I firmly believe that the most effective parents, friends, and partnerships, whether it be lovers or business partners, have healthy relationships. But what does that even mean? With the divorce rate of just under 50% it is abundantly clear we are in a shift where we know we want healthy relationships but we aren’t exactly sure how to achieve it.
Most of us didn’t have healthy relationships modeled for us. It was more an anomaly to have a happy married couple than a staple. Yeah, couples stayed together, but that was simply because divorce was taboo.
As far as the parent child relationship, it is almost a cliche to have a rebellious teen who can’t stand their parents. We all dread the teenage years because we “know” what is coming. Our sweet little angel children are going to go through a monster phase of hormones and bad influences before they see reason and start to understand their parents were right all along.
So what does it look like to have a healthy relationship? How do we cultivate that with each other and with our children? I am by no means an expert, or perfect by any right, but I have adopted certain practices in my own life that have benefited my relationships in a powerful way!
Steps for having Healthy Relationships for a Happy Life
- You are the most important person in your life! I know this seems counter intuitive, especially since we have been taught all our lives to share and be nice and make sure we aren’t being selfish. What I am talking about is being self-full, meaning that you take care of your self and set firm boundaries with others. Selfish is primarily concerned with only yourself and your advantage to the exclusion of others. Self full is taking care of you on a deep level so that you can fully give of yourself without resentment.
- Understanding. When we are operating on a self full mentality it is a lot easier to see certain behaviors and understand or want to seek understanding so that we can give empathy. This doesn’t mean we allow harmful behaviors to continue, but it gives us the key to seeing our loved ones as human so that we can help them move through their hard times and their strong emotions. And when the upset is aimed at you, do your best to not take it personally. Don’t take their problem and make it yours. That is just a recipe for a screaming match.
- Effective Communication. Yes, here it is again. Effective communication is the cornerstone to any healthy relationship. You take ownership of your emotions while setting firm boundaries and you make sure that you communicate what you are actually needing instead of projecting your hurt onto others. This is a tough one, even for me, but when I am really clear and centered I can have a conversation with my husband, children, and friends where we talk about some hard things without yelling, screaming, or trying to win an argument.
- Focus on Problem Solving. Instead of focusing on who is right or who is wrong, or whose feelings are justified and whose are not, remember that you are a team. Each person’s emotions are “right” and each person’s perspective is valid. Rather than trying to shove your truth down their throat try to come back to the idea that you love this person and focus on coming up with solutions together to solve the problem. This usually involves steps 1-3, understanding, empathy, effective communication, etc. When you are a team you can conquer anything together, but when you are divided you are easily conquered.
- Respect. This one really should be number one. If you don’t have respect for someone your relationship will only go so far. Disrespect comes in little ways that most people don’t even recognize. Rolling your eyes, talking in an exasperated tone, passive aggressive actions, implying that they are less than in any way, knit picking at character, and the list goes on. There is a big difference between criticizing character and actions. It is essential that we stand up for ourselves and set boundaries with actions that we don’t want to tolerate, but if you find yourself in a relationship where you love someone in spite of who they are you might want to reassess. People want to be accepted for who they are and can definitely feel when they are not appreciated. You either love someone for who they are or you move on, and if its family, if you want a healthy relationship you accept them for who they are and where they are at while still standing your ground on what actions are acceptable for you and what actions are not.
- Connect! This one seems obvious, and I almost didn’t add it, but it really is important. Relationships require time and space to connect. Share in your partners or child’s interest, and then invite them to share in yours. We often get so busy with outside pursuits that we can take our closest relationships for granted and think they will always be okay to “wait just a minute” all the time. Laughing and playing connects us on a deep level…so do it as often as you can!
I could add greatly to this list, especially with children. Children can be the hardest to form relationships with because for the first several years of their lives it is basically you making the effort and you modeling for them what healthy relationships look like. I often hear, “How can I treat my children with respect when they don’t give me any?” or “My children just don’t care about anything but themselves”. Relationships with children begin as soon as they are born, not when they can talk.
A child who is secure in the knowledge that he doesn’t have to fight to be heard or to have his needs met tends to be more open to and cooperative with limits. And, when the limit setter is a person the child trusts, the enforcement of those boundaries becomes a matter of connection and communication instead of conflict and struggle. ~L.R. Knost
There are lots of great resources for having great relationships. The Five Love Languages, anything by John Gottman, and just really understanding and loving yourself.
Do you think I left out anything important? I would love to hear what makes a healthy relationship for you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Have a Happy Weekend!
Lyndsey Merrill, Liberated Parenting