Becoming an expert in anything usually means one has failed repeatedly, learned, evolved and adjusted. So how does one become an expert into having ‘healthy relationships’, whether in family, friend or romantic context? Reflecting back, we can think of Abraham Maslow, a great American Psychologist, who developed the hierarchy of needs theory. This theory suggests that for one to live a healthy and happy life, one requires five basic principles. One of those principles is defined as the need for love and belongingness, which we can relate to interpersonal relationships. Love and belongingness are most definite foundational to a healthy relationship.
In couples and individual counseling, we often start off with discussing core elements of obtaining and maintaining a healthy relationship. Although micro definitions of a healthy relationship may differ based on the individual situation, there are aspects that play a big role in obtaining and maintaining a healthy relationship:
Is trust earned or given? Well, that depends on the individual, one’s life experiences, perspective and of course the current relationship they are in. What is trust? Blindly having faith that one would never intentionally do harm to you or to the relationship? Is it respect for each other, beliefs, values and norms? Or does trust simply refer to: I can rely on you to be by my side through the good, the bad and the ugly? Whatever you choose as your subjective definition of trust, in a healthy relationship all these elements are intertwined. Sometimes ‘trust’ has not come to full development in a relationship, which does not mean, it can’t grow into a healthy relationship. It simply says: we got work to do. Reflect, be patient and allow each partner to evolve in the relationship. How can we manage to get there? Compassion and forgiveness. Take a few steps back and look at your relationship with perspective, two individual’s lives merging together and finding way to grow closer.
“Those who play together, stay together’. Sometimes one or the other partner gets introduced as ‘the better half’, in my opinion, there is no such thing as a better half. Both partners are equal halves in the relationship and carry both the responsibility to put the best foot forward and ‘play together’. Showing interest in one’s hobbies and dreams, participating in an activity one might not particular like, but the partner loves, stimulates growth and closeness in the relationship. Sit down together and discuss things you have in common or like to try out (even better!) and devote time to that activity as much as possible. In arguments, try to take a step back and reverse roles, to see the situation in perspective. Ask yourself, is the argument we are having right now going to be worth mentioning in five years? You will find by applying these little changes, it may become easier to pick your battles. Support each other and remind yourself to develop positive constructive communication for growth, as this is foundational to partnership in a healthy long term relationship.
Meeting half way
This might seem like an obvious statement. Of course, we are meeting half way, we will compromise! How can you be sure, that you are meeting your partner half way? The answer to that question is: Do you live your life in balance? Balance is to walk towards each other, in the same pace and with understanding, patience and space for growth. Compromises should be made, but be aware that you are walking towards your partner, compromises should be equal and in balance. When one or the other partner feels, that he or she is making more compromises, it is time to have a sit down and discuss the emotional impact on the individual and the relationship. Meeting half way, does not mean, letting yourself completely go and pushing aside your ethics, morals, standards and most certainly not crossing boundaries. Express boundaries and explain why these are your boundaries. Listen with an open mind and heart and always remember’ ‘Where there is love, we walk together’.
Whether you have been dating for a few months or you have been married for twenty years, resilience is the key to keep yourself standing up straight, head held high and keep the desire to develop your relationship further. One develops resilience over time by overcoming challenges in life, work and previous relationships. Think back to when you went through something extremely though and you got through it. Which skills did you use to get through that situation? What made you keep your head above water and what did you learn? Remind yourself, that the strength that once was, is inside of you.
In my practice, I ask couples: ‘what are your grateful for with regards to your life and partner?’ One or both often giggle and say; well he/she knows, what I am grateful for! Maybe he or she does know, but it’s important to remind each other of those things you are grateful for. Individually, I always encourage writing gratitude journals, which create a moment in the day to think about the blessings. The beauty of keeping such a journal, is that you can always read back and be reminded of your blessings. When it comes to inter-relationship communication, I encourage couples to say out loud (several times a week!) to each other what they are grateful for in their relationship and about each other. These exercises are helpful to live your life with presence in the moment, yet provide growth in your relationship.
About the Author:
Jeanina is a Dutch Counseling Psychologist and Holistic Practitioner. She is the founder of Blue Lights Wellness, located in JLT. Her aim is to provide the community and cozy and nonjudgmental environment, to be heard and seen as a ‘whole’ and encourage self -development. Jeanina has a BSc in Psychology & Education, MSc in Psychology, Post graduate diploma’s in Counseling & Psychotherapy, Family & Couples Counseling. Jeanina is currently completing her Doctorate degree in Counseling & Psychotherapy. She is trained in CBT, Solution Focused Therapy, ABA Therapy, Mindfulness, Theta Healing and has studied, trained and worked under supervision over ten years in; The Netherlands, UK, US and UAE. Her sessions range from 55-70 minutes depending on the need and the situation of the client. She works with individuals, couples and students. She as well offers individual sessions in Mindfulness with focus on relaxation & stress reduction. To book a session with Jeanina please sent an email to [email protected] or visit www.bluelights.ae.