When I think of the word healthy, I think of a state of well being; something that functions like it’s supposed to be; growing and developing properly; and I’m sure you could add many more descriptions also.
I’ll sum up “healthy relationship” by saying it’s something that grows, develops, and functions the way it’s designed to.
I once heard someone say that “building relationships” are “two people who can relate to each other in a ship headed for the same destination,” so here’s my full definition of healthy relationships.
Two people who can relate to each other, headed towards the same destination, while growing, developing and maturing together in a way that enhances the quality and state of each other’s life. (wow, that’s a long definition of healthy relationship)
Seven keys for healthy relationships
There are seven keys that I’ve found personally that work together to build healthy relationships in our lives.
A healthy relationship comprises of:
- Mutual respect
- Separate identities
- Good communication
If love is a two way street, “you give and receive”, then so is respect.
There are times I think my wife can be concerned about the silliest, most trivial matters in our otherwise healthy relationship.
Things like “which of these 5 blouses look better with this skirt?”, at the time when we’re already late for our appointment. At this moment I’ll think “Just pick one already” but because of respect I’d say, “the red one compliments your hairstyle, go with that one (she still puts on the blue one).
The point is, we all feel that the other person’s feelings, ideas, cares and reactions are sometimes a little silly, I’m sure my wife feels the same way about some of mine but, we respect each other enough to accept our different concepts and manners, without being rude, insulting and inconsiderate of each other’s feelings.
Something that can be difficult to gain and easily lost. One of the steps to a healthy relationship is building and maintaining unshakeable trust between partners.
Because most of us have been hurt, mistreated, mishandled, had bad relationships, or experienced how cruel the world can be at times, our trust does not come easy or cheap.
For most of us, our trust is not gained by mere words alone but, by the proving of oneself over and again.
There must be some degree of trust in all relationships for them to grow healthy and work.
If my wife goes out with friends and stays late, I can allow my mind to be filled with many questions that would disturb my peace and put me in an extremely bad mood when she returns. Did she meet someone else while out? Is her friend in on her secret?
While I could begin to distrust her without cause and increase my own insecurities, I choose not to.
I must be mature enough to trust that she’ll keep her commitment to me whether we’re together or apart, and give her room to grow without inflicting our relationship with my own assumptions and fears unless she gives me undeniable proof to distrust her.
Because of trust, our relationship is open, free, going strong and passionate even after 10 years.
Support can come in many forms and is too comprehensive to get into a full discussion here but, there is emotional support, physical support, mental support, spiritual support, financial support etc.
A healthy relationship produces an environment that is both warm and supportive where we can refresh ourselves and find strength to continue day by day. For example;
Some days Lonnie would come from school totally exhausted after a tiring day of teaching. I’ll usually ask, “How was your day?,” which would unleash a tidal wave of concerns, frustrations, and problems that occurred during the day.
This would continue for a while as I just simply listen while Lonnie releases her stored emotions from her day without my criticizing or judging.
After she’s finished I’d usually reassure her that she’s an excellent teacher and doing a wonderful job with the kids which seem to just calm her mind.
We support each other in many ways that help us to grow and both benefit from being in the relationship and a part of each others’ lives.
This causes us to be drawn closer together and fuels the fire of our passion for each other.
Growing up as kids we used to say, “honesty is the best policy,” but as adults, we’ve all learned to hide the truth. Whether it’s to save face, increase profit margins, excel in careers, avoid confrontations, we’ve all lost some if not all of the honesty we had as kids.
There is a segment in the movie “A Few Good Men” where Jack Nicholas’ character while on trial says, “Truth, you can’t handle the truth.”
Sometimes we all feel the other person with whom we’re being honest, can’t deal with what has happened. So, we often remain silent until they find out later and the consequences have gotten worse.
One of the components of a healthy relationship is integrity or honesty. There must be a certain level of honesty, without which a relationship is dysfunctional.
I believe honesty in relationships is being true to yourself and the other person you’ve committed your time, energy and emotions to.
While we might fall short of this once in a while, we do our best to maintain this between each other.
A sense of fairness
My wife and I usually reach home at the exact same time every evening because the drive to and from work is the same distance.
We’d both be tired, hungry, somewhat irritated from the day’s situations and just desire a hot meal and warm bed.
Now, whose responsibility is it to prepare dinner and do the chores around the house?
Some men would probably say, “it’s her responsibility, she’s the woman and a woman should take care of the home!” Some women would probably say, “it’s your responsibility, you’re the man and a man should take care of his wife!”
Here’s what I say.
Let’s be fair and both help each other.
Why? Well, we both work, we both pay the bills, we both decided not to hire a maid, and we’re both tired at day’s end of the day. If I seriously want our relationship to grow healthy, shouldn’t we both do the work?
I’m fully convinced that the answer is yes and have proven it true over the years.
Oh yes, I tried the other way, but it always left the relationship stressful, frustrating and strained our connection so here’s the choice. We could choose to be fair in matters that relate to the relationship and have a growing healthy one or be unfair and end up alone.
Conrad, I thought that we’re seeking to become one in our relationship, how could separating our identities possibly help create a healthy relationship?
I’m glad you asked.
What we often do in relationships is try so hard to match our identities to the person we’re with that we lose track of ourselves. What this does is make us heavily dependent upon them for everything from emotional support down, to mental help.
This actually puts a great strain on the relationship and drains the life out of the other partner by absorbing their emotions, time, etc. When we do this, we become so dependent upon them that if we’re not careful, we trap ourselves in these relationships and can’t move on even if it’s not working.
We’re all different in many respects and our differences are what makes each unique.
Believe it or not, these differences are what actually draws our partners to us; what do you think happens when we begin to become just like them? Simple, they get bored and move on.
You must like and appreciate who you are before anyone will appreciate and like you.
You are who you are supposed to be, so keep your own identity, that’s who those involved with you want you for. Different ideas, perspective etc.
It’s really funny how we simply bounce words off each others’ eardrums and refer to it as communication. Communication refers to listening, understanding, and responding.
It’s amazing that different words mean different things to different people. You could tell your partner something and mean one thing while they hear and understand something totally different.
What we often do in communicating is listen while the other person is speaking for a space to jump in and give our own views and assessment of the situation.
This is not true communication.
True communication in any relationship involves one person addressing a particular issue while the other party listens until the first party has completely finished, then the second party restates what was heard for clarification and understanding before they respond to that particular issue.