What is a healthy relationship?
The focus of my work with couples is to help them build the healthiest relationship possible. Toward this end, I hold a high standard. For me, simply staying together till death do you part is by no means a singular sign of relationship success.
My standard for a healthy relationship is one where both people can say:
“My partner is my best friend”
“We can talk about anything”
“My partner really understands me and accepts me for who I am”
“We take responsibility for our own growth instead of trying to fix or change each other”
“Our relationship is founded on honesty, trust, and full disclosure – we have nothing to hide”
“We love doing things together – we treasure our shared experiences”
“We resolve conflicts with kindness and respect”
“Our sex life continues to grow and be a vital part of what draws us together”
“I could live this way for the rest of my life – and love it”
“Our relationship feeds our growth as individuals, which in turn, improves our relationship”
In my work as a couple’s therapist, all the skills, concepts and structures that I teach are in line with these goals.
There is no such thing as a relationship that is perfect all the time. Relationships have necessary struggles, conflicts, natural weaknesses as well as strengths. Healthy couples make mistakes, grow and change over time, and go in and out of balance. A healthy relationship is a process, not a product, a journey, not a destination.
A useful analogy is to compare a couple’s health to that of an individual. For an individual to remain healthy, one cannot afford to focus on one healthy attribute to the neglect of other vital areas: All the exercise in the world won’t compensate for a bad diet. Diet and exercise won’t be much good if we don’t sleep. Sleep, diet and exercise aren’t much good if we don’t develop our intellectual and vocational abilities. To that list we could add social and emotional intelligence, parenting skills…you get the idea. None of us are going to be fully achieved in all these areas or remain so. What matters is that when we make mistakes, when we fail, when we find ourselves stuck – that we take it as an opportunity to learn, to grow and to develop that part of ourselves that has lagged behind.
Similarly, there are elements of health essential to relationships. Maintaining clear and effective communication is one example. Maintaining trust and respect is another. But even the healthiest relationship isn’t going to be perfectly in balance all the time. A couple’s sexual relationship may diminish significantly when a child is born or if there is a family crisis to attend to. They may discover a subject that they are temporarily unable to talk about without arguing. Healthy couples make it a priority to regain that balance and keep pace with the changing demands of individual growth and the evolving landscape of the family life cycle.
In spite of the best intentions, priorities and effort, loving couples occasionally get stuck. They may lack certain skills, have unrealistic expectations or cling to old habits that no longer work well. Sometimes life simply changes the equation and what worked before doesn’t work now.
Regardless of the cause, there are times when energy and intention aren’t enough. Many of the concepts and skills necessary to grow and maintain a healthy relationship do not come naturally or intuitively. The good news is that all of these skills can be learned and mastered.
It takes two, but if you agree that my description of a healthy relationship sounds attractive then I encourage you to keep reading my posts. If you are willing to work, all of the skills necessary to have a healthy, durable and growing relationship are within your reach.