A Word about Healthy Relationships
For many years, psychologists and behavioral scientists have studied relationships that are troubled. A great deal has been written about relationship dysfunction–how and when did the problems begin, what is each party doing to make the situation better or worse, and what can be done about it.
However, within the past 20-30 years, more and more attention has been paid to those people who seem to be doing well in their relationships–very well, in fact. So, researchers began to look for things these couples may have in common. What do they do? How do they treat each other? What are their priorities?
Hundreds of studies have been done, and the results are amazingly consistent. Apparently, there are some very specific characteristics common to “healthy relationships.”
1. Trust–This is the belief and confident reliance upon the character, honesty and strength of the other person. Implicit in this is, of course, the trustworthiness of each partner.
2. Honesty–This simply means the each person will not only tell the truth but will also be open with the truth-what is really going on.
3. Commitment-This is the promise that:
- We are on the same team.
- We will invest the time, energy and spirit necessary.
- We will do whatever is within our power to guard and maintain the relationship and be faithful to this person.
4. Time Together–No matter how stressed or stretched we may be, we will make time for each other. It may involve playing together, working together, and/or eating meals together, but our together time will not be sacrificed for any reason.
5. Time Apart–It’s about individuality. Each member of the family has his or her own identity with their individual likes, dislikes, needs, wants, goals, hopes, dreams and boundaries.
6. Nurturing the Relationship–There are two equally important components here:
- Taking care of ourselves, and
- Giving care to the other(s).
Some people are good at one but not the other. In healthy relationships and families, there is always a balance of the two.
7. Awareness–Their eyes are open. They live in reality, not fantasy. They deal with facts, not myths. They are focused on change and growth. They will not let their relationship stagnate.
8. Coping with Crisis–Healthy families are not without problems, but they have the commitment and determination to meet and address the problems that they encounter. They will adapt when necessary. They will look for whatever tools or resources are available.
While the above characteristics are relatively self-evident, one common theme may not be: Each and every one of these is a matter of choice, not emotion.
Don’t misunderstand, feelings are very important. In fact, our feelings are frequently responsible for bringing us together in the first place.
However, the relationships that endure and are healthy and satisfying for all concerned do not depend primarily upon how we feel but the choices we make!
People decide to love, to commit, to trust, to nurture, to deal with crisis. People also decide not to do the above–for one reason or another.
Just as you do not “fall in love” (we “fall” into infatuation), you do not “fall out of love.” You decide to not love. You may in fact have good reasons for your decision, but it is a decision.
Years ago, I counseled with a dear lady named Jackie. During the course of therapy, she was diagnosed with and began treatment for cancer. Over the next several months, before she died, she would regularly update me about her condition by means of brief, handwritten notes.
To this day, I carry two of Jackie’s notes in my billfold, because they represent the kind of attitude I want to have. It’s the kind of attitude that will also result in the healthy relationship characteristics described in this writing.
“I will have my last chemo on Friday if my blood work is OK. Then in a month, I’ll have a CAT scan. If it doesn’t show up anything, then I will have follow-up surgery. Will keep you posted. We are doing fine.”
“I get my second Taxol treatment tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it. My eyelashes have started coming out! My eyebrows are still hanging on. We are doing fine.”
Thank you, Jackie!