OK, I know what you’re thinking… who are you to tell me about healthy relationships? Are you some kind of expert or something? No, I’m not an expert on healthy relationships. But, I have been married for 20 years (to the same person) and we’ve learned a thing or two along the way about the realities of making it work. These points may come across as harsh but sometimes the truth hurts, especially when it’s worth hearing. So here goes…
You’re not perfect, Superstar
We all have to get to know ourselves in order to function healthfully in our relationships, and part of that is owning our crap. None of us are perfect. I’m not and you’re not. So let’s get over ourselves, admit our flaws, and make a commitment to try to be better.
And neither is your partner
See above. If you’re not willing to be held to a standard of perfection, then you can’t expect your partner to be either.
Relationships take work
Because you’re not perfect, you’re going to screw up and so is your partner. You are going to get cranky and take it out on each other. You’re going to forget to pay the bills on time and they will leave dirty socks on the floor because it’s just not a priority to pick them up. What should be a priority is loving and appreciating each other for who you are and what you each bring to the relationship. When you do this, you can expect the same from each other in return. Then you work together to find mutually agreeable solutions to the other stuff.
It’s a give and take, but it’s not always going to be 50/50. Get used to it
Relationships have a rhythm. There will be times when you need extra support from your partner and times when your partner needs extra from you. If you both truly love and care about each other, you’ll each want to give more than you receive. On the other hand, when the ratio of give to take is perpetually unbalanced, it’s time to re-evaluate the health of the relationship.
Communication is key; because mind reading is unreliable
As much as you want may them to be, your partner is not a mind reader and shouldn’t be expected to “just know” anything about you, what you want, or how you feel. So start talking… and listening because you’re not a mind reader, either. As author don Miguel Ruiz stated in The Four Agreements, “Don’t Make Assumptions.” When you communicate clearly with each other you avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. When you assume, you make as ass out of… well, you know.
You will fight. If you don’t ever fight, then neither of you is invested enough in the relationship to make it last
Because we only spend time and energy on things we care about. If you passed anger and hurt feelings miles ago and have entered Apathy-town… then do yourself and your partner a favor and end it so that you can each move on.
If you are thinking about leaving the relationship, chances are your partner is too
If you (or your partner) feel “blindsided” by an admission of unhappiness in the relationship, then you probably aren’t paying enough attention to the relationship and need to re-evaluate your commitment to each other.
What your partner doesn’t know CAN and most likely WILL hurt them (Because they are going to find out. Oh, yes they will.)
We are living in the social media age in a town called Selfie-ville… Take my advice and live your life as if Every. Single. Thing. you do is going to be posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Whether it’s your page or your friend’s or your friend’s friends’, it’s going to get out and your partner is going to find out and be hurt, humiliated, and quite probably plotting revenge by the time you get home.
Comparing your partner to others is a sure way to kill your relationship fast
Oh yeah? If that person over there is so great, then why aren’t you with them or trying to get with them? Listen, if someone else is so far superior to your partner that you need to make comparisons, then please by all means take a hike over to the greener grass… and let your partner be free to find someone who appreciates them for who they are and what they bring to the relationship.
The relationships we have with our caregivers in childhood may drive how we behave in our adult relationships
Psychoanalyst John Bowlby (1907-1990) theorized that children form attachments with their caregivers from infant-hood, and the quality of those attachments drive instinctive behaviors that can follow us into adulthood (1969, 1980). For example, if your partner’s mother (or other primary caregiver) was cold and distant, or inconsistent in caring for their needs, then they may have developed an innate sense of insecurity and mistrust that could be driving their adult behaviors like clinging, insecurity in the relationship, or defensiveness, to name a few. So…much of what your partner does may have very little to do with you and more to do with the relationship they had to their primary caregiver as a child. (And vice versa, just in case you were wondering…)
You won’t change them and continuously trying to do so is unfair and can become abusive
Constantly picking at someone to make them change erodes self-confidence and self-image. You may think you’re doing it “to help them” or “because you care sooooo much” about them. You’re not. You’re trying to change someone you don’t really like into someone that you can love and neither of you are going to be better for it. So either accept the person for who they are and work on understanding them “as is”, or let them go and move on to someone who doesn’t need so much of your “fixing.”
Speaking of… if you only take one thing away from this article at all please let it be this:
Abusive partners DO NOT change
Whether they are verbally, emotionally, mentally, or physically abusive, they will not see the error of their ways and learn to treat you better. They will not grow out of it. And they will do it again… and again… and again. They will continue to abuse you. Your only option is to get out of the relationship any way you can; get help to pick up the pieces and find yourself again; and learn to recognize the signs so you can avoid those people in the future.