One of the things I am quite frank about is the fact that I have had my share of screw-ups in the romantic department. If there was a mistake to make, I made it. If there was something you told me I shouldn't/couldn't do, I did it. And I suffered a great many heartaches because of it. I began to correlate drama and dysfunction with love and romance but I soon found that nothing could be further from the truth.
Part of why I consider being a relationship specialist my calling and why I am so good at it is because I have been there, done that and burned the t-shirt. This includes the hard work I put into myself, and my relationship, to get to the point I am today. And where am I today? Married to the man of my dreams after a long road of off and on, long distance dating with two kids and another currently taking residence (and causing me to waddle rather ungracefully around the house) in my womb.
Based on my life experience, here is what I have discovered those in healthy relationships do differently:
1. Know that the past cannot be erased.
Many people will tell you that you must release the past or leave the past behind you and while that is a very novel idea it's complete and utter B.S. You will never forget or release the past and why should you? It brought you HERE. Everything we have encountered, whether good or bad, was a learning experience designed to aid our evolution. People in healthy relationships haven't suddenly forgotten or "released" their wounds, they have transformed them. They have learned to honor their past and all it entailed as necessary steps to take in the ladder to their personal evolution. They bring with them the appreciation for each moment and respect for where they have come from and what they have gone through into their currently relationship. It adds a richness and depth that would otherwise be lacking if we truly had an ability to push a button and drop our pasts down the chute.
2. They know it's not always 50/50.
Sometimes its 80/20 and that is ok. What is not ok is if it stays in this place of imbalance. We all go through things that leave us gutted or otherwise unable to be fully present in a relationship. Instead of complaining and throwing a tantrum, those in a healthy relationship understand that sometimes we need to give a bit more while our partner puts focus on other things. It could be a job or personal issues that require their attention and if discussed openly and honestly then its ok to give a bit more while your partner’s attention is diverted elsewhere. What is NOT ok is if this imbalance becomes a part of your everyday existence. One person cannot be the backbone to the entire relationship; the very definition of partnership implies the participation of another for a common goal.
3. They know honesty counts.
And honestly THIS, for me, has been the hardest lesson to learn. As a rather independent woman who made her own money and did her own thing for so many years, it became difficult to imagine that suddenly I was supposed to share, honestly, where every penny went or had to tell my partner where I was going. My rebellious nature would kick in and "it's none of your damn business where I'm going" flew from my mouth more than a few times. This, however, does not a healthy relationship make. While I was playing secrete squirrel, my husband was telling me about where the money he made went, into what savings, and towards what household project. If he was leaving he would say where he was headed and approximately what time he would be home. It wasn't done in the tone feeling he needed to but feeling that it was the respectful thing to do. I took note.
When you are in a healthy partnership, it's time to open up about these things. Whether it's where you are headed on a Saturday afternoon or just how many new pairs of shoes you brought as you try to stuff the evidence in the closet counts. It took me a long time to realize that I don't have to percieve it as someone was encroaching on my space. You can still be independent and open and those in healthy relationships understand that.
4. They don't play games.
Still ignoring your partner when you are upset with them? DON'T! Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not keep up with this dangerous trend; it destroys more relationships than I can even number! Those who are in healthy, long term relationships understand that the key to anything ultimately boils down to communication. Unless you are Paris Hilton, my guess is that nothing at all in life is going to get solved by pouting in the corner with your arms folded around your chest. There will be times when you and your partner upset one another. You will argue and disagree and sometimes you may even say hurtful things to one another. That's the nature of the beast at times. It's how you handle those tension filled moments that determines whether you continue on the road of happy and healthy relationship or take a detour down break up avenue.
You have to be willing to talk about what is bothering you. Is it good to sometimes wait until you have cooled your jets? Sure, no one wants to have a finger in their face and most will check out if your voice is raised. Talking calmly, however, about what is bothering you is essential for working through issues. Your partner cannot possibly know how you feel and what to do about it unless you create a space where you each can safely share your feelings. So stop the silent sulking and TALK!
5. They understand how to be separate yet together.
People who enjoy reasonable health and sanity in their relationships get that a relationship cannot be that which makes their lives full but rather an addition to their already full life. So many, and yes I am looking at my ladies here, find someone they are interested in and suddenly drop their friends like hotcakes and start to devote their every waking moment to their new paramour. Then when the relationship starts to die a slow death due to a lack of space their entire world falls apart.
When you are in a functional and healthy relationship, there is an understanding that you each must have your own goals and passions. You should have time away for yourself to explore your own interest. Nothing is sexier than a man or woman who is passionate and capable of holding their own. Conversely, there is no greater turn off than the stench of clingy desperation. Make your life full and explore what you love; your relationship will be all the more rich for it.
Most importantly, those who are in healthy relationships understand that it all boils down to respect and love. Respect and love for the self, for their partner and for the relationship. There is a desire to love their partner to such a degree that they feel the ultimate freedom that comes from security. Healthy doesn't mean problem-free by any stretch of the imagination; my husband and I clear the emotional pipes from time to time with a good ol' spat BUT thankfully we have learned a few healthy habits that allows us to do so in a fashion that doesn't undermine the integrity of the relationship. I wish the same for you.
More relationship advice on YourTango:
- Relationship Advice for Women: What Your Mom Never Told You
- How to Fix a Relationship: 11 Conversation Templates
- How to Be a Good Girlfriend (and Girl Friend!)