Relationships have become a complicated subject in recent years. “How men should treat women vs. how women should treat men” or “what is a healthy, unhealthy or an addictive relationship” have become common topics of discussion.
Although it can be helpful to understand that gender differences do exist and that there are some guidelines to help one determine whether or not a relationship is healthy or destructive, it can also become an endless process of analysis instead of an experience of being and feeling.
I have come to believe that if certain conditions exist, a healthy relationship is possible for any combination of people. The simple breakdown of these conditions is:
Communication: The ability to openly express needs, wants, and feelings. The ability to express affection, validation and differences without becoming abusive.
Respect: The existence of admiration for one another, support of each other, pride and the sharing of important values.
Attraction: Chemistry in several areas including the physical, emotional, personality, moral and life goal areas.
Flexibility: The ability to give up some control. To not have to “always” be right or to be the leader. To be able to “share” in the role of making decisions or changes. To be able to see your partner as trustworthy and competent. To work as a team.
Trust: To hold the basic belief that people can be trusted and to believe you are worthy to receive the gift of trustworthiness.
One way of being better able to successfully express all of the above is to explore, know and understand YOURSELF. Too often we tend to focus on what’s right or wrong with the other person, without much of a connection to what’s right or wrong with ourselves. The ability to know yourself, your wants, needs, feelings and goals is more important than any analysis you do on the other person.
One common area of weakness I hear from many clients today regarding the difficulty in getting into a relationship is the per emphasis on “chemistry” (usually heavily weighted on physical attractiveness). It seems the expectation is to “feel the magic” most of the time, and to compare their partner to common standards of physical attractiveness in our society.
Quite often this attitude leads to an analytical, non-feeling experience of the other and many missed opportunities to explore other aspects of that person that may (and often do) lead to the physiological chemistry we want and expect in our love relationships.
Another common reason for unhealthy relationships is that one or both partners bring unresolved problems and issues from the past and project them onto the other person and the relationship. Problems like low self-esteem, distrust of other, negative beliefs about people and the world, and addictions put a tremendous strain on a relationship getting started, let alone surviving. A relationship is a place where people are available to communicate, respect themselves and each other, feel attraction for each other, be flexible and accepting and trusting. This does not mean we have to be “perfect,” however, in order to try to establish a relationship.
We know there is no such thing as perfection, right? But severe personal problems do lessen the chance of a relationship being able to survive. Identifying these problems and taking responsibility to work on them yourself makes you a much better potential partner for someone in a relationship. Practicing simple tools we have discussed creates the potential for a fulfilling experience in a relationship for both partners. After all, isn’t that the whole idea of having a relationship?