Professional relationships - what's missing?


Here in the United States, Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) is just the latest in a long line of high-profile figures in politics, business, sports, arts and entertainment, law and the like who have fallen from grace as the result of personal relationship issues. This intrigues me.

We're surrounded by people who possess the social skills required to create professional relationships. They are great at relating to their peers, their bosses, their clients, their mentors, their coaches, their followers and their stakeholders, but when it comes to personal relationships with spouses, partners and close friends - there is no "there" there.

In fact, they fail miserably when it comes to creating and maintaining healthy, conscious, loving and intimate relationships.

The curious thing is that many of these people have all the "right stuff." They come from "good stock", attended the "right" schools, played all the "in" sports, engaged in the "acceptable" and revered extracurricular activities, pledged the "right" sororities and fraternities, and received the undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degree(s)-du-jour accompanied by all the accolades that now line their walls.

But on the way up, they also learned how to be egotistical, narcissistic and arrogant. They wear their successes as coats of arms on their sleeves. In their chosen professional fields, they paid their dues, moved up the ranks, and climbed the ladder of success by¬ cultivating the relationships they needed to support them to achieve whatever it is their ego-driven desires needed to achieve - be it power, rank, status, control or recognition. To be honest, they knew their stuff; they knew their craft.

Adept at cultivating relationships, they used their tools: false modesty, false intimacy, false trust, cloudy transparency, fake vulnerability, fake charisma, insincere charm, forced gracefulness and the like.

Some questions for self-reflection

  • Do you know people who play a role more often than they show up as their and real self?
  • How about you, how do you feel you show up in relationship?
  • Do you have a need to be in the limelight? What if you can't fulfil that need?
  • Do your self-images revolve around some aspects of sex, power, recognition or control?
  • Does your moral compass ever deviate from True North? When? Why?
  • Have you ever "used" people to get ahead?
  • Is there a gap between the level of closeness or connection between you and your spouse/partner? If so, why?
  • Do you ever feel unhappy about your love relationships? How are you contributing to that unhappiness?
  • Have your loving relationships grown over the last year or two. If not, why not?
  • Have your friendships deepened over the last year or two? If not, why not?
  • Do you invest in your relationships and friendships? Do you take them for granted?

The downside – their dark side – is their narcissism, their consistent need to be "on", to play the role, to always be in the limelight, to wield their power, to be in control, to be the center of the Universe.

Then, it hits - sometimes subtly, sometimes not so-subtly. One day they wake up and they feel alone. They experience feelings of loneliness and deficiency and a reality that "the game is up" - their mask, worn thin, is disintegrating. Their personality costume covers but a skeleton. They begin to experience sadness, depression, self-loathing and self-pity.

They discover they really don't know who they are. At home with their partners, at play with their friends, in their life (outside of work), they stumble, feel disoriented, disconnected and ungrounded. They feel like a stranger¬ emotionally distant, incapable of forging deeper, heart-felt and loving intimacy.

They experience estrangement from their spouses or partners, distance from their loved ones, and often end up engaging in superficial affairs - online and off - one-night stands. Their grasp for connection is uncomfortable and clunky; they seek a deeper self that has alluded them. They have no idea who they are.

What they're searching for, longing for, really, is their True and Authentic Self - long lost and abandoned. Along the way, they gave up their need for true and real friendship, for true and real relationship, for true and real connection - all for the sake of ego-driven needs for control, recognition, power and security.

They created, then lived out, their fantasies that shored up their egos, but never supported their deeper relationships. They created and lived their fantasies focused on a superficial, fake and phony persona.

So now, lost, lonely and unhappy, they don't know where to turn.

In the end, the person they're really seeking, is "inside". That's where their True, Real and Authentic Self resides - the Self that knows, understands and thrives on honest, sincere, healthy and self-responsible relationships.

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About The Author

Peter Vajda
Peter Vajda

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a seminar leader, workshop facilitator and speaker. He is the founding partner of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.