Let’s talk about what a healthy relationship looks like (for the majority of the time spent together. No one’s perfect!):
A healthy relationship includes two people who simultaneously seek genuine safety and security through intimacy with their partner. Intimacy (not sex) is a process and not a thing, a verb versus a noun. It is what one DOES.
It looks like this: Both people feel safe and comfortable enough to share their feelings. They work within themselves to empathize with the feelings of the other person and really try to understand the other person’s emotional reality. Because they trust their partner will try to understand them, they feel safe enough to share their truth. That means each individual has to work on trying to understand what’s going on with their partner.
In a healthy, intimate relationship, neither person succumbs to defensive reactions, uncontrollable emotions, temper tantrums, and other emotional “quick fixes” that bring immediate, pseudo-relief (like a drug for an addict) in a tense situation. That means they don’t flare up, say something nasty, throw things, walk out of the room, or say something snarky. Instead, they listen. If they have to say something, they ask a question with an earnest curiosity.
They also each work to manage their own internal triggers so that their ancient defensive reactions don’t injure the couple’s intimacy. This takes work inside one’s own head. This can’t be emphasized enough. A significant amount of the work to be done when creating a healthy relationship occurs inside one’s own mind. That’s where we start.
Back to our couple….
Working as a team, they make honest assessments of what works inside the relationship, what doesn’t, and are each willing to implement changes individually and together. Both partners realize credit for the relationship’s success goes to the team, not to one person. After all, “it takes two to tango,” and by definition needs two people to function. Giving credit to one person for its success destabilizes the relationship. There is no, “I told you so.”
Each partner accepts their complete responsibility for their part in the relationship’s energy, both positive and negative energy. They work on positively energizing the partnership, learning more effective ways of regulating their own upsetting emotions and empathizing with their partner’s triggers. Again, a significant amount of the work that needs to be done happens inside one’s own head.
Finally, they position themselves to learn about and maximize their spiritual potential both as individuals and as a team.
Wow. I’ll bet you’ve never seen such a relationship, right? They do take work. And that work is an ongoing process inside each partner’s own mind.
Today, with our knowledge about mental health, neuroscience, and psychology, we are in the best position we’ve ever been to achieve this type of healthy relationship. So, how do you get there?
Start where you are. Explore and eventually agree upon a strategy with your partner, and find out if he or she is willing to join you in improving your relationship. See if you can arrive at an agreement on starting this project.
Once you’re there, start by discussing your individual beliefs about what a relationship entails. You must be honest with your partner about what you want and need. See if you’re on the same page. If you are, this is great news! If not, then you both can go about figuring out how to compromise and find a mutually agreeable model for your relationship. Again, take your time. This isn’t something to be hammered out in one night. In fact, it is an ongoing process as you and your partner age and go through life’s stages.
Here are the rules: respect, curiosity, teamwork, talk, explore, negotiate, listen, apologize, understand, use a mirror not a magnifying glass, cooperate, share, be honest, and empathize.
Here are the things to stop: criticism, stonewalling, silent treatment, refusing to talk about it, temper tantrums, interruptions, judgement, assumptions, name-calling, lying, withholding the truth, and manipulation.
This takes work, and the majority of that work involves controlling your own resentment, dishonesty, stonewalling, and anger.
If you need help, come in. Let’s talk about it!