There are reliable tools that can be used to create a healthy relationship, many of which have not been taught in our culture. If you want to have a really healthy relationship, follow these simple guidelines.
Tell the unarguable truth. Many people are taught to lie to protect someone’s feelings, either their own or those of their partner. Lies create disconnection in a relationship, even if your partner never finds out about it. Withholding the truth also constitutes telling a lie. Here are some examples of telling the unarguable truth: “I felt scared when I saw you talking to her at the party,” “I feel angry,” “I felt sad when you walked out during our fight.”
Make and keep clear agreements. For example, if you say you’re going to meet your partner for lunch at noon, be on time, or call if you’re going to be late. If you agree to have a monogamous relationship, keep that agreement and/or tell the truth about any feelings you’re having about someone else BEFORE you act on them. Keeping agreements shows respect for yourself and your partner, as well as creating a sense of trust and safety.
Be responsible (Here’s a new definition: Responsible means that you have the ability to respond. It does not mean you are to blame.). There is tremendous power in claiming your creation. If you’ve been snippy to your partner, own up to it, and get curious about how you might do it differently next time. If you are unhappy in your relationship, get curious about how this situation is similar to others from your past, and how you might create a better relationship for yourself rather than try to change your partner.
Know that relationships are the playground of life. The most important learning takes place within relationships. Each one has important information for you to learn. For example, do you often feel ‘bossed’ around in your relationship, or do you feel powerless? When a relationship is not working, there is usually a familiar way that we feel while in it. We are attracted to the partner with whom we can learn the most, and sometimes the lesson is to let go of a relationship that no longer serves us. A truly healthy relationship will consist of both partners who are interested in learning and expanding a relationship so that it continues to improve.
Appreciate yourself and your partner. In the midst of an argument, it can be difficult to find something to appreciate. Start by generating appreciation in moments of non-stress, and that way when you need to be able to do it during a stressful conversation, it will be easier. One definition of appreciation is to be sensitively aware so you don’t have to be sugar-coating anything. Here are some examples of appreciation: “I can see that you feel really sad about this,” “I appreciate that you are willing to tell me how you feel,” “I’m appreciating myself for sticking with this issue until it’s resolved and we both feel good about the outcome.”
Make sure you don’t try to make your partner fufill every need in your life. One person cannot be everything to you. Everybody needs love, intimacy, affection, and affirmation, but your partner cannot alone give you all of that. You need to get some from your friends, from your family, etc. Don’t try to make your partner responsible for everything.
Don’t make the mistake of neglecting your friends to spend time with your partner. For one thing, you need your friends even during your relationship, and for another if/when the relationship ends, you don’t want to find that you’ve pushed all of your friends away when you need them the most.
Lastly, you can either choose to be right, or you can have a relationship. You can’t have both. Most people argue to be “Right” about something. They say “If you loved me, you would….” They argue to hear the other say “Okay, you’re right.” If you are generally more interested in being right, understand that you will not create a healthy relationship. Having a healthy relationship means that you have your experience, and your partner has his or her experience, and you learn to love and share and learn from those experiences.
Be willing to learn from every interaction, to have fun!
Portions of this article are based on the works of Drs. Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks.
All good relationships are based upon mutual respect. If you walk into any day with your partner and do not feel respect for that partner–and feel the same is true in kind of them towards you–then consider rebuilding the respect immediately.
Keep your thoughts about the relationship realistic. Marriage should not be on your mind if you’ve been dating for a week, for example. Nor should you think that the relationship is going to solve all of your problems, or that you’ll never be lonely again, or anything like that. Relationships can be wonderful things, but be realistic about them
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