A healthy relationship is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences two people can share. They don’t just magickally happen though, it takes a willing effort from both partners to contribute to its health and well-being. Building a healthy relationship relies on the same principles as erecting a building. The sturdiness and solidity of cornerstones determine the stability of the entire structure. A building’s cornerstones would be made of stone or concrete, while a relationship stands on the cornerstones of Communication, Commitment, Co-operation and Honesty.
They can only be as stable in the relationship as they are in our self-relationship. If these qualities are lacking in our self-relationship, we will lean more heavily on the partnership for the support we can’t give ourselves. Repeatedly leaning on it weakens the structure and the foundation, until it can no longer stand and crumbles into a pile of rubble.
Effective communication is a two-way street, involving the courage to speak truthfully and to listen attentively with receptivity. There are many reasons why communication fails in a relationship.
Speaking truthfully is especially difficult if we aren’t truthful with ourselves. Many of us have a painful history with honest communication due to experiences like ridicule, misinterpretation and rejection. Each time we avoid communicating honestly, it’s from concern for it happening again. Sometimes we choose to swallow our words because we don’t want to hurt our partner’s feelings or to avoid yet another fight.
Listening is just as challenging, particularly when what we are hearing is too painful or uncomfortable to accept. It’s not easy having our shortcomings and behaviours pointed out to us, especially if we don’t like challenging ourselves to push our edges through personal growth.
One of the most difficult things to verbalize is our feelings, particularly when we believe we’ll be judged or misunderstood. Any relationship lacking a platform for open honest communication is unable to solve problems and will eventually lead to failure.
All relationships begin with a willingness to commit, otherwise, we wouldn’t be in one. The coming together is the easy part but sustaining a healthy successful relationship takes an investment of energy and a commitment from both partners. They must be just as committed to working at their individual growth and the relationship equally.
The relationship is not meant to make us happy or solve our problems. If this is what we’re looking for, there are some fundamental personal issues to address.
Far too many couples get lazy and stop making the effort to put in as much as they take out of the relationship. Looking for our partner to satisfy our needs for happiness and joy, is like being eternally thirsty. We keep going to the well until it runs dry.
This leads to feelings of resentment, abandonment and disillusionment in both partners. It’s easier to point fingers and blame the other person and the relationship for our problems than taking responsibility for satisfying our needs.
Without the continued commitment to developing our own self-acceptance, self-appreciation and self-love, the well will run dry and the relationship will eventually fail.
To have success in any undertaking or endeavour involving the participation of others requires co-operation. This is especially true about any marriage or long-term relationship. Co-operation is comprised of collaboration, teamwork, support, help, assistance and respect. These essential ingredients help to develop a good partnership, with the most significant of these being respect.
A lack of respect for the other person stems from having our personal trigger points pushed by something our partner is reflecting to us about our own shortcomings. We react defensively by being judgemental, holding them in low esteem and disregarding their value. This makes it virtually impossible to be in co-operation and support of the other person’s needs, opinions, beliefs and dreams. This, of course, will not go undetected by our partner. They may react in any number of ways, but our lack of co-operation will make them feel like we are unwilling to be supportive.
Consequently, a rift is created, causing the relationship to suffer. A relationship without co-operative mutual support and care creates feelings of separation, isolation and abandonment. Continuing with this behaviour only widens the chasm, until we eventually go our separate ways.
By its definition, honesty means to be straightforward and truthful. This is one of the most difficult attributes to develop. Being honest is risky. We must be willing to let go of expectation, control and wanting to have it our way. These are the learned childish manipulation techniques we carry forward into adulthood. Deceit and dishonesty have no productive function in a healthy relationship. If we don’t work at rooting out these childhood behaviours we end up polluting the relationship.
Whenever we avoid, alter or censor the truth from our partner, we are driving a wedge into the relationship. The deeper we hammer the wedge with repeated dishonesty, the further we push our partner away. Eventually, the truth comes out and in most cases, it doesn’t set us free in the way we had hoped. The other person usually feels betrayed. For many couples, this is an insurmountable obstacle leading to a break-up.
As risky as honesty may feel, there is a genuine sense of freedom experienced from being truthful and direct. Honesty breeds trustworthiness, fidelity and compassion. A relationship fostering these qualities can only flourish with the growth, intimacy and support we are all seeking from our relationships.
Approximately half of all marriages end up in divorce. The reasons are many, but the major cause can always be traced back to a lack of or a weakness in one or more of these four cornerstones.
To avoid becoming another statistic, it’s important to invest time and energy in keeping these common pitfalls out of our self-relationship.
This leads to reduced stress, a greater sense of purpose, as well as improved physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual and mental health.
In turn, this will provide far-reaching benefits to our significant relationships with others.