9 Principles for Healthy Relationships
For some reason, I’ve been thinking about healthy relationships. These are principles I use to guide me when navigating relationships. Some I’ve learned through experience and others have been passed down to me by my parents or mentors. I hope they help you too along your journey:
Communicate, communicate, communicate (calmly). First rule of communication is make sure you’re in a calm space so that you can think rationally. No yelling. No put-downs, and no blaming. Talk about what you’re thinking, how your’e feeling, your interests, hopes, fears, etc. Effective communication is the best way to solve problems, improve relationships, and get needs met.
Appreciate one another. My husband and I have been together for over 13 years, and it would be easy to take one another for granted, but I’ve tried to maintain an attitude of gratitude. I say thank you when he cooks dinner, or takes out the trash. I try to tell him I appreciate the things he does for me as often as I can. Appreciation helps the receiver to feel honored, but it also helps the giver to feel gratitude. It’s a win-win.
Give positive feedback. Tell someone when they’ve done something that you like. It will encourage them to practice even more positive behaviors. In acro yoga, one premise is to tell your partner what you want them to do, not what you don’t want. It’s much more effective in getting positive results in partner yoga and in relationships. Once again, positive feedback feels better for the giver and the receiver, so try to take every opportunity to give positive feedback.
Celebrate your differences. Allow people to be who they are. Celebrate what makes your significant other unique. It might encourage them to do the same for you. We all want to be seen for who we are. We all want to feel worthy and significant and special.
Don’t let resentments build. This is a principle I can thank my mother for. Don’t let resentments build. It turns out there’s actually research to support this concept. Couples who reported happier relationships had what’s called a “low negativity tolerance” meaning that as soon as something negative happened in their relationship, they talked about it and tried to work it out. Couples who let negativity pile up before they actually talked about it reported less happy relationships. Talk about what’s bothering you and refer back to principle no. 1 .
Encourage, support, and believe in one another. This one is kind of a ‘“duh” principle, but you’d be surprised how many couples don’t do this one. This is one you have to stay conscious of in the present moment so you don’t let your own self-doubt seep into how you communicate with your person. Support, encourage, validate one another.
Listen and empathize. Typically, when we talk about a bad day, or something frustrating that happened, we just want the other person to listen and understand how we’re feeling. We don’t usually need problem-solving, or advice (at least not right at the beginning). Listen, empathize, and try to understand how the other person is feeling. Resist the urge to give advice, at least for the first 5 minutes.
Create rituals and culture. Create inside jokes, traditions, rituals, and culture that’s unique to your relationship. My husband and I have “sacred Saturday” where we try to spend time connecting, and avoiding obligations. We also have special meals for weekends, give each other chapstick in our Christmas stockings, spend time cuddling before we go to bed, and have endless inside jokes. These little things are what make relationships special, and sacred.
Ask for what you need. It’s so interesting how much we will dance around the subject, hoping the other person will get the hint and give us what we are wanting instead of just asking for it. Learn to communicate your needs and ask your partner to do the same. It’s amazing what changes will take place when we are just direct about how we are feeling and what we want the other person to do or give. Need a hug? Ask for it. Want your partner to stop giving you unsolicited advice and instead understand how you’re feeling? Try telling them. Ask for what you need and you just might get it.
Happy relationships everyone!