Do you know what a healthy relationship looks like?
Human beings crave intimacy, need to love and be loved, and function best when they are. Yet people have much trouble maintaining relationships.
It’s clear from the many letters I get to my advice column that lots of folks, men and women, have no idea what a healthy relationship even looks like. Because I write about these things, and care about the environments children grow in, I feel obligated to say something.
From many sources and many experts over the years, I have culled some basic rules of relationships. This is by no means an exhaustive list. But it’s a necessary list. Print the rules out and pin them up on your refrigerator door. I won’t test you on them—but life will.
• Choose a partner wisely and well. We are attracted to people for all kinds of reasons. They remind us of someone from our past. They shower us with gifts and make us feel important. Evaluate a potential partner as you would a friend: Look at their character, personality, values, their generosity of spirit, the relationship between their words and actions, their relationships with others.
• Know your partner’s beliefs about relationships. Different people have different and often conflicting ideas about relationships. You don’t want to fall in love with someone who expects dishonesty in relationships; they’ll create it where it doesn’t exist.
• Don’t confuse sex with love. Especially in the beginning of a relationship, attraction and pleasure in sex are often mistaken for love.
• Know your needs and speak up for them clearly. A relationship is not a guessing game. Many people fear stating their needs and, as a result, camouflage them. The result is disappointment at not getting what they want and anger at a partner for not having met their (unspoken) needs. Closeness cannot occur without honesty. Your partner is not a mind reader.
The whole list is pretty much right on point, worth reading and, if you are in the dating pool, possibly worth memorizing…
It strikes me though that the above four rules alone, sadly, were ignored by a substantial percentage of the couples in our offices every week — all in the hopes that things would magically work out later.