What makes for a healthy relationship?
I’ve often been asked this, and other relationship questions, over the years by many wonderful individuals and couples. As a human behavior expert, with a Ph.D. in psychology and doctorate of education, I’ve learned that while each partnership is unique, there are three basic components that every healthy relationship must have.
Every healthy relationship includes love not only of your partner, but also of yourself. Before you can enter into a healthy relationship, you must first know yourself, acknowledge and recognize your patterns, and consciously override the impulse to connect with someone who sets off red flags. For example, you may be attracted to the bad boy, but a healthy person deliberately chooses not to go there. When you are moving from a place of wholeness rather than need, you create a space in which you are then capable of loving another.
Ongoing, honest communication is essential and can only occur successfully in an environment of openness and empathy. A good dialogue allows you and your partner time to express your feelings and emotions; it is important to listen carefully, asking questions, and let your mate know that you are interested in him, his thoughts, and his feelings. You must handle problems immediately rather than tabling them for later. However, it is best to set aside a time to resolve conflicts, when you and your mate are both well-fed and rested. Follow my Empathetic Process with your partner as the foundation and guide for open communication.
In every healthy relationship, there is also always space for healthy disagreement. The important thing is to remember that this is the person you value and cherish – and you approach communication from that place of love, of wanting the best for your partner. I like to suggest writing a love letter: start from your place of love, present your concerns, and end with love. You can even have your partner read this love letter while you are holding his hand or touching his arm, providing support and affection while you each share your concerns openly and honestly.
Although it is important to have alone time with one another, it is also important to incorporate your own friends, family, work, and hobbies into your life. If you have a balanced and inclusive life, you can open yourself to other creative possibilities for both you and your partner together and individually. Then neither of you will feel that you have sacrificed or given up anything for the other, but rather that your relationship is large enough, to contain both of you and your interests.
A healthy relationship is one that is accepting of each other’s differences, as well as similarities, and allows the transcendence of something new to develop, that is uniquely yours -- together.