Posts Tagged ‘relationship’
It’s often difficult to gauge the healthiness of our love relationships. This is understandable when we consider how many of us grew up with parents who didn’t model caring behavior or who had little knowledge of positive or productive ways of dealing with problems and the natural conflict that arises when two people commit to live together. Having trouble in a relationship is actually to be expected. And it’s an indicator that something is going right. Yes, it really is! Conflict provides an opportunity to become aware of an area of need in our own personal growth.
Our intuition tells us that something is not right in our relationships. Keep in mind that blaming (oneself or one’s partner) serves no purpose and actually prevents us from moving forward. We may have fallen into patterns of disconnecting from one another when conflict arises by using silence, criticism or anger. If we feel sad more often than happy with our significant other, this is a sure sign that something is amiss, and we may need support looking at the relationship with the help of an objective party.
Below are some elements operating in healthy romantic relationships. I invite you to reflect on your relationship and consider whether these principles are characteristic, most of the time, of your interactions with your mate. If you feel these traits don’t describe the way you and your partner relate, you may want to discuss your thoughts and feelings, either with your partner or with a therapist.
Kindness – Do you and your partner treat one another in a gentle and considerate manner?
Trust – Do you and your partner feel that you can be vulnerable with one another and speak honestly about your feelings for each other and the relationship? Do you feel you “have one another’s backs” when difficult situations arise?
Respect – Do you and your partner feel equally important and valued in the relationship? When either of you expresses the need for a limit or boundary, is it respected?
Safety – Does it feel safe for you and your partner to experience conflict with one another and disagree?
Sexuality – Do you and your partner enjoy being intimate with one another and able to communicate your preferences or difficulties around sexual relations?
Fun – Do you and your partner enjoy your time together and find things to laugh about? Are there fun activities you share that bring you closer and make you laugh at one another and together?
Differentiation – Do you and your partner maintain a healthy sense of individuality and the ability to continue activities and engage in friendships that were meaningful before the relationship began?
Keep in mind that the principles above can never be operating in every moment of a relationship. The sense of connectedness and belonging a romantic relationship brings us is extremely powerful, and we are going to have difficulty maintaining a connection all the time. While love is the most profound emotion we experience as human beings, our ability to create and sustain a healthy relationship is something almost all of us need to learn. As difficulty arises, embrace this challenge and know it provides an opportunity to take responsibility and figure out where we may need to do some work on ourselves.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the verb lis-ten as “to hear something with thoughtful attention.” As I work with clients, I’m reminded repeatedly of how difficult this is for the trained therapist let alone those who are just going about their lives. Yet, to quiet the minutiae of data—past, present and future tasks and concerns—constantly swirling in our heads, is what it takes to really listen and be present for another. And in the end, perhaps what we all want and need more than anything, is to be heard.
The truth is that even when we can quiet our chattering minds, usually our brain is busy either preparing a rebuttal to what we are hearing “Yes, but ….” , or busy rehearsing what we’re going to say as soon as the person stops speaking. As parents, spouses and friends the ability to listen with empathy is especially critical for healthy relationships and keeping open a clear and caring line of communication. What do I mean by that? Listening with empathy means immersing yourself in the other’s experience with the purpose of better understanding that individual. There is no other expectation. If you find you’re having difficulty following what the person is saying, ask questions from a place of curiosity, as though you were a detective unraveling a mystery. The beauty of this approach is that answers to our concerns come to us more easily when we feel calmly listened to and understood.
For parents I encourage you to try the following exercise 2-3 times each week. Establish a time when you and your child/adolescent have time together to talk. The goal of this time together is for you to better understand your child. Find a place where you and your child will not be interrupted by other siblings. You can even give your time together a name, for example, your “special time” or your “alone time.” This is very meaningful for children. For spouses, committing to establishing listening times for each of you is excellent for decreasing the level of tension in your relationship and bringing you closer. The three golden rules are: no distractions; neither of you can talk about the relationship, kids, home or work; and neither partner can comment on what the other shared. In your own words, just let your partner know that you’re interested in understanding them better, and you appreciate them “sharing” with you. A walk together may provide the perfect time for this exercise. You’ll be surprised by what you learn about one another!
Remember, listening is an art and like anything else to be a good listener takes practice. When in doubt about whether you’re doing it well, just keep in mind that the word “listen” contains the same letters as the word “silent.”