A counselor’s perspective on what a healthy relationship feels like
Many unhappy clients I have met had no real understanding of how a healthy relationship should make them feel. It’s almost like learning how to create a painting without having a clear idea of what the finished painting should look like, and this, of course, doesn’t work very well!
I write about relationships; but I am not writing only about heterosexual married couples. GLBT couples, monogamous couples, polyamorous triads, and even open relationship arrangements can all be perfectly healthy for everyone involved. All of these relationships will have key ingredients in common.
- Healthy relationships are composed of healthy individuals. Each person has a clear idea of his/her values, ambitions, and has a clear idea of the life he or she wants to lead. A healthy individual takes time to take care of Self…via hobbies, exercise, nutrition, spiritual traditions, etc. He or she also takes responsibility for all facets of his or her life.
- At the very core, a healthy relationship is a pact between two healthy people to travel through life together, to confront challenges together, and to encourage each individual to grow to full self-actualization. These couples understand that the other person will change over time, and will find joy in discovering change and growth in each other.
- Every interaction is based on trust and respect, and positive regard for oneself and the other person. Such a relationship will not experience paranoia or jealousy. The privacy of each person is valued; secretly searching through emails, cell phones, or Facebook accounts shows fear, insecurity, or codependence.
- Your partner is your best friend and closest confidant. The bulk of your emotional support should come from your partner. If issues come up, deal with it with your partner. Infidelity happens when one partner replaces emotional support from his or her spouse to the emotional support of someone else (and sex usually follows). Notice, however, that I stated that most of your emotional support comes from your partner; not all of it. A healthy relationship also leaves plenty of room for family and friends and awesome coworkers and whoever else you encounter.
- Guard the authenticity of your relationship every day. Do not let weeks go by without some form of quality time or connection. If there is an unspoken uneasiness between you, you must be brave enough to discuss it. Many unhealthy relationships I have encountered simply wallow for years in miserable apathy. I suppose that staying with the miserable known can seem preferable to facing the scary unknown, but trust me….being a happy single person is FAR preferable to being miserably together. And who knows…you may find you prefer being single!
So to sum it up, a healthy relationship feels SECURE. There is no second-guessing. Neither partner feels like he or she must perform or somehow earn the other person’s love (This is a major red flag….get thee to counseling). Spending time with your partner emotionally rejuvenates you, refreshes you. You can talk about anything under the sun and explore controversial topics together (most of your conversations should not center on household issues like bills or chores. That’s how the “roommate” feeling is created).
There is lots of laughter, peaceful silences, a balance of closeness and independent space, and each person is free to express his or her thoughts, desires, joys, and fears without fear of rejection or judgment. There are lots of sexual and nonsexual touches. Your home together is warm, inviting, and reflects both of your personalities. You talk about the future and plan it together. You have adventures together, and can laugh about past mistakes.