Our relationships can bring us great joy as well as great pain depending on how we relate to others, and how they relate to us. As adults, we have the power to choose our relationships. While we cannot control what others do, we can inform them how we prefer to be treated through clear communication.
Common questions asked by my clients are about what constitutes a healthy relationship. Healthy relationships come in different shapes and sizes. Although many people focus on shared activities and common interests as the foundation for a good relationship, these will not necessarily sustain the connection, nor assure a healthy relationship.
The ability to sustain healthy relationships requires us to have a good relationship with ourselves first. Positive self-images support self-esteem, allow us to acknowledge and admit wrongdoing, tolerate differences, have interdependence instead of co-dependence, and minimize jealousy. In addition to shared values, open, self-disclosing, and skilled communication is a crucial element in relationship-building.
Problems in relationships can develop for many reasons:
- A significant event that throws the relationship off-track
- Avoidance of addressing problems and repairing past hurts
- Violence and aggression
- Moving too quickly through courtship
- Getting attached to whom you want the person to be rather than who the person actually is
- Limits in skills and understanding of long-term relationships
- Unresolved mental health or interpersonal issues that are made worse in relationship
Whatever the cause of the difficulties in your relationships, when there is clear motivation and willingness to address the problems, the majority of situations can be resolved, and the relationship can be repaired. It requires willingness to look at what each person’s role is in the difficulties, adjust behaviors, and develop different patterns and skills in relating. Many people delay the acceptance of a problem, and delay even longer in seeking professional assistance to resolve the problem. The longer the delay, the more damage is done to the relationship, which creates more work to rebuild it.