Although many people crave excitement, adventure, and lust, what they need is healthy relationships. A solid, loving partnership can make life's problems more bearable. However, how do you know when your relationship has taken a turn for the worse? Most individuals realize that abuse is unhealthy, but there are other, more subtle problems to look for as well. Understanding the red flags in a relationship can be every bit as important as knowing the essentials of a solid partnership.
Key Elements of a Healthy Relationship
A stable enduring relationship that fosters personal growth for both partners is founded on several principles. Many of these relationship principles are interlinked, such that if one is missing, another is thrown off balance. Think of these principles as the rock upon which you build your partnership.
Perhaps the most important aspect of healthy relationships is honesty. Love cannot thrive in dishonesty. It's important to be honest with your partner about everything, no matter how painful or embarrassing. For example, it is tempting to skirt around the issue of your sexual past. After all, you're together now, so who cares what you did before, right? Wrong. Your sexual past could affect your partner. In these days of STD's, we're no longer allowed to wipe our sexual slate clean.
It's also important to be honest about who you are. Don't try to recreate yourself to attract or keep a mate. While it's fine to improve yourself, it is not okay to pretend to be someone else. It is dishonest and it will leave you both unhappy in the long run. If this is truly the right person, then he will love you as you really are. If you have to become someone else to make him happy, then you both need to move on.
Ideally, trust and honesty go hand-in-hand. In a healthy partnership, you should be able to believe that your loved one has your best interests at heart at all times. You should never have to doubt his fidelity, integrity, or honesty. While occasional jealousy is normal, a life of constant doubt and suspicion is not. If you find yourself feeling jealous most of the time, it's time to re-evaluate your relationship.
Reasons for Doubt
In some cases, you may have legitimate reasons to be suspicious. Consider the following:
- Has he cheated before?
- Do you have reason to believe he's being unfaithful?
- Do you have any evidence that he has strayed?
- Does he have a history of being dishonest?
- Is your jealousy sparked by a specific outside person, or is it a vague feeling of unease?
If you find you have legitimate reason to distrust your partner, it's time to have a talk. If, however, your feelings are largely unfounded, you need to look closely at yourself. You may have trust issues that have nothing to do with your partner. If that's the case, consider talking to a counselor or other unbiased party.
A sexually "open" relationship is not typically healthy for most people, although some-like minded individuals have managed to sucessfully finagle such a concept. In most cases, a solid partnership must have fidelity and monogamy at its center. It is also important for the parties to discuss exactly what constitutes cheating. Today, lines tend to blur and what is considered fine for one person just might be cheating to another. Some people only consider physical contact cheating, while others believe in emotional infidelity as well. As you discuss what it means to be faithful, explore your feelings about:
- Friendships with the opposite sex
- Email relationships
- Internet chats with the opposite sex
- Cyber sex
- Viewing pornography or other adult entertainment
- Text messages
In a mature partnership, both parties are fully functioning, with their own interests, ideas, goals, and dreams. Each partner should encourage and build up the other's self-esteem. In a healthy relationship, each party wants the other to succeed. Love is not a competition, and neither person should be threatened by the other's success. Rather, the two should work together, sharing the victories as well as the defeats.
If one person is being stifled, the relationship is not healthy. Both parties must be allowed to breathe, to grow, and to mature. For a relationship to blossom and thrive, both parties must be functioning.
Many become disillusioned at the first sign of a disagreement. They believe that if they had really found their "soul mate" they would always be on the same page. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is unrealistic to assume that you and your mate will always agree. Having disagreements, or even arguments, is not indicative of a bad match or an unhealthy relationship. It's how you handle the argument that counts.
Characteristics to Consider
In a healthy relationship, both partners must:
- Know when to stop. A disagreement should never be allowed to escalate.
- Avoid name-calling and insults.
- Avoid attacking the person's character. Argue the issue, not the person.
- Be willing to compromise.
- Be willing to be wrong.
- Leave the relationship out of the disagreement. Don't yell, "divorce" or "break up" every time you disagree.
- Avoid hitting, pushing, kicking, or any other violent acts.
- Avoid "kitchen sink" arguments. Stick with the issue at hand.
A Need for Balance
To be truly healthy, a relationship must fill the needs of both parties. If only one person is being satisfied, the relationship is unbalanced and needs a check-up. Although no partnership is ever perfect, healthy relationships will make both members happy more often than not.