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Sorting out Relationships with the Parts Model

parts model relationships

One way to sort out relationships is by looking within to discover various “parts” of yourself.

It’s common to have different feelings and perspectives – even conflicting ones – toward others. One part of you may feel satisfied with a relationship, while another part of you isn’t happy at all. Depending on which part of you is active at the moment, you’ll respond to others accordingly.

A friend of mine sorted out one of his relationships via the parts model or his inner dynamics. He wrote the following note to a friend. I’m sharing it with his permission. He asked to remain anonymous.

Sorting out relationships with the parts model – an example:

I’ve been reflecting on your relationship and how I feel about it. Realizing I am conflicted. So I’m going to invite you to process it with me. You can decide, of course, to engage or not.

I’m sitting here, feeling grateful for everything we’ve done together – and for all we’ve been through – which is probably why I want to take this route and share my inner process with you.

I’ll use the parts model. It seems fitting for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s been at the top of my mind for a while now and 2) It’s a handy way to sort myself out while remaining relaxed and at peace.

Again, sitting here feeling pretty grounded and relaxed and grateful for what we’ve done over 25 or so years.

And there are parts of me that want to chime in.

Part of me is saying/feeling: You’re an arrogant prick that hasn’t changed much, although your tendency to elevate yourself above others is more subtle these days.

Another part of me: Hey, you just need to close the door on this relationship. It was never a true friendship – and not compatible as a friendship. Get real.

Another thought comes in that I can’t overlook the bad experiences. Not that I need anything from you or blame you. I’m not angry. But that wasn’t friendship and the processing afterward wasn’t satisfying….even though another part of me may have said it was.

Part of me feels like your expectations of our relationship are a little more than I’m interested in. Not sure what that means. Maybe that you want to be friends and this part of me does not.

Part of me feels mildly ashamed for outing anything “negative” that I’ve been thinking and feeling regarding you. Like maybe I owe you something?

Pausing to listen to any other thoughts and feelings. Not feeling attached to them – these are just parts of me that think and feel for themselves, according to Schwartz and Internal Family Systems.

And part of me is scared – just scared for having thoughts and feelings that might hurt you or make you defensive. Why? Seems like this part’s policy to never offend anyone – it might get hurt by the backlash – or cause someone to hurt themselves. It’s wrong to have an opinion, according to this part. Just go along and pretend all is well.

That was fast. I listened to all my parts and there doesn’t seem to be any chatter left, other than to thank you for reading this. I also feel to say that I am not looking for any solutions from you for my thoughts and feelings.

Now, I feel corny….but….here I am.

Part of me is hearing you call me out for assigning responsibility to parts of me as opposed to just….me. I get that (not that what I’m hearing accurately reflects you). And I still do have conflicting thoughts and feelings. Sitting here, I can feel grateful and disinterested and scared – all just facets of my experience as I ponder our relationship.

The cool thing is, I feel at peace with all of it right now, which I suppose is the point of this email. I don’t need to send it to you at this point, but I believe I will so that you get a real slice of who I am toward you.

Sorting out Relationships with the Parts Model

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2018). Sorting out Relationships with the Parts Model. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Jul 2018
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