Pillars of a Healthy Relationship
Many things can help a relationship be healthy, but these four factors stand out as undeniable essentials that make a union shine brightly.
Self-awareness: The health of a relationship is elevated when both people intentionally take time to look inward. Becoming familiar with your mental movements, seeing your own patterns and how they emerge from influences of the past, feeling the entire range of your own emotional spectrum without running away – this process of knowing yourself helps build inner fortitude and mental agility. Without self-awareness it would be impossible to take power away from the impulsive reactions that used to dominate our lives and shift that power toward having the patience to choose actions that better align with how we want to show up in the world. Gently allowing your attention to watch the way your mind moves helps you slowly become conscious of the things that used to move so quickly that you once felt you had no control over them, slowly the view of your awareness expands to include more of what was once unconscious. Self-awareness not only informs you in a way that only your direct experience can, it brings a new sense of possibility and honesty to the table that can help you connect much deeper with another individual.
Communication: If you do not know yourself, how can you be sure that your words actually represent what is happening within your mind and heart? Without self-awareness most communication is clouded in the confusion of your unobserved emotional history. Without self-awareness it is hard to come forward authentically and it is easy to fall into unconscious projections. When you can communicate your truth in a way where you simultaneously understand that your perspective is important but is not dominant or flawless, you break the self-centeredness that often gets in the way of having an honest exchange between two people. Creating a culture between the two of you where you communicate often, specifically to tell each other where you currently are in your emotional spectrum, will help decrease unnecessary arguments and it will help you know how to support each other. Clearly communicating how you feel before your mind tries to place unreasonable blame on each other helps you both be gentle to each other as storms pass by. Communicating how you feel and what you need is important because it is unfair to expect someone else to read your mind. Being fully honest with your partner and practicing selfless listening are essential components of a healthy relationship.
Understanding Instead of Winning: When two people are in close proximity there will eventually be some form of conflict that arises; how you handle conflicts over time can determine whether your connection becomes deeper or whether you start drifting apart. Conflict is natural because we all carry egos that are normally more motivated by craving than honesty. When conflict arises, it is not a sign that something is fundamentally wrong, it is actually an opportunity for you both to know yourselves more deeply and to practice honoring your truths while remaining flexible. Conflict should not be seen as something that should never happen, often it appears so that you can reach a deeper level of understanding which opens the door to greater harmony. Ego craves to win, but loving clarity seeks to understand. When you bring awareness to your ego, it loses its power and gives more space for your actions to become motivated by a loving clarity. In these difficult moments, you want to be fair and take turns describing your perspectives. It is especially helpful if you focus your narratives around how you felt as things transpired as opposed to just placing blame. You shouldn’t try to invalidate each other’s perspectives. Once it is clear how you both felt, the real work revolves around collectively figuring out how you can meet each other in the middle and move forward.
Commitment: A healthy relationship supports individual freedom and simultaneously creates space for voluntary commitments so that you both feel supported. Part of meeting each other in the middle is listening to each other describe the ways that you would like to be supported and then personally figuring out what feels right for you to commit to. It is unreasonable to think that every form of support you ask for will be met, it sets the expectation too high and errs on being inflexible. Instead, the love you feel for one another should motivate you to seek ways to support each other while still remaining true to yourselves and still having ample space to pursue your personal goals and maintain your well-being. Some of the best support you can get is when it naturally originates from within your partner, when they feel the urge to ask you “how can I help you?” and find that they have the emotional capacity to show up for you in that way. The love you have for each other is the home you are building together, and your commitments are the foundation that keep the home sturdy, stable and set the stage for a nourishing environment.
Podcast with Elena Brower:
I have a new podcast out with my good friend Elena Brower, she is someone who I deeply admire and have so much respect for. Our convos always flow so easily. We talk about treating our mental energy as a precious resource, finding the middle path, and managing our reactions. Hope this one serves you well. You can also listen to it here.
I have been thoroughly enjoying a book called Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity by Tony Ord, it is about the existential risks that humanity needs to address for us to have a long-lasting future. It has been a long time since I have read a book this important, it goes straight into talking about the big problems that many nations and leaders tend to ignore. If you like history and enjoy thinking about the future of humanity, this is a book for you. If I ever have a podcast in the future, he is someone I would definitely ask to come on.
Clarity & Connection:
When you think back to a relationship or friendship that does not continue to this day, what was it that didn’t work? Did ego get in your way during times of conflict? In your present connections, how can you better come from a space of loving clarity as opposed to ego? What have you learned from past relationships that you feel committed to applying in your present relationships?