life

What Makes A Healthy Romantic Relationship?

 

I think the most frequent question clients seek an answer to is 'what does a healthy romantic relationship look like?' This question has a unique answer for any individual and an even more specific answer for any couple. There are some basic ways of thinking about what creates a healthy relationship that can be used as a framework for setting up the details of how the relationship ends up developing in order to lead to success.

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Healthy relationships, whether romantic or otherwise, follow certain ground rules that allow each person involved to be happy without compromising the happiness of the other person. This includes parent-child dyads, siblings, professional relationships, your relationship with your neighbors, etc. You get the idea. Basically anyone with whom you are interacting that your behavior and mood effects.

Imagine if everyone lived by this general framework. We would have a web of interconnected and happy people all around the world. Each person can do their little part and hope that the effects trickle out and have a far reach. As any one person is more happy, other people in their life can be more happy. 

If for some reason you are not happy or you are making someone unhappy, it is your responsibility to either work through the difficulties to the extent that you are not made to feel more unhappy than you were when you started, or you may want to consider distancing yourself from that person so that you are not contributing to the perpetuation of unhappiness for either of you.

You can obviously choose to stay in the unhappiness if there is no alternative, but in that case, I would suggest consciously seeking out and establishing times and places of serenity for yourself so that you can maintain your identity and strength throughout the time you that have to maintain that particular relationship. 

So let's get to it. What are we aiming for? How can we be happy without taking away from the happiness of someone else? Believe it or not, it's not selfish, it's actually quite realistic.

One of the most important things to understand is that every type of relationship including romantic ones is a) a series of disconnects followed hopefully by b) repair then c) reconnection.

To speak specifically about romantic relationships, there are a) misunderstandings, arguments, disagreements, resentments, lack of affection, anger, inconsiderations, etc. followed by b) effective communication, in depth conversation, rekindling of positive emotion, physical touch, repetitive discussions, etc. until c) resolution is reached and both people feel loving and loved again.

The parts that are specific to each couple are how the pattern of disconnect, repair, and reconnection happens. Knowing how to engage with your partner effectively may take some counseling or educating yourself through books or advice from people in healthy relationships, but it is well worth doing. 

Either way, if you haven't picked up the skills of repairing and reconnecting, which many people haven't, it makes life a lot easier and happier to put some effort into this venture. Once you learn the skills and have the tools, you will be able to use them over your lifetime.

I can't think of a skill that is more important in life than being able to productively engage with other people so that you and the other person are thoroughly fulfilled. Feeling this type of satisfaction allows people to live content and at their maximum potential encompassing all aspects of their life.

A healthy relationship consists of: 

  • Trust by both people that is validated through virtuous behaviors while with the person and when they are not around.
  • The other partner is taken into consideration when decisions are made. Partners regularly consult each other in all aspects of life, including the parts of their lives that do not include the other person.
  • Allowing yourself and your partner to develop a strong core self throughout your time together. This includes having a healthy balance of separate and conjoint interests, friends, and life goals. By encouraging each other's self-growth, both partners can become happy as individuals while finding fulfillment within the relationship. 
  • Problem solving happens together. When one person brings up a problem, the other person tolerates their own feelings around it and works through not just how they feel but also how their partner is feeling until both people feel a sense of resolution. Problems are not avoided, disregarded, or invalidated.
  • There is a fluid healthy concern for the partner while not feeling responsible for their mood or actions. Everyone is responsible for their own emotional states. All any partner can do is be supportive and caring. 
  • Kindness at all times goes without saying. This is mandatory for successful relationships. 
  • Sex is talked about. How much or how little, when, and in what ways sex happens is discussed and understood by both partners. There is respect for the other person's physical body and emotional state when sex is happening. 
  • There is a high level of feeling comfortable with each other that is not taken for granted or seen as a weakness. Just because a person is choosing to be there does not imply that that person will always be there. It is a choice to be with someone and the relationship needs to be nurtured in order for it to continue growing. If it is not nurtured, just like any plant or your own emotional or physical well-being, growth will become stunted or stop altogether.
  • Conversation is based upon listening to understand, not listening to respond. Hearing and being present when your partner is speaking or telling you something through body language allows your connection to grow stronger. 

Love is just a word until you and your partner create a meaning for it. Create your special meaning consciously and kindly. Love is far from what Hollywood makes it out to be. The meaning of love you create will be different than what you have seen in other relationships. In the same way that it's important to be yourself an individual, it's important to create a unique partnership that is well-suited to what you and your partner are looking for instead of what is expected of you or what the media sells it to be.

If you are feeling more uncomfortable than you would like, that is when you know that it is time for a change. Our minds are resilient, they can withstand change and brief uprooting until a sense of comfort and happiness is established. It is worth trying for because you can't have what you want unless you try to get it.

There are many details that go into making a relationship healthy so that both people can be happy. Having the information of what makes a healthy relationship is the starting point of having one. The next step is making it happen.

On the purpose of one particular lifetime

If we are to think of the human species as developing over space and time, we find that in the early days of our existence as hominids, we were relatively less able to understand ourselves and the cosmos around us. As time has progressed, so has our capacity to learn. You can think of it this way, millions of years ago, we were but simple creatures who lived very simple lives. Over time, we became more and more like the beings we are today. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, mankind was essentially in its infancy stage, unaware of the direction the human brain was leading to.

As you can see in the image below, our early ancestors had brains that were about 1/3 the size of our brains today and thus didn't have as many connections or nerve fibers that our brains today do. Our brains and our lives work parallel to each other to become more and more complex. This process will continue for as long as sustainable weather patterns and proper distribution of resources persist.

In examining what we can think of as the childhood of our species, we find that we simply do not have all our modern day lives to squander in the growing up process. One lifetime isn't nearly long enough to make all the possible combinations of mistakes, or to go out and discover from scratch what has already been explored before us. Yes, there are basic needs that must be met in order for our bodies to physically grow and our brains to reach a level of maturity that is functional enough to continue expanding. Beyond that, the possibilities are boundless as each generation of child is raised.

As adults, it is our anthropological responsibility to pass on information and peaceful ways of being through education and energy transmission to all the developing individuals we come into contact with so that the whole of our species can benefit from what we deem as important in the process of growth for humans. When I say developing individuals, I am not just referring to children or growing teens. I am referring to all people at all stages in life. Any one person, without exception, at any point in their life can learn from others around them. They can take in knowledge and energy, process it in their reality, incorporate it into their way of being, then have the newly found ability to share that perception with others as is appropriate. 

Now that the world is infinitely interconnected, we can utilize all available forms of communication to share our personal knowledge with one another so that should someone in a particular stage of development be in need of something we have to offer, they will have access to it. If we are to raise our children in a way that we were raised or have similar expectations as our caretakers did of us in our generation, then one child at a time, we are stunting the overall growth of our species. If we interact with others in dysfunctional ways that have been repeated for thousands of years, then similarly, we stunt the growth of our species that could otherwise take a much different direction. It is each individual's responsibility to be an active, participating member of our world society so that the energy we create reverberates and makes life all the more sustainable. 

Our species had its time in childhood. With every generation we become more and more complex. Just as the speed of technology is exponentially increasing with increased opportunities to broaden our understanding of the digital world, the universe, and beyond, the rational mind will exponentially grow as antiquated ways of thinking are left behind and the space for examining reality opens up wider.

These processes are innately parallel because there simply can't be one without the other. There can't be rational explanations for human existence and our surrounding reality when we don't have advances in science to correspond to our brain growth and capacity for learning. These processes mirror the infinitely expanding universe in that there is no such thing as the beginning of time, and there is no such thing as the end of space. No one can know where we are headed. What we do have control over is how we consciously maneuver our direction.

So what is the purpose of one particular lifetime? In my humble opinion, I think that taking the time to explore our own sense of self so that we live in a state of continuous awareness is a starting point. By doing so, we can exist in a reality where we are able to check in with who we are, what we need, what's working, and what's not. Having this ever more important information provides us with the knowledge of how we can generate our own individual reality to be one that maintains inner peace. Each individual can make adjustments moment by moment to smoothly transition in gradual steps from the reality they exist in to the reality they perceive to be balanced and good enough.

The clarity of mind that comes with an established sense of inner peace is the key to tuning into others around us. By being able to tune into those around us, whatever their physical age may be, we can help cultivate each other's minds to the extent that our own and other's potential brain capacities can be developed. We can assess further what we need and desire from another person while being simultaneously open and able to provide them with what they need and desire. The alternative is not doing so and remaining relatively stagnant generation after generation with little output to show for the passing of time.

We are all ultimately just children growing up within the span of a lifetime in a moment in time of the overall progress of our species. I think it is important to be open to examining the breadth of humanity as a whole over space and time so that we can see the continuity and impact of the existence of each individual person. When reality is viewed from this vantage point, people can be more open to showing love and respect not only to themselves, but to every other human being they come into contact with.

We're all in this together. There is no me and you, there is only us. There is technically no space between any two people or any two points in the universe. Nothingness does not actually exist. Something connects each and every one of us. We are yet to figure out the intricacies of the unknown, but if we start figuring ourselves out and allowing for the space of internal and external curiosity to become larger over time, I think that we will find that the mysteries of the universe will elegantly present themselves to us.

Be grateful for your toddler's tantrums

Despite our attempts at containing tantrums, there are some great reasons to be grateful for your child's tantrums. It's a normal part of development that can signal growth in your child and gives adults practice at managing our own emotions during times of stress as well. 

Where did the love go? ...I’m not feeling the way I’m supposed to.

First off, I want to say that 'supposed to' is a very strong phrase. If this phrase ends up in your thoughts or perceptions, it's usually a good indicator that what follows it may not be a part of your authentic feelings about what you as an individual believe in. 

This article makes some excellent points about the fact that there are several myths on which we as modern day society base our expectations of ourselves and our partners in a marriage or long-term romantic commitment. The most striking of these myths is that oftentimes, two people think that if they love each other, they shouldn't fight. 

The reality is that any two people who spend enough time together will eventually find themselves in some sort of conflict. This reality has no bounds as far as which two people you consider. This could be with a family member, a lover, or a child. Just because there is conflict doesn't mean that the love has come and gone.

Conflict is a very natural and without it, we wouldn't have a forum to exchange differing ideas. Note that there are a plethora of ways in which conflict can be had productively and kindly. There is never a good time to go ballistic on anyone. Learning to manage conflict and to repair the possibly ruptured connection afterwards are key.

As you can read more about in this article, Dr. John Gottman's research found that a whopping 69% of the ongoing problems in marriage are unresolvable. This statistic may be comforting to many people. It means that the majority of couples are having the same difficulties you are – about money, sex, in-laws, kids, whatever. Stick with it, and you will find that choosing to move through time with a fellow flawed human, learning and growing with somebody you love and trust is, despite all the difficulty, is what really makes us happy at the end of the day.

For more great insight, check out the full article by clicking here.


There is no such thing as a stressful life event

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Could this be true? 

This post isn't to invalidate feelings of stress, but instead, to shed light on examining one's perception of stress in a different way. Everyone, myself included, experiences the physical symptoms of stress which are directly tied to the meanings we make of a stressful situation based on our past exposure to how we and others around us dealt with similar occurrences. 

That said, I want to point out that everyone experiences stress in different ways in their life and their approach to how they handle it varies from person to person. Some people are more resilient than others to stressful situations and can handle them with ease. Take public speaking for example. Some individuals can effectively and voluntarily engage large crowds while most people would cringe at the thought of being in the spotlight. I truly believe that all people can create more resilience in their way of encountering stressful situations through conscious awareness and insightful meaning making.

The elusive truth is that there is actually nothing stress-producing in the physical world. Things simply are. Molecules move. Light and sound appear. Nothing inherently stressful is happening, but we experience stress because we believe certain thoughts about the things happening—about life, death, money, success, love, sex, etc.,—and our beliefs create our experiences. You could say that everyone has a range of stressful beliefs which they define as their unique experience...but that's just another belief, and in this case it's one that shuts the door to a much happier life. 

Just knowing this isn't enough. You can't tell yourself that your stress is produced in your head and feel better. You still need to learn how to create a change. To begin the journey, be clear on one thing: There is no such a thing as a stressor. There are no stressful life events. All stress is an inside job. You experience what you believe. This model of stress brings to mind a bulletproof vest. We can't avoid the bullets in life, but we can wear a strong Kevlar suit to insulate us and minimize the impact.

To read more, click here.