The equation for a healthy relationship and how to tell if you’re in one or ready for one.
Relationships can be tough. They take work. They take commitment. They can’t give up when it gets hard. They should strive to, not only see the good in the person but also help each other become the best version of themselves.
Anyone who argues that is a prime candidate for this post. So, what’s the magic equation for a healthy relationship?
I’m not sure there is one, but I can certainly think of some qualities and habits that are essential for beating the odds.
This tops the list for a reason. I don’t care how great your communication or loyalty is with your significant other if you don’t have this, all other aspects that make a relationship good will eventually become a colossal challenge.
How do I know? Because I’ve lived it. And I’ve watched nearly all of my friends live it too.
I would argue that nearly all relationships start with a physical attraction. It’s just the reality of it, so let’s be adults and admit it. The whole “love is blind” cliche quote was likely derived from this stage. At the beginning of every relationship, or heck even a mini crush (as my girlfriends in college used to refer to them as), you become wrapped up in getting to know the person. The basic stuff. The exciting stuff. The areas that this person chooses to reveal to you. I’m not saying people aren’t open books – I most certainly am from the beginning of a relationship, but even red flags are ignored, or worse; seem endearing – almost as if you’re the only person they’ve ever let in on that deep of a level.
But once the excitement of this new relationship wears off, where do you two stands? Do you agree on the big things? Faith? Family? How you want to live your life? Ask yourself that and be honest with the answer.
As I’ve gotten older and moved halfway across the country, it’s become increasingly more difficult to detect this critical aspect of a relationship early on. Almost entirely because I don’t know these guys from Adam, unlike when I lived in Nashville and had at least 20 mutual friends with a prospective boyfriend. My advice? Take a few weeks to get to know this person in a group setting.
This will help you learn more about the person before you engage in an emotional connection. This can protect you, to some degree, from having your heart override knowledge. One-on-one time forms habits, emotional ties and comfort zones which lead to overlooking the big stuff like – common beliefs and lifestyles. Don’t believe me? Go find a handsome and witty guy, who you have nothing in common with other than attraction and tell me that charm doesn’t make you feel attached. Kidding. Mostly.
Of course, communication is key, but I’m not talking about word vomiting because you feel entitled to hash out every rational or irrational thought you’re having. Your significant other isn’t a sounding board for your insecurities. I learned that the hard way.
There is a right and wrong way to communicate. You must learn to communicate with your partner in a way that resonates with him or her. You can talk about how you’re feeling all day long, but if the other party interprets the message or tone wrong, you will get absolutely nowhere. If you’re confused about why you’re having the same conversation time and time again, ASK QUESTIONS. The best thing I learned during a relationship-building course at church was during discussions or arguments, ask the other person what they heard from you. It seems cheesy, and both he and I laughed through it (probably not great because the other couples were in marriage crisis mode and we were in the honeymoon phase), but it worked.
I highly recommend reading the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It will give you a better understanding of how that person feels loved and better insight into their communication style because of how they love. It creates awareness of each other’s needs.
It’s imperative that both of you feel comfortable and confident enough that the conversations you two have will only build more respect and understanding for one another. If you have bottled up feelings or resort to harsh tones, it will only build resentment and likely ruin your communication because one, or both of you, will emotionally shut down.
Quality over Quantity
I love making memories. Anything from talking over coffee on the porch, cooking together, running errands, or special events. I don’t need to go on extravagant trips with my person to feel like it’s quality time. What I desire, and I think most people desire, is a real connection. Having someone in the room with you during all your free time doesn’t automatically make the relationship blossom. If you’re not investing thought into creating memories, you’re not doing yourself or the relationship justice.
Spending time with your other half is important but reserving time for friends and your hobbies is as equally important. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again…that person is in your life to share it, not be it. I love reading, riding my bike or even just watching a movie alone. I also love hanging out with my girlfriends. If I know one thing, it’s that all of my friends are there to pick up any broken pieces during or after a relationship. Treat the people in your life with just as much love as you treat your significant other. Trust me. He wants to hang with his buddies without you sometimes too.
Respect, Positivity, and Forgiveness
I’m using all of these as verbs. Action verbs. The act of being respectful, positive and forgiving. During the course of your relationship, you can pretty much count on cycling through each of them. On repeat.
Both of you must respect each other to the highest degree. This means trusting, honoring, being loyal, and acting as each other’s biggest fan. There is nothing worse for a man than hitting his pride, especially in front of others. Men are wired differently than women. He needs to feel respected. He needs to feel like you’re supportive and proud of him. He wants to lead. The moment you begin to take that away from him is the moment he begins to internalize. Disrespect is going to happen (on accident) because let’s face it, we women are emotional and when we don’t feel loved we tend to react. But that’s where forgiveness comes into play. Just be sure to own up to your actions, ladies.
Men: On the other hand, we women, are rooted in needing to feel loved. It’s just the way God created us. You need respect, even if that means we must bite our tongue until after the dinner party, and we need love. Do we need flowers every week? No, although that would be okay 🙂 We want to hold hands, to be told you think we’re pretty, to feel adored in public, to feel cherished. I once had a boyfriend who would bring me coffee in the mornings or leave notes on my car windshield. He would send me songs that made him think of me and hold my hand every time we were in the car. He would fill up my gas tank and take pictures of me when I wasn’t looking, just because he thought I was being cute. I felt SO loved. On the other hand, I’ve dated someone who bought me nice things, had people run errands for me because he was busy and slapped my butt as he walked by.
Yet, he also bought me flowers every week. Still, I felt blah. Do you see the difference? Okay, good.
I could go on for days about dating, but I will stop there. It’s a lot to take in. If you’re in a relationship, I encourage you to take this post into account and make adjustments where it’s needed. If you’re like me, and the closest thing you have to a boyfriend or girlfriend is your dog, I urge you to allow this to soak in and practice these habits in your next relationship.
Reach out and let us know your success stories or your biggest dating flops in the comments below. 🙂
Aimee Wathan is a 32-year-old Nashville female who loves Jesus and looks at life for what it is; messy and beautiful. After writing for Christian magazines and nonprofit blogs, Balanced Chaos came to life when she realized the world needed a raw dose of reality. This article was originally published at Balanced Chaos.