Building a healthy relationship once you have found the one that you want to spend the rest of your life with is a commitment you must make to yourself and to your partner. All healthy relationships are based on a mutual reciprocity of love and respect. A RELATIONSHIP WHERE THERE IS NO RESPECT IS DOOMED TO FAIL.
As human beings, we not only want to feel loved an appreciated, but all want to be respected and cherished. Respect means that the other partner will value what you believe, what you hold dear, and not dismiss you or demean you.
Building a Healthy Relationship
When there is mutual respect, there is admiration, high regard, and esteem for the other. You hold someone in a high position when you respect them because you elevate them in your eyes.
Respect is shown through your actions and through your words. When you respect someone you would never do anything to hurt them or have them lower their opinion of you. Because of the law of reciprocity, when you respect someone, you are seeking their respect as well.
LOVE IS NOT A FEELING. Respect in a relationship is bound by love. Someone once said that love is not a feeling and I never understood what that meant. As I got older I understood that our actions betrayed our true emotions. If you love your partner your actions must demonstrate that love. Little things that you do that show that person that he or she is appreciated is a sign that you love them and respect them. Little things like taking out the trash, running an errand, or fixing a cup of tea will demonstrate to your loved one that you care about them. Remember that love is in the details. It’s the little details that make up the sum, or whole of any situation or emotions.
Healthy Relationships are Built on Respect and Unconditional Love
We’ve talked about respect as being the cornerstone of a healthy relationship, but what do we mean by unconditional love? Does that mean putting your needs aside in order to love your partner? Does that mean that you must endure serious offenses at the expense of your mental or physical well being? Of course, not. Having unconditional love for your partner means that you are willing to accept them for who they are, flaws and all. This is coming into the relationship with eyes wide open and knowing that human beings are not perfect, that sometimes we will hurt the ones we love and they will hurt us in turn. But loving someone unconditionally means just that: there are no conditions for you to love them. You love them with their baggage, with their little ticks, bad habits and all.
AFTER 20 YEARS OF MARRIAGE, APRIL NO LONGER LOVED STEVE. After 20 years of marriage, my friend April had had it with her spouse, Steve. Every little thing he did got on her nerves: he was a slob, he didn’t cook, he didn’t help her with the kids. In short, he fell short of her expectations of what she wanted Steve to do. April felt that she had fallen out of love. That’s when she decided to talk to her pastor, and through this counseling, April realized that she had not communicated her desires to Steve. She just expected that he would “know” to do these things to help around the house and make her life easier. But Steve did not know just how much these little things bothered April. (Remember it’s the little details that make up the whole.)
Keeping Your Relationship on Track
Of course, in a perfect world, relationships are built on respect and unconditional love. But what happens when our relationship falls off track? Is there a way to rebuild it? We don’t want to throw our relationship away when there is hope of mending things and fixing what is potentially broken.
April realized that she did love Steve and that she had no communicated effectively what she wanted out of the relationship. She also realized that there were a lot of good qualities that Steve had that she had overlooked because she was too busy nitpicking at the things he didn’t do.
What happened to April to cause this shift in thinking? This change of thinking comes by understanding ourselves and fixing ourselves first instead of trying to fix the other person. Knowing what we want and expect from our partner is key in developing a healthy relationship. It is also key to nurturing that trust and creating a safe space for both of you to grow and flourish and healthy independent beings aside from the couple you are.
Giving your partner space and understanding that there will be ups and downs in the relationship is a start to building something solid with room to grow.
Every romantic relationship starts out seemingly perfect until flaws start to manifest themselves and cracks appear in the foundation. Knowing that there will be trouble and turbulence ahead of time will help you prepare for the rough times that certainly will come.
Things That Can Hurt Your Relationship
Different Interests—As individuals, we are not cookie cutter versions of each other, and neither are couples. As a matter of fact, often times, you may have less in common with your partner than you have in common. But it’s those differences that attracted you in the beginning that now are getting on your nerves. Here we go back to acceptance and respect. Think of when you first met and how you thought his little quirks were cute or funny. Try to overlook them as long as they’re not putting you in any danger, either psychologically or physically. Think that you also have idiosyncrasies that probably get on your partner’s nerves and that those differences make the unique wonderful couple that is you two.
Different Life Philosophies—Having different philosophies, or beliefs can lead to potential trouble up ahead in a relationship. If you come from different religious backgrounds or even have different cultural practices, it is best that you discuss how these will impact your relationship before you even decide to commit to each other. This is especially important when children are in the picture. If one partner is Catholic and the other is Jewish, how will the children be raised? What holidays will you observe? If one partner comes from a culture where extended family is treated like immediate family, how will this impact the two of you, especially around the holidays? It’s best to discuss things up front than ignore the fact you’ll have to face these differences ultimately.
Destructive Arguments-Arguments are a natural part of any human dynamic, but HOW you argue is key to maintaining that healthy dose of mutual respect. When you argue, do not play dirty. Do not bring up personal flaws, curse your spouse, or use language that will demean them. Stick to the point and try to take the emotion out of it. If you are too angry to discuss something rationally or calmly, it is best to take a break and tell your partner you want to discuss it when things are not emotionally heated and tempers are flared.
10 Tips to Cultivate Your Relationship
- REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS—As I said before, keep it real. You are not perfect and neither is your partner or spouse. Keeping your expectations real and down to earth will prevent a lot of heartache along the way. Keeping realistic expectations is in part being empathetic to the other person and putting yourself in their shoes. When your partner or spouse does not do something the way you expected, think that it’s not to intentionally hurt you or because they do not care about you. They probably are not even realizing that you were upset. They are simply looking at things from a different perspective than you are.
- REMEMBER YOUR COMMITMENT—Whether you are just starting out in your relationship with your partner, or your marriage, remember that you must commit yourselves to each other. A commitment is like a vow or a promise. That is the only way to navigate the rough waters that will arise in any human interaction. If you are married, especially, you must remember your vows and how you felt when you made them. You believed in your vows. When things in your relationship start to go south, it is the time to re-evaluate and try to salvage and pick up the pieces. Keeping a promise in today’s throw-away culture is not easy, but couples who remain committed to each other through thick or thin will go through the rough patch and come out stronger than ever.
- OPEN THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION—Communication is the main component in cultivating a sound relationship. Communication is easy. Talk to each other! Get to know and speak each other’s love language. You must carve time out of your day to have conversations. Coming home from work and sitting in front of the TV or going on mobile devices and not conversing is a recipe for disaster. This is how couples grow apart. You couldn’t get enough of each other when you first started dating, and now you have nothing to say to each other. If you have something you want to share with your partner, make sure you do not start the conversation at a time he or she will not be fully engaged because they are busy doing something else. When you do this, you set yourself up for failure. It’s not that he didn’t want to listen to you, it’s that he was genuinely busy. Instead, tell your partner that you want to talk at a time that is good for both. Usually, at bedtime couples find that they can converse and share their feelings openly and honestly. Word of advice, though. If you find that you are having difficulty communicating with your partner, for whatever reason, I recommend you seek professional help from a therapist, clergy, or counselor.
- KEEP THE ROMANCE ALIVE–keeping the flames of romance going can sometimes be difficult when life gets in the way, but keeping the embers glowing is a must to keep the passion alive. Rekindling the romance means that your love life may need a boost, especially if you’ve lost some of the attraction for each other. Romance and intimacy do not only mean sex, although sex is an integral component of a healthy relationship. But if you find that your relationship is lacking in this department, you may start by re-establishing the intimacy that has been lost. Make sure you take time to snuggle, cuddle, sweet talk, and all the things you did when you first started out that made you wild about each other.
- BE WILLING TO COMPROMISE—compromise is at the heart of every human relationship, whether it be romantic, parent/child, employer/employee, and platonic friendships. We must all compromise even if we do not consciously know that we are doing so. To give in to the other person because we want peace or want to please or simply want to get things done and moving along is a dynamic that must not be overlooked. Only spoiled toddlers want to have their way, and in a relationship that will flourish, partners need to give in to the other’s needs and wants (within reason) and learn to negotiate.
- COMPLIMENT EACH OTHER—Don’t forget to tell your partner why you fell in love with him or her in the first place. A little compliment goes a long way. People want to be praised and told that they are appreciated. Remember what your grandmother said: you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. A little sweet talk can really cool tempers, erase insecurities, and bring you closer together.
- BE HONEST—honesty is the best policy. Although sometimes things are better kept to yourself, being honest about your feelings with your partner is the foundation of a strong relationship. Letting your partner or spouse know what you expect, if your feelings have been hurt, or being truthful about things in your past is a way to build trust and respect.
- DO THINGS TOGETHER-Simple things like cooking together, working out, going for a walk, or finding a common hobby will bring you closer. This will create a bond, memories and shared experiences that will give you topics of conversation, little inside jokes or stories, and will set up a strong connection.
- SET UP BOUNDARIES—in every relationship there must be boundaries. Just because you are part of a couple does not mean that you have to lose yourself and allow your partner to run over your beliefs or cross lines that make you feel uncomfortable. Boundaries need to be established in dealing with extended family, in the bedroom, in conversations, etc. This all goes back to being honest and clear about your expectations from the get-go. A loving partner or spouse will respect your wishes and desires.
- KEEP WORKING AT IT—Think of your relationship as a delicate flower that needs nourishment to thrive. It needs sunshine, water, and fertilizer to flourish. So does your relationship. Couples who are together till “death do them part” will tell you that they’ve had their ups and downs, but ultimately, they’ve made a decision to work on their relationship and not give up on each other.
Building a healthy relationship is not easy, but if you truly have found someone who loves you, is good to you, and you feel the same way, then you should cultivate your relationship. You may be the lucky one who has found their life partner and has truly found true love. Make sure you take care of it!