These are only some of the necessary ingredients to the health of an intimate relationship. If there is a lack of these, the relationship can flounder and eventually break apart. It is very difficult once there are habits of an unhealthy relationship already in place for a long time to make any changes easily or quickly.
Sometimes there is just too much damage to repair.
These qualities and practices for a healthy relationship should be present from the begininng. But it is never to late to start the ABC’cs of a healthy relationship!
Awareness or mindfulness is being able to monitor and notice what our thoughts and reactions are in the present moment without prejudice or judgments. Without awareness there is no possibility of correcting our mistakes or improving the quality of the relationship. To be able to create the most healthy relationship starts with having a healthy relationship with yourself. Awareness offers the opportunity to enchance self love by working on oneself and to observe potential positive outcomes for self and the relationship. This is the necessary first step to change and bringing the relationship to a higher level of satisfaction and health.
Acceptance of self and other of our unique qualities, strengths and weaknesses. In a healthy rleationship these unique aspects of self can be known, seen and validated by our partners. In a healthy relationship our “shadow” side can even become a source of creativity and growth as well as a source of our deepest needs, values and desires. Acceptance also means being supported by your partner to pursue these authentic goals and desires towards the mutual fulfillment of healthy relationships.
Appreciation is the recognition and acknowledgement of our value and gifts by our partner. We want to feel the enjoyment and pleasure of being in a healthy relationship. If your partner offers something you want or like in a caring way and you feel the joy of that, why would you not want to share your appreciation with your partner? The desire to please the other is nurtured by your appreciation. Appreciation is the fuel for a healthy relationship. Think of this as making an investment into your relationship bank. If your relationship does not feel satisfying, pleasurable and energizing, why would you want to continue being in that relationship? So, practice the “5 to 1 rule”. For every negative comment (complaints, criticisms, judgments, blaming, accusations, verbal attacks, resentments) there should be 5 positive statements (compliments, affirmations, appreciation, gratitude, acknowledgments, recognition, affection, support, encouragement).
Behavior! Actions do speak louder than words. Do what you say and say what you do! Keeping your behavior congruent with your words and feelings is a good practice for healthy relationships. This helps prevent miscommunication, misunderstanding and promotes a healthy relationship. If you care about your partner your behavior should reflect that caring attitude. That also means that you want to offer the gift of thoughtful actions or “acts of service and kindness” to your partner.
Communication is an essential component of healthy relationships. Start with a simple statement of feelings which is one word (fear, anger, sad, hurt, disppointed, frustrated, warm, relief, etc.) “I feel…” Then make a short descriptive statement of what that feeling is about. And, finally state clearly what it is that you need or want.
Changes! The only person we can change is ourself. As much as we often try, we cannot change our partner. It is very easy to point the finger at our partner when there is a disagreement or problem. But that approach typically only creates further problems, disconnection, distance and depleting emotions such as hurt, anger, disappointment or resentments. There often is no resolution and an escalation of damage to the relationship over time. This is the antithesis of a healthy relationship. The first step is instead to focus on yourself. And using awareness look for your participation in what took place. Then you can consider an alternative way to approach your partner that could potentially lead to solutions, understanding and healing.
Making a “behavior change request” is another option. This is a request or invitation to your partner to willingly make a change in behavior for your benefit which enhances the relationship. State your desire or need in a positive specific way and how it would make you feel to have that change in behavior. Your partner then has an opportunity to consider if that is something agreeable and possible to offer to do. If the answer is “no”. Go back to the drawing board and offer a variation of your request that would satisfy you and be more agreeable for your partner. An example might be: Instead of saying, “stop being mean to me”. Restate this as; “I would like you to speak to me with a softer tone and become more affectionate. I would then feel closer to you.”