Healthy Relationships 101
– Khadeeja Rana
Relationships are usually painstakingly demanding, but it is well worth the effort in the long run. Relationships create psychological space and safety so that we can explore and learn. They provide security and love which are basic human social needs. For any relationship to work, the efforts put in need to be on a two-way street. Otherwise both partners will suffer and discontentment might lead to breakup. Since we are social animals, being around people makes us feel happier, and when we are happier we are more fun to be around, creating an “upward spiral” of happiness.
A healthy relationship constitutes of many aspects that result in fulfillment for both partners. With that said, there has been a considerable amount of work done on maintaining relationships and love. In a book Positive Psychology Therapies psychologist Beatriz Vera writes about pillars of a lasting relationship. Trust being one of the pillars is a stronghold of any strong relationship. It develops with time and effort. It must be mutual in order to survive its infancy. It usually strengthens with time.
Psychologist James H. Fowler studied the data of 5,000 people over 20 years and found that happiness benefits other people through three degrees of connection which is between your happiness and your friends’ friends’ friends’ happiness.
How to Have Healthy Relationships
Gottman (1999) concluded his lifelong experience with couples that it is ideal for the relationship when partners have the same kind of conflict resolution pattern. Common patterns among couples are validating, volatile and conflict-avoiding. He stated that couples with different conflict resolution patterns, several problems can arise. These couples find themselves stuck in problems they cannot resolve.
The Do’s of Relationships
- Admitting mistakes can go a long way into paving a smooth relationship. Not giving in is seen as an ego weakness. Accepting criticism helps in solving problems and creates less conflict. Not doing so can lead to excuses and justifications which can weaken relations overtime.
- Forgiveness is a virtue which can never be underestimated and should never be underrated. It soothes hatred and anger like magical healing. It is a great way to patch up and stay together in harmony.
- Taking responsibility of your behavior, recognizing your weaknesses and showing initiative in apologizing is also a great tip for maintaining relationships.
- Give your partner the necessary personal space which is perfectly healthy. Freedom and privacy are everyone’s need and right. Being committed to someone should not mean they lose themselves in the process. Allow them to spend some time by themselves and do not spy on them when they are away from you. Do not demand time and attention all the time.
- Encourage your partner to follow their dreams. Support them in whatever way you can. Show them how you care about their wishes and aspirations.
- Admire them for what they do for you and to make the relation successful. Value their effort and show gratitude with both words and actions. Appreciation can go a long way in predicting a happy relationship.
- Be a good listener as it has no downsides and lots of positives. Allow your partner to be vulnerable with you without fear of being judged. Offer an ear whenever possible and give advice nicely, when appropriate. Unsolicited advice can be a major turn off.
- Prioritize their happiness as long as it doesn’t take away your own. Give genuine regard to what they like and prefer. Surprise them with gifts sometimes; a small token of love never hurt anyone.
- Be realistic in your hopes. Someone may promise to be with you forever but you might not see that happening. But don’t be realistic to the point of being cynical, just leave a small room for the worst. The trick is to strike the right balance. Be a little prepared. This way, nothing will be too hard to handle.
The Don’ts of Relationships
- Don’t overly attach yourself too much to anyone. No one dies without anyone. Now what is “too” much, as much as it varies for different people, a sign that how much is too much is when it starts to manipulate you. Don’t let the attachment take control of your emotions and decisions. Don’t waste all your energies all at once. Avoid the ‘too-much-too-soon’ scenario.
- Co-dependency may sound cute and romantic but its not. A relationship needs to be two-way and in the end, there is nothing bigger than your self-esteem. So watch out for it well before time. Remember it’s not your job to fix your partner’s short comings. Negating yourself in a relationship is not healthy love. It may seem a very loving thing to do, but that’s not exactly how love works.
- Never be pathetic and needy just to make your partner pay attention to you and give you sympathy. No one likes a constant attention seeker who is willing to stoop low at any level just to get some
- Always watch your self interest first. There is a thin line between self-interest and selfishness. As long as you are not usurping the rights of others, it is not selfish. Be bold, and make sure your own needs are met before you set out to please your significant other. An empty heart cannot give away much anyway.
- To avoid disappointments, lower expectations. Some level of expectations from a close relationship is natural. The trouble is when you start relying on other people for your happiness. Remember you alone are in control of what makes you happy.
- Don’t hide unnecessary things from your partner. If something bad happened in your past that still affects you in the present, and they need to know about it. A relationship is like an open book. Share your feelings and secrets with them as long as it cannot be backfired at you. In that case, tread very cautiously as you might have entered dangerous territory.