As humans, we seek relationship all the time, whether with friends, family or romantic and sexual partners. It's almost like we are programmed to seek relationships and to be in them, always trying to make sense of them, figuring them out, wanting love and fulfilment in them. It's what we do; we can't avoid it. With any luck (and lots of hard work), we find healthy relationships in which we grow, mutually experience new things about ourselves and build something that we call love and happiness. But, because they are so central in our lives, they can also become difficult and conflicted and be the source of our heartache and distress.
Healthy relationships are created through constant, consistent and honest communication in which the needs of both partners are equally and unequivocally valued and negotiated. Relationships are not a state of being, they are an ongoing process that needs work and effort. Healthy relationships, whether with friends, partners, family or work colleagues, are respectful and mutual, have firm foundations of honesty and commitment, and involve interactions that rarely leave one person feeling robbed or cheated. Healthy relationships also make you feel secure and inspired to live your best life possible.
So, how can you try to create healthy relationships? What are the keys to such relationships?
- Respect the privacy and autonomy of others;
- Understand that their opinion is just that, an opinion. It's not a condemnation or curtailment of yours. Similarly, your opinion is just that too, an opinion. You don't necessarily have to agree but should try to accept where each other is coming from;
- Be aware of the other person's feelings, they really do matter and violating them (or being violated yourself) does not help to build relationships easily. Be sensitive, noting that appropriate reparation (saying "I'm sorry" and meaning it) goes a far way to building and fixing your relationships;
- Communicate clearly with the other person. Say what you need (not what you want) and wait for a response. No-one is obliged to give you what you need, so feeling entitled to it will only lead to trouble. However, the closer the relationship, the more important having your needs met becomes. Meeting someone else's needs is usually a compromise (not a sacrifice).
- Everyone works on a different time line and makes sense of things differently. As humans, we tend to think that the way we do things is the best way to do them. But this is not necessarily the case.
- There is no such thing as "only this person can meet my needs". Not even in the healthiest relationship can the other person give you everything you need. It is better to meet our emotional needs with different people; placing that load on one person is hardly fair on or do-able for them.