I can tell you that the people in my life aren’t golden.  They’re even better.  They’re beautiful and awful, they’re funny and mean, they’re generous and stingy, they’re sneaky and vulnerable and loving and serene and panicky and plausible and utterly and perfectly imperfect.”


Do you wish to enjoy healthy, peaceful relationships in midlife and avoid unnecessary conflict and turmoil? Yet, when you consider Rebecca’s candid description of how complex some relationships can be, you’re not sure how to do so. I can relate. Until I adopted three guidelines that shifted how I approach relationships.

Three ways to cultivate healthy, peaceful relationships.

1. Start with Self-Compassion

All humans have both strengths and weaknesses. NO ONE is perfect because we live in an imperfect world. Do you manage your ‘flaws’ or limitations with self-chastisement, inner criticism, and self-shame? Or do you allow yourself to sometimes fail and still feel valued and worthy?

Lindsay Gibson, in her book Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents, states that ‘true freedom from unhealthy roles and relationships starts within each of us, not in our interactions and confrontations with others’.

Phrased differently – if you can’t offer yourself grace to fail and be imperfect, you’ll struggle to offer such compassion to someone else.

2. Adopt a Dual Perspective

Do you get agitated when people behave in ways that hurt themselves and their loved ones. Does it make you wonder: Can’t they see that what they’re doing is destructive?

Stephenie Zamora, the author of Unraveled, proposes holding both sides of any experience or relationship. This will prevent you from fragmenting ourselves that something or someone is either good or bad, good, or evil, right, or wrong.

Without a dual perspective, you’ll only focus on others’ limitations, desperately hoping people would change for the better so you can enjoy healthier relationships. The problem with that view is fixing others is impossible.

It took me many years, trial, and error to finally understood that you can’t control anyone else’s behaviours other than your own. You also can’t expect others to live by your standards. But you can broaden your view of people by noticing their strengths beyond their limitations. You also can embrace your own imperfections.

What are the advantages of taking a dualist approach in relationships?

  1. You’ll cultivate more peaceful relationships because you won’t get stuck on differences.
  2. You’ll start viewing people as different instead of right or wrong.
  3. You’ll deepen your empathy toward others because you’ll understand them from a broader perspective.
  4. You’ll preserve your connections with significant people instead of ending complex relationships.
  5. You’ll know where to set more precise boundaries in challenging relationships.
  6. You’ll gain deeper insights into how we function as complex and fascinating humans.
  7. You’ll focus on people’s strengths rather than ruminating on flaws.
  8. You’ll be less triggered by others and increase your inner peace.

What else can you do to grow healthier relationships? How about a rumble?

3. Rumble with Your Stories

Often, we form opinions about people based on our own experiences, values, and perceptions. Or what Brené Brown calls the internal stories that guide our thoughts and behaviours.

In her book, Rising Strong, Brené encourages us to answer three questions to help unravel unhelpful, faulty stories we tell ourselves about challenging situations or relationships.

  1. What more do I need to learn and understand about this situation?
    – what do I know objectively>
    – what assumptions am I making>
  2. What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story?
    – what additional information do I need>
    – what questions or clarifications might help>
  3. What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?
    – what’s underneath my response>
    – what am I really feeling>
    – what part did I play>

Without asking these questions, we construct a story that’s based on limited and imagined information. This often results in distorted stories we tell ourselves about the people or situations that can damage our relationships. Uncovering the answers to these questions leads to the difference between the stories we make up and the truths we discover through the rumbling process.

Brené concludes that having the courage to reckon with our emotions and to rumble with our stories is ‘the path to writing our brave new ending and the path that leads to wholeheartedness‘.

I don’t know about you, but I want to cultivate such wholeheartedness.


This post explored three ways to foster healthier, peaceful relationships in midlife so you can enjoy your midlife season with self-compassion, a dual outlook, and a good old rumble with the stories we tell ourselves about the people we share life with.

I hope this gives you some fuel for thought along with some practical ways to help get you unstuck from relationships that drain your energy. We all deserve to enjoy healthy, meaningful, and supportive relationships with the people in our lives.

It’s said that we teach people how to treat us. If we put up with dishonouring behaviours of others at our expense, it will continue until we no longer put up with them.

Authentic, mutually respectful, caring relationships must flow both ways if it ever has a chance of working. And the only way to grow such relationships is with clear boundaries. Your Yes and No has to come from an authentic place that honours you, your values, and your needs as much as you honour those elements in others.

In a follow-up article, I explored how people’s characters contribute to healthy or toxic relationships.

Until next time, may you find new and unexpected ways to thrive on purpose in midlife!

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