The Relationship Gardener: The Relationship Grid

     Summer is a fantastic time to commit to new growth.  We are surrounded by evidence of blossoms, new greenery, luscious fruit and the promise of vegetation in hour home garden patch. 

     As for personal growth, there may be increased time for reflection, time to consider afresh where you are, and in which direction you’d like to grow.  

     I have been enjoying presenting Terry Real’s Relationship Grid as a tool for reflection and assessment – a snapshot of “now” with some clues as to what steps to take toward more “healthy”. 

     The Relationship Grid has four quadrants (you will be placing yourself on one of the quadrants).  The vertical line is for assessing self esteem, with healthy being at centre point, Grandiosity being at the top, and Shame being at the bottom.  Do you tend toward feeling inflated and grandiose, or deflated and shame-filled (at your worst moments!) 

     The horizontal line is for assessing boundaries, with health being at mid-line, and walled- off being at far left point, with boundary-less being at the far right point.  Am I boundary-less,  letting too much out, letting too much in (being affected by everyone around me) … or am I walled off, letting not enough out, or being unaffected by those around me?

     Of course most of us would like to think that we usually dwell in the circle around centre point, which represents health, but we may have tendencies (at our worst points) where we gravitate toward negative or unhealthy behaviour.  

  1. If we are walled off and one up, we may tend toward critical judgement, condescending attitudes or passive-aggressive withdrawal. 
  2. If we are boundary-less and one up, we may tend toward unbridled self-expression, control, angry outbursts, verbal abuse without realizing the effect of our behaviour.
  3. If we are walled off and one down (toward shame) we may experience disillusionment, depression, feeling lethargic, hopeless, or disengaged.
  4. If we are boundary-less and one down, we easily feel shamed, assume we are to blame, adopt other’s emotional pain, feel love-needy (not okay on our own).  


Walled off and one up                                                                                      Boundary-less and one up

Walled off     ——————————————————————————–  Boundary-less


Walled off and one down                                                                         Boundary-less and one down



     So what is the use of such a snapshot?  Just acknowledging our tendency allows us to observe it more regularly with an eye to altering unhealthy habits which do not support loving connection and intimacy.  We can then take a deep breath and commit to growing in the direction of centre (health).  

  • If you identified yourself as tending toward being walled off  and one up, you may step toward growth by remembering that others may have differing opinions and ways of being, and choose to put judgements aside. Elect connection with others through approaching, endeavoring to understand others.  Curiosity will be your best friend!  
  • If you identified yourself as tending toward being boundary-less and one up, you may take a step toward growth with gaining self control with deep-breathing, controlling your anger and unbridled self-expression, and reminding yourself that others needs and perspectives are important and valid.  Count to 10 and let others speak first!
  • If you identified yourself as tending toward being walled off and one down, your growth work will be in moving away from temptation to choose passivity and isolation, electing instead to “stay at the table”.  Engage using “I statements”  (as in “I felt sad when I wasn’t invited to join in” … or “I think that we should go to your parents house”).  Choose to have the courage to say what is true for you.  Value yourself and your contribution by offering it.  Commit to engage and congratulate yourself each time you do so. 
  • If you identified yourself as tending toward being boundary-less and one down, you may make a step toward growth by developing an internal boundary which will allow you to identify when someone else’s baggage or “stuff” is at play.   Taking a moment to reflect “wait a minute – is this about them, or about me?” will stand you in good stead.  Choosing to make steps toward independence will also help. 

Before moving on to “Winning Strategies”  (next month’s blog, I promise!) take the opportunity to commit to full respect living by making baby steps toward centre, the sweet spot of healthy growth. Is there one thing you would like to commit to today?