There are a lot of relationship paradigms being offered out there. There are even more quotes and advice offerings on what relationship success looks like and how to attain it. Many of these espouse ideas of true love conquering all, enduring all, being all. They involve accepting another’s faults completely and without question, with an ideal of compromise, hard work, and enduring all to achieve the end goal.
While many of these concepts are noble and true, between the beautiful and the cliche, they are only applicable in the right relationship.
In the wrong relationships, these same concepts are being used as reasons to stay because we still want to believe that love is enough all by itself. What we know is that love, in and of itself, is not enough. The wrong relationship can take these qualities that would make the right relationship thrive and endure and instead make excuses for our (or our partner’s) lack of health, toxic markers and red flags.
Healthy relationships and enduring love come from two healthy, whole people. In all their imperfect humanness they are compatible with each other, have trust and friendship at their core, and show communication and conflict resolution styles that work together. A relationship cannot be healthy if one of the partners is not.
Healthy love is not exempt from challenge, effort, compassion, and compromise, but its characteristics do set it apart.
- It is not deficit-based.
It is not two halves making a whole, one person satisfying another’s needs, one completing another. It’s a mutual balancing of give and take out of fullness, not lack.
- It holds personal accountability at its core.
There is stability when each member of a couple has done his or her own work. You take care of yourself and your health in all ways, body, mind and soul, and so does your partner. When you really practice self-care and are accountable for being your best, you are in a better position to give to another.
If you want a healthy relationship you must begin by being healthy yourself and doing whatever healing of your past is necessary. We all have history from our family of origin and previous relationships. If we didn’t have good examples or experiences, we often bring those scabby wounds with us to be reopened by the next relationship. Look for patterns in your life and acknowledge your own baggage so that you aren’t bringing your own toxins into the relationship.
- It isn’t about perfection.
There isn’t always a utopian equal compromise where both partners are happy and satisfied. You won’t always get what you want when you want it, but that’s kind of the point. You grow more in acceptance and love when your needs are not met. Healthy love means that no one is perfect but assumes that no one is toxic. It isn’t about taking major hits or allowing unacceptable behavior, conduct, and attitudes to continue as a tradeoff for love.
- It has compatibility.
Beyond chemistry, seek compatibility and you will end up with both. Look for this in key areas — communication styles, conflict resolution, overall resiliency, values, temperaments. If you have too much imbalance and diversity you don’t end up tempering your partner, you end up driving each other further to your extremes.
The idea that constant chaos and negotiating and drama is a normal part that we just need to work through because we are in love is not only untrue but damaging. How much work is your relationship and for how long? The best relationships have a strong base in compatibility that makes dealing with inevitable ups and downs easier and changes the ratio of work to joy.
Look at your relationship, its history, your own. The love within it is not irrelevant, but have the courage to assume love is a given and offer your relationship an honest health assessment.
What’s there already? What’s missing? What work is still yours to do?
Toss out the relationship to-do lists at least until you and your partner are independently healthy and whole. Once you are bringing that into the relationship, your love will be healthy, too.