There are four primary ingredients that any relationship (be it a friendship, a close family member, or a romantic relationship) needs in order to be healthy. These four building blocks are respect, honesty, trust, and communication. All four are inter-woven and dependent on each other for success.
When two people are in a relationship, there is mutual respect for each person as an individual. A healthy partnership means learning about the other person and valuing what is important to them. A person who respects a partner listens to what they have to say. If they disagree with each other, they try to understand the other person's point of view. Respect reflects the value, validation, and the worth of another person. Respect in a sexual relationship asks for each partner to feel valued enough to talk openly about both their desires and fears on a sexual level. Each partner should have a respect for their own body, and should feel comfortable choosing whether or not to be sexually active and if so, at what pace and level.
Though most people would agree that honesty is crucial to a relationship, true honesty about our thoughts, feelings, and what we want to happen in the relationship is a challenge to accomplish. There might be a number of reasons for this: we don't trust the other person enough to tell them the truth; we don't trust ourselves to be honest because maybe we're afraid the "real me" isn't likable; or maybe we just don't have a lot of practice with honesty. People who are deceitful and manipulative are often incapable of creating strong relationships. Day-to-day we life in a "How are you? I'm fine" type of world because for many people staying on the surface is faster and easier.
One of the greatest things two people can say to each other is "I trust you." It means that they feel they can count on each other and that the other person will "be there" for them. Trust doesn't come easy, and for most people, needs to be earned over time and in a number of experiences. There's nothing worse than a broken promise to take away trust. Once trust is broken, many people have trouble "believing" again. You see this in people who've been hurt in relationships, they are a little more cautious the next time. Some people who come from families with a history of broken promises, because of abuse or alcoholism, have a hard time with relationships because their trust was shattered time and time again. These people need to be gentle with themselves and go slow.
Communication is critical to the other 3 ingredients mentioned. It is how we show our honesty, our respect, our trust. Listening to others and really hearing them, so we respond and follow through on what they are requesting is a sign of a strong relationship. The willingness to listen is not always easy, but it is what people who care for each other do. As valuable as listening is, communication also requires each person to take the responsibility to communicate their own thoughts, wishes, requests, and needs. Oftentimes we leave clues as to what we want, and are disappointed when our partner doesn't figure them out. It is easier to have open lines of communication and vocalize these things, trusting the relationship enough and ourselves to ask for what we believe we deserve.
The below list are signs that your relationship may not be healthy, and could even become abusive.
- is extremely jealous
- monitors your movements/whereabouts
- doesn't seem to like any of your friends or criticizes your family and friends
- is controlling/possessive/bossy
- calls frequently to check up on what you're doing
- acts as if any attention you give to another person is flirting
- sulks when things don't go their way/seems childish or insecure
- ignores things that are important to you
- talks louder and louder until he/she gets your undivided attention
- makes you stop what you're doing to listen to him/her
- makes all the rules-no flexibility!
- says, "If you did it my way, I wouldn't get so mad."
- makes frequent accusations, but won't admit when he/she is wrong
- tells you how to dress/what kind of makeup to wear
- criticizes you frequently
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