To Begin and Maintain a Healthy Relationship ©
human being to love another, that is perhaps the most difficult
of all our tasks, the ultimate, last test and proof, the work
for which all other work is but preparation.
--Ranier Marie Rilke
Our primary relationship
is one of the very most important aspects of our life, and yet we receive
no schooling or training for it. In the last several years there has
been an increase in the number of books that provide help and guidelines.
These are an invaluable resource. It is crucial to educate ourselves
and also to develop ourselves in ways that will be beneficial to our
primary relationship. To spend time with this effort is one of the most
worthwhile of all our endeavors
The first major
step we take in establishing a healthy relationship is choosing our
partner. And the biggest mistake we can make is making this decision
based on our heart and forgetting our reason. When chemistry is present
and you feel you are falling in love, it is necessary to step back and
to try to make a rational evaluation. At least you want to ask yourself
if there are any major roadblocks or "red flags" present.
A red flag would be the presence of an addiction such as alcoholism,
drug addiction, gambling or some form of serious problem or disorder.
If a problem or disorder is present, a careful evaluation needs to be
made as to whether your partner is addressing the problem and is trying
to solve it. There can be other types of stumbling blocks such as dishonesty,
irresponsibility, or the attachment to a former relationship.
also be a problem. Dependency in itself is not necessarily a problem.
Everyone has both dependent and independent needs. Co-dependency is
when both partners stay in a dysfunctional relationship without addressing
the real problems that are present.
Workaholism is a
trap professionals can fall into. It's helpful to remember the general
difference between a peak performer and a workaholic. A peak performer
maintains healthy relationships at work and at home, maintains a balance
between work, family, exercise, and recreation, and most importantly,
a peak performer is able to relax when not at work.
A subtle and often
missed problem is sex addiction. If you suspect a sex addiction may
be present, it would be necessary to do some research and reading, and
to consult with a psychotherapist who is familiar with sex addiction.
in establishing a healthy relationship are the interests, skills, qualities,
and values that you have in common. A theory in social psychology is
called The Matching Theory. The Matching Theory states that the more
aspects you match on, the more likely you are to have a long lasting
relationship. Serious consideration can be given to these areas as you
are getting acquainted and establishing your relationship. Some aspects
are more important than others, and some may be more important to you.
Values are an extremely important area to consider when choosing a potential
Communication is the key element to value in getting acquainted and
beginning a relationship. Both time and consideration should be given
to your communication. This is the time to learn about each other, your
histories, interests, and experiences. Pay attention to what events
took place in your partner's past. What attitudes did he or she adopt?
What did he or she learn? What are the goals at this point in life?
Also pay attention
to how you are able to talk together. Is there a balance between self-disclosing
and listening? Is your partner able to by sympathetic, supportive, empathic?
These are crucial indicators for your future relationship. If you question
your own abilities, ask family members or friends how you are doing
in communication with them. If you feel that you or your partner could
improve in these areas, talk about that together. Decide what to do
to help yourselves improve your skills, such as reading about communication,
taking a workshop, or seeing a therapist who can help.
One last suggestion
in establishing a relationship is sometimes one that is discouraging
to implement. Try writing down a description of the person that you
want to meet. What are some of their qualities, what kind of lifestyle
would they have, how do they look, what is their fitness level, and
what is their level of spiritual interest or practice? Then make an
evaluation of yourself based on your description of your potential partner.
On the areas where you do not meet the same standard, initiate plans
to remediate, such as return to school or begin an exercise program.
All of these considerations
will help to get you on the right track in establishing a healthy relationship.
Maintaining a Healthy
Have you ever thought
about what the most important qualities are in a partner? The very most
important qualities? What do you think they are? If I had to choose
two qualities, I would pick generosity and consideration. By generosity,
I do not mean only financial generosity, although we often think of
generosity that way. I mean generosity that is a personal characteristic
that is applied pretty much across the board. This is a quality that
will be beneficial and appreciated in all areas throughout your relationship.
Generosity means being willing to stop at the store on their way to
your house. It means taking you to the hospital if needed. It means
not keeping very good track of who is paying for what because each person
is naturally trying to take the lions share. It means just the give
and take that is required in a relationship without keeping score.
another quality that will impact the relationship in many ways and over
the years. Consideration means asking how you are and really wanting
to know the answer. It means anticipating your needs. It means listening
to learn about you out of genuine interest. Consideration means that
your partner really considers what you are telling him/her, reflects
on it, and responds to you. Generosity and consideration are like gold.
They are precious qualities to bring to relationship.
Once you have given
attention to the areas that you and your partner match on, naturally
over the course of your relationship, you will want to continue to explore
these areas, enjoying the things that you have in common, and giving
each other space to pursue interests that are different. Going apart
and coming together are natural rhythms in a relationship which you
can honor and enjoy. Remember that dependence and independence are both
needs in relationship.
Masculine and feminine
interests can be balanced and honored. Like with the Odd Couple, however,
the combination of one neat person and one who tends towards chaos is
very hard to integrate. One way to resolve this difference is to have
parts of a house that are maintained neatly, and other parts are designated
as "casual" or cluttered. Energetic or aggressive and apathetic
or passive styles is also a difficult combination. It is probably better
to pair high energy partners or less active partners together. Lifestyle
preferences are also a crucial area to have in common. It is very problematic
to try to live in a way that is not your preference or is not comfortable
for you. It is best to find a partner that desires a similar lifestyle.
You will be building your relationship for the rest of your life on
the pillars of your lifestyle choices.
a deep and meaningful area to share. Having the same religious or spiritual
practice can solidify a bond between two people. Sharing in values is
also something to appreciate, and values form the very foundation of
your relationship. Values comprise or make up the meaning you will find
together. Both values and what is meaningful to you, form the mission
that you will build your life on.
Communication skills can be developed over the course of your relationship,
and it is helpful if both partners value working on and improving communication
skills. Communication is the pathway to intimacy, and intimacy is the
core of your relationship. A good exercise is to talk about and explore
what intimacy consists of, and then to nurture the intimacy between
you. Oftentimes, intimacy takes place without words, in a glance or
a touch. But it is communication and the history that you create together
that helps you build intimacy. Shared experiences deepen your connection.
As time passes, the bond between you will grow if you are succeeding
in building a healthy relationship.
the Old Testament, a beautiful Psalm describes the successful and happy
are the man and the woman
who have grown beyond their greed
and have put an end to their hatred
and no longer nourish illusions.
But they delight in the way things are
and keep their hearts open, day and night.
They are like trees planted near flowing rivers,
which bear fruit when they are ready.
Their leaves will not fall or wither.
Everything they do will succeed.
and a great deal of effort, you will be like trees planted near flowing
rivers which bear fruit when they are ready. Your leaves will not fall
or wither, and everything you do will succeed.