As a therapist, I can devote much time and focus on examining my clients’ unhealthy relationships and patterns of relating.
It raises a great question: What does a healthy relationship look like? Whether it be with a romantic partner or a friend, a healthy relationship will have many of the same components.
In a healthy relationship, the identity of the individual parties remains distinct. Individuality and being exactly who one is is valued as an asset within the dyad. This creates a feeling of safety, because the individuals are free to show up authentically in the relationship, and can ask for what they want and need.
It’s also important to respect that the other person is an imperfectly perfect human being, who sometimes makes mistakes. Perfection is not expected, and when a boundary is crossed, the individual says so, and the other responds respectfully.
Being in relation to others also means that we continue to grow as individuals, and we do the work that is necessary on ourselves to create this state. We don’t feel responsible for another’s personal growth, just as they are not responsible for ours.
Being responsible for our selves means sharing the truth of our own unique reality, without expecting someone else to determine what our reality is, whether it be a physical, emotional or spiritual reality. Again, identifying one’s own needs and wants within the relational context is a crucial piece of being interdependent, as opposed to being dependent or codependent.
Resolving problems together is another important piece of the relational puzzle. Problems are an inevitable part of life. When each person takes responsibility for his or her part in a difficulty, and works together toward solving the issue, the relationship can thrive despite obstacles that may arise. Negotiating and accepting compromise within a relationship is an important part of sharing time and space with another.
Taking care of one’s self while at the same time being supportive of another is also extremely important in any relationship. I always tell my clients, “What’s good for you is truly good for the relationship,” and I believe this is true. Sometimes we have wants and needs, and we need someone to play a supporting role for us, and the same is true in reverse. However, this should never come at the cost of our own self-care.
Finally, good communication is an incredible building block for a healthy relationship. Respectfully making clear, direct statements about needs can create just the type of positive exchange that helps a relationship to move forward in a healthy and loving way.