Relationships – Part 2
So you would like a healthy relationship? A healthier relationship? Hopefully you’ve read about what not to do in my last post. If so, you’ve got some ideas on things you may need to eliminate from your relationship, or an idea that you may in fact need to eliminate the relationship you are in and start over. Because healthy relationships require two (that’s right-two) fairly emotionally healthy people who are committed to the relationship and are willing to do the work to keep it going. If only one party is emotionally healthy and/or willing to do the work, the relationship will be lopsidedly limping along, with one person carrying the burden of the whole. And this starts to make that one person very tired, stressed and worn out, so that after a while, you have not one but two emotionally unhealthy people. If you partner isn’t willing to share the load, isn’t emotionally healthy, or willing to do the work to get themselves there, you have some thinking to do.
So what goes on in healthy successful relationships?
1) Each person takes responsibility for their own actions and each values, respects and loves themselves, while valuing, respecting and showing love to their partner. And this starts with you.
If you don’t believe you are lovable and worthy of respect, there is a very good chance you will choose a partner who isn’t capable or able to show you love and respect. Our outer realities reflect our inner realities. You’ll end up believing that it is your fault your partner calls you names or acts in unloving ways. This will almost seem normal, because in your own head you are busy calling yourself down, berating yourself, telling yourself you are unlovable, so in some weird way, your partner’s bad treatment of you actually makes sense.
If you value, respect and love yourself, you won’t hang around with anyone who treats you badly, or unlovingly, because you KNOW you are deserving of love (and PS-everyone is deserving of love right from the moment of birth, though sadly some people are born into situations where parents aren’t very good at giving it) and that people who treat others badly have some real issues of their own they need to do some big work on. You know that this is their stuff, and that it has nothing to do with your own worth or lovability.
None of us is perfect and we all have work to do on how we feel about ourselves. In successful relationships, hurt happens, but the person who has hurt another takes responsibility for it and corrects their behavior immediately. Each partner strives to be kind and loving toward the other and minimize the potential for hurt.
2) Actions match words
Ever heard the saying “the proof is in the pudding.”? It is. I can tell you I have a fabulous pudding recipe. You can look at the words on paper and think “Wow! Yummy!” But if you follow the recipe and the pudding tastes like rotten broccoli, you’re likely to chuck the recipe and call BS. Some of you might try making the recipe a second time, just to ensure there was no error on your own part, but when attempt 2 tastes as bad as attempt 1, into the trash bin the recipe should go.
Words mean nothing. Even if they’re written in some fancy font. The proof is in the pudding, or in the case of relationships-actions. And the actions of someone who loves you match the words they say. They treat you in loving, kind ways. They are considerate of your feelings, and if they are not, they apologize and do better, they don’t create word soup trying to convince you that their lousy treatment of you is your fault. In healthy relationships the actions of both partners are in congruence with the words spoken.
3) Partners take influence from each other
“I’d really appreciate it if you could call me if you’re going to be late for dinner.” Their partner calls and tells them they will be late.
“I just need 20 minutes of down time after work to decompress.” Their partner hears this and gives them space.
“I feel most loved by you when we are physically affectionate.” The desire is noted and the partner acts on this.
Playing rebel without a cause is something a lot of us are familiar with, but if you are in a relationship, it’s time to drop the James Dean act, unless the cause you don’t want IS your relationship. And “nobody tells me what to do.” is a funny statement when it comes out of the mouth of a 5 year old. If it’s coming out of your mouth as an adult, it’s a signal you still have some growing up to do. If you felt highly controlled growing up, there’s a good chance this may be hitting a nerve-because any request can seem like a form of control. But if you want a successful relationship, responding to your partner’s desires, likes, and needs-wanting to give them what they like-well, it creates positive feelings, breeds love, makes them feel valued and important, and this is what relationships are all about. Good ones anyway.
(Gary Chapman has written a book on the 5 Love Languages that is a good read for couples. While I don’t agree with everything he says in his book, discerning your partner’s love language and responding to it promotes bonding and attachment in relationship)
4) It’s all about us.
Me and you are now an entity, both separate and together. This isn’t always an easy tightrope to walk. Each of you has your own interests, sources of happiness, and identity, and the relationship is your primary vision. How does what you and I need work within the relationship? You support and encourage one another and there is a foundation of trust in each other. You do things to feed the relationship, because you know that anything left unfed, will wither, then starve. A malnourished relationship is a weak relationship. If an outsider ventures near and begins to feed one of you what you have been lacking, you will begin to bend toward that outsider, seeking sustenance. Feed yourselves, feed the relationship.
Grunting is not considered a form of positive communication. Neither is swearing, lying, yelling, name calling, manipulating, shutting down, ignoring, being passive aggressive, blaming or having to be right. If you don’t believe me, go spend 15 minutes in front of a mirror doing this to yourself. Although when you are ignoring yourself, you may want to occasionally peek over your shoulder with a petulant look to get the total effect. It isn’t pretty is it? And actually, it’s so idiotic looking, it’s funny.
The point of communication is two fold. To express oneself and to understand another. The point of communication isn’t necessarily about agreement. Each of us is our own unique person, with our own experiences, and perspectives on the world. Our way of seeing the world, of doing things, will not always agree with another person’s, including our partner. Healthy, successful couples are aware of this, and can live with disagreement because they are respectful about it, and they keep lines of communication open even in situations where there is disagreement. They talk about everything including their feelings, their concerns, their resentments if they have them. They don’t shut down to avoid conflict, because even when they are conflicting, the arena is safe. They’re not out for blood or to win. They want to understand.