Am I in a Healthy Relationship?By Dr. Margaret Paul
May 10, 2010
Are you wondering if you are in a healthy relationship or even what constitutes a healthy relationship for you?
Just as physical health is on a continuum, emotional health and relationship health are also on a continuum. And, like physical health, each person may have different criteria regarding what constitutes health. For example, some people say they are very healthy if they get a cold or flu a few times a year, while others' health criteria is that they never get sick at all.
For some, a healthy relationship is two people who never fight or argue, or who take care of each other and basically agree on everything, or are very easy-going and give in to each other.
For others, a healthy relationship is a relationship filled with sexual passion, while others believe that a healthy relationship is when two people can talk things out in ways that reach resolution.
Rather than looking for an external definition of a healthy relationship, I suggest that you look inside and define for yourself what is very important to you in a relationship. While your relationship may have all the traditional characteristics of a healthy relationship, if it isn't what you want, then it may not be a healthy relationship for you.
Glenn, in his early thirties, was ready to get married and start a family. He had been in a number of long-term relationships that had ended for various reasons. When he consulted with me, he had been in a relationship with Katherine for 3 years. She was pushing to get married and he was resisting, but not understanding why.
Glenn and Katherine had much in common. Both were intelligent, emotionally open people, and they both wanted children. They had similar spiritual beliefs, handled money in similar ways, and enjoyed the same activities. Their sex life was good. So what was in the way of Glenn wanting to marry Katherine?
"I don't look forward to spending time with her. We don't seem to click when it comes to talking. I love to delve deeply into feelings and ideas. I love sitting at the kitchen table and talking for hours without knowing how late it is. With Katherine, conversation is difficult. Everyone thinks she is so perfect for me, but I don't feel "in love" and I think it's because we don't play off each other with our humor and we can't get into in-depth conversations."
Glenn had never before articulated how important this was to him in a relationship. Without this, the relationship was flat.
It was hard for Glenn to end the relationship with Katherine, because even though he wasn't in love with her, he did love her and didn't want to hurt her. But he knew he was not going to marry her.
A year after ending his relationship with Katherine, Glenn met Liz at a party. From the moment they started to talk, Glenn felt that, not only had he known Liz all his life, but that they could talk for hours. And talk for hours they did - and they still talk for hours after getting married and having children. Glenn says he is delighted with his healthy relationship!
So what does a healthy relationship mean to you?
A healthy relationship is one where: (you might want to mark the ones that for you constitute a healthy relationship)
- We can talk about anything without fear of the other's anger or withdrawal.
- We support each other in doing what makes each of us happy.
- We each take responsibility for our own feelings and are able to share love, rather than expecting the other to fill us up with love.
- We laugh easily together and have a lot of fun with each other.
- We have similar interests and enjoy much companionship.
- We each contribute financially.
- We each contribute with household responsibilities and/or childcare.
- We find each other endlessly interesting and always look forward to spending time together talking and sharing ideas.
- We have deep trust, respect, and admiration for each other.
- We have a wonderful sex life.
- We are both very affectionate and love to hold, cuddle, and kiss.
- We share common spiritual values.
- We have the same religion.
- Other - add your own.
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The path of love is not the easy path - it is the road less traveled. It requires letting go of power and control over others and outcomes. It requires strict adherence to truth, to living and speaking the radical truth. Today, be truthful with yourself about what path you are on - the path of fear, control and avoidance of pain, or the path of courage, truth and love.
By Dr. Margaret Paul