You know you are in a healthy relationship when you can be yourself and you accept your partner as he is. You do not try to change them or mold them into who you think they should be or who you need them to be. You don’t have that right and it is very controlling. The fact is, you don’t know who they should be either. Each person must determine their life path or the process that they need to take in order to discover who they are, what they want, and how they want to live. If you are with a partner that either is trying to change you or who you are trying to change, then you are not in a healthy relationship.
So much potential…
Be very careful not to invest your time and energy into a partner you think has “so much potential”. Your investment is on the future while ignoring or minimizing the present. What is your partner like now? What is the relationship like now? Do you and your partner have the same goals for the relationship? Are you hoping to change them or help them fulfill their potential? Do they want your help? Do they even agree with what you are envisioning? If somebody isn’t developing into their potential, demonstrating that they are achieving their goals and growing as a person, if they just keep promising to change or to do something and nothing is different, then you are in love with their potential, not who they are now.
In a healthy relationship, you accept your partner unconditionally and you feel accepted unconditionally as well. That doesn’t mean that everything about them is perfect. Of course, there are things in their personality or behavior that could or should be improved, but you begin by accepting them. Some things are significant and are not going to change or the person is unwilling to change, so then you both may have to accept that you are not meant for each other.
Janet Woititz explains in her book, “Struggle for Intimacy”, that “you have to be able to grow and feel encouraged to grow” and you should be encouraging the same for your partner. You must also grow together as a couple, setting mutual goals that you work on together. It should not be a power struggle to see who can control the other or “make” the other do what they want or believe is right. (Woititz, Janet: Struggle For Intimacy, Health Communications Inc,1985,pg: 21).
“Intimacy” indicates closeness, depth, trust. It exists in a relationship when you can be yourself; express your emotions, your ideas, your desires. With intimacy there is “validation, understanding, and a sense of being valued intellectually, emotionally, and physically.” (Woititz, pg: 22) You need to know it is safe to let down your guard and reveal your true self. Upon doing so, you cannot then fear or be at risk for shaming, humiliation, retaliation, or other hurtful consequences. You must feel protected, valued, cherished, and cared for. With intimacy, there is a sense of security; in who you are as a person and in the relationship. Neither of you fear or doubt or wonder about the other’s commitment to the relationship. It is mutual.
We are “one”…not A healthy relationship does not mean you have so much in common or think and feel the same about everything. “You and I are not one” no matter what society or certain religions have taught you. That isn’t even a healthy goal let alone possible. It is ridiculous. Martha Beck, PhD says, “If you’re living by the ‘We are one’ ideal it’s high time you found out how terrific love for two can be”. She encourages you to “follow your heart in a direction your partner wouldn’t go” and to “dare to explore your differences.” How true! (Beck, Martha, Ph.D. “How to Know It’s Real Love”, Oprah, March 15, 2002)
Beck also lists 4 other statements describing a healthy relationship or real love, even though they seem contrary to what most of us grow up believing.
1) “I can live without you, no problem” Even though so many love songs and messages in movies is that we can’t live without that person, the opposite must be true in order to have a healthy relationship. Beck says that “The emotion that fuels this kind of relationship isn’t love; it’s desperation”. It can feel romantic at first, but doesn’t work over time. Therefore, you must feel confident that you can live without that person and that your life will go on.
2) “My love for you will definitely change” Life is full of change and people are always changing, so of course, a relationship must change over time as well. Love should feel different as a couple moves through the stages of a relationship. Beck says, “A love that is allowed to adapt to new circumstances is virtually indestructible”. She compares love to water, explaining that “like running water, changing love finds its way past obstacles” whereas, “freezing it in place makes it fragile, rigid, and all too likely to shatter”.
3) “You are not everything I need”. So many couples believe that their partner should be everything to them; their confidant, their best friend, the one to go do everything with. They believe that something is wrong if their partner has other interests, separate groups of friends, etc. Beck says, “it’s like trying to get a full range of vitamins by eating only ice cream”. She explains that “each becomes exhausted by the effort to be all things to the other and neither can develop fully as an individual”.
4) “I won’t always hold you close” Always holding someone close can be very suffocating. The tighter you hold on to someone, the more they will struggle to get away and be free. Think of a toddler, who will wiggle and jiggle to get out of your grasp and if he has to, he will begin got cry or scream until you let go. Your partner will do the same. Instead, you must allow each other the freedom to make their own choices, to make mistakes, to fall and get up again, and then be there for them.
Written by: Giselle Belanger, RN, LCSW (psychotherapist) Available for appointments in person, by phone, or by skype webcam. Contact info: Mex cell: (322) 138-9552 or US cell: (312) 914-5203 NEW e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org