Relationships can be some of the most challenging and rewarding parts of our lives. In this article we outline areas to consider and address if you are looking to improve the long-term relationships in your life. We list four essential ingredients that must be in place for a healthy relationship.
Essential ingredient 1 – honouring both parties
In a relationship with any person (or organisation) when we have something that we want to communicate we can be:
a. Thinking about what we want
b. Thinking about what they want
c. Thinking about what we both want
If we totally focus on ourselves or focus entirely on what others want, this might work for a short period of time but a long-term healthy relationship cannot survive with this dynamic. Long-term relationships work if there is a win/win for both parties (or in other words both parties are getting enough of what they want).
Most effective relationships require seeing the bigger picture. For a healthy, long term relationship with any person or organisation there must be an element of honouring both parties. Sometimes this might mean compromise, sometimes it might mean working together to develop creative solutions, and sometimes it might even mean sacrificing what you want (or what they want) for the bigger picture. Of course, any sense of sacrifice needs to be energetically balanced. If one party is consistently sacrificing for the other without reciprocation, resentment will build and is likely to eventually destroy a relationship.
In order to honour both parties, of course you must understand both parties. This means being a master at communicating your needs and a master at listening to their needs.
To communicate your needs you will already need to understand what is important to you. You will need to be clear on your boundaries, and what you value most. In coming up with solutions to problems you will also need to encourage the other party to communicate what is really important to them too.
The best intentions in this context normally means having the best interests of both parties in mind.
Essential ingredient 2 – having courage
In relationships there are two key forms of courage:
a. The courage to speak up
b. The courage to be silent
In any discussion, when we can speak up and say what we want, (even in the face of fear of rejection) it can clear the air and provide clarity to the other party. We can lack courage with others because we feel that they might reject us or we might think we have “too much to lose”. Saying what you truly want requires having the courage to accept the risk of a short-term “loss”.
If you feel you lack courage, write down all the times in the last week that you have shown courage (e.g. maybe you have made a difficult phone call, taken a risk by telling someone you love them or just smiling and connecting with a stranger). You will be amazed that you do show courage all the time. Secondly write down all the benefits you can think of to speaking up. Once the perceived benefits of speaking up outweigh the perceived drawbacks you will do it naturally.
Sometimes it also takes courage to stay silent and let the other party take the lead in the communication. Listening actively can be difficult, particularly if we fear that they may take advantage or try and hurt us emotionally. By listening and becoming aware we can usually quickly see that the other party is trying to protect themselves from being hurt or taken advantage of too. Once that is the case, you will be able to see that what they really need is reassurance from you about your intentions.
Essential ingredient 3 – being genuine
The best relationships flourish within an environment of trust. An environment of trust can only develop if you are sincere and have the best of intentions.
Being genuine also normally means being open and honest about how you feel. A climate of secrecy and hidden emotions leads to doubt and mistrust.
Being genuine also means communicating your intentions. People are willing to forgive virtually anything you have done if they trust you had the best intentions.
If you are mistrusting someone’s intentions, then perhaps consider adopting a belief that people are doing the best they can with the “resources” they have available. Resources include skills, experience and knowledge. They may also refer to the internal resources they need (for example the ability to balance or calm their emotions). Please also don’t expect people to act in your best interests in the long-term without some reward for them.
Essential ingredient 4 – let people be human
Often we can demand too much of ourselves or other people. Although having “high standards” in any part of our life can be of benefit, it can also create big problems in our relationships if people don’t live up to them.
Next time you find yourself getting irritated that someone isn’t living up to your standards, understand that they are just being human. Here are some things that make us human:
- Making mistakes (even more than once)
- Being confused (not knowing what we want or why we want something)
- Being scared (even of something that makes no logical sense)
- Being selfish (it’s normal)
- Being selfless (wanting to make a difference)
- Not communicating clearly (sometimes we just don’t get it right)
- Being overly negative (sometimes we need to let off steam)
- Being overly positive (we like getting excited about things)
Final thoughts on essential ingredients to a healthy relationship
The best definition “good health” we have found here at La Crisalida Retreats is: “adaptability to change”.
Taking this definition on board in the context of healthy relationships means being able to adapt to situations as they arise in your relationships. Therefore, if you are looking to improve the health of your relationship consider just how you might be able to improve your ability to adapt to different environments and different types of people. What might help you become more adaptable? Where are your boundaries very rigid and how can you be more flexible? Food for thought.
At La Crisalida Retreats we run life makeover workshops designed to help you get back in touch with yourself. We find that those people who are able to understand themselves are best prepared to build strong and effective relationships with others. If you are interested in improving your relationships, you can find other articles on our blog including Moving on from relationship troubles and How to deal with negative people.