A happy, healthy relationship IS possible.
One of the things I am quite frank about is the fact that I have had my share of screw ups in the relationship department. If there was a mistake to make, I made it. If there was something I was told 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 — and nothing could be further from the truth.
Where am I today? Married to the man of my dreams with two kids and another currently taking residence (and causing me to waddle rather ungracefully around the house) in my womb.
Here is what I have discovered those in healthy relationships do differently:
1. Understand and accept that the past can never be erased.
Many people will tell us that we must release the past or leave the past behind us. While that is a novel idea, it’s complete and utter B.S. We will never forget or release the past — and why should we? It brought us to where we are today.
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 current 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. Know that 50/50 isn't always realistic.
Sometimes it’s 80/20 and that is OK. What's 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 requires their attention. If talked about openly and honestly, then it’s okay to give a bit more while our partner’s attention is diverted elsewhere.
What is not okay is if this imbalance becomes a part of our 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. Get that honesty really DOES matter.
And, honestly, this has been the hardest part for me. 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 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 secret squirrel, my husband was telling me about where the money he made went, into what savings, toward 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 with the feeling that he needed to, but the feeling that it was the respectful thing to do. I took note.
When we are in a healthy partnership, it’s time to open up about these things. Whether it’s where we are headed on a Saturday afternoon or just how many new pairs of shoes we bought as we try to stuff the evidence in the closet.
It took me a long time to realize that I needn’t view it from an adolescent-like perspective and fear that someone was encroaching on my space. We can still be independent and open —those in healthy relationships get that.
4. Realize that silence is deadly.
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 we are upset with our partner. We will argue and disagree and sometimes we may even say hurtful crap to one another.
That’s the nature of the beast. It’s how we handle those tension filled moments that determines whether we continue on the road of a happy and healthy relationship or take a detour down break up avenue. We have to be willing to talk about what is bothering us.
Is it good to sometimes wait until we have cooled our jets? Sure, no one wants to have a finger in their face and most will check out if our voice is raised. Talking calmly, however, about what is bothering us is essential for working through issues. Our partner cannot possibly know how we feel and what to do about it unless we create a space where we each can safely share our feelings.
5. Remember that you are both different people CHOOSING to be 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 we are in a functional and healthy relationship, there is an understanding that we each must have our own goals and passions. We should have time away for ourselves to explore our own interests. 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.
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 allow us to do so in a fashion that doesn’t undermine the integrity of the relationship.
This article was originally published at Elephant Journal. Reprinted with permission from the author.