your intimate relationships. When you have a personal goal, passion, or dream that you are working to fulfill, it can soften the pain the negative emotions of a disempowering relationship has on you. The quality of your life and your self-confidence may therefore be enhanced as a result.
The pain of a disempowering relationship cannot be denied. Having personal goals that you are working towards will help you to create a sense of personal independence. It may also be a source of conducting other conversations to have in social settings, thus freeing you up from a need to isolate yourself because you have nothing else to talk about except the abuse. You will not be dependent on your partner to create an experience for you.

The Impact of Intimate Relationships on Personal Life

I can recall my own personal journey more than three decades ago as a young bride. I was in a painful relationship during which I suffered frequent emotional and occasional pushing and hitting—physical abuse. I recall as a teacher having painful flashbacks while in the middle of my lesson. There were days when tears flooded my eyes as I turned to write my math problem on the chalkboard.
I distanced myself from other social relationships because the pain of my experiences at home was so deep I was afraid it would spill over into conversations I had at work. It was all that I could think about as I had not yet learned skills that I now teach others to empower their lives and relationships.
My days were consumed with thoughts of difficulties and daily challenges and strategies for having a better life with my three children. It was painful. I could not think clearly in some areas related to my happiness. My life expanded in slow motion as I struggled to make sense of what was happening to me always feeling less accomplished than I was meant to be because I had this silent weight that I carried.
Year after year my only focus was on strategies to escape the mental trap. I wore a cloud in my heart not really feeling fulfilled and being my fullest self.

How My Resolve Turned Things Around For Me Personally

I clearly recalled my resolve to turn things around. I made the decision that I was going back to school to work on my master’s degree. I loved school and I love learning. It’s one of my passions. I also became an avid reader to learn and find solutions to my situations. Concurrently, I immersed myself in church work taking on various leadership roles.
School became my drug and kept me sane so I could keep be fully present for my children. It helped me provide clarity in my life. Consequently, I was able to set a clear path for how I was going to live my life for the future and follow the plans that I laid to achieve it.
Professionally my life took off as I moved up the administrative ranks. I had bigger goals to focus on that led me to completing a doctorate degree. In the process I was able to set a goal for my existing relationship.
I was able to see independently and clearly which would not have happened if my existence and goals were purely tied to my partner and his actions (negativity, silence, verbal abuse and occasional physical abuse) in the relationship. My goal was to exit the relationship at the next sign of physical harm; which I did. It was one of the best decisions of my life. It led to an amazing relationship to my current husband of 15 years.

What About You?

Have you spent some time thinking about creating an empowering, personal relationship for yourself outside of the other relationships you have? If you are in a painful circumstance and you are being hurt or abused, the first thing to do is to reach out for help and get to a safe place.
But what if you feel that you are physically safe but you are being emotionally battered and bruised? What if you feel powerless and stuck?
Setting goals to transform this relationship means setting boundaries to maintain respect on both sides. It may eventually mean that you have to leave to keep your safety and well-being. You first must, however, be willing to acknowledging that there is a problem. Hiding it in shame is not the answer.
Next, identify a goal, dream or passion that fulfills you. You can begin to work on building your self-confidence, power and self-respect without feeling as though you have to depend on your significant other to provide this for you. Reach out to a competent expert who can show you what you need to do to have clarity, lay strategies to get you on track and to restore your self-confidence and power.
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