For many of us, there comes a time where must ask, “Is my relationship healthy?” This question can come up for many reasons, and it’s time for us to discuss what those may be, and what they mean. Let’s take a moment to peer into your relationship and check it for cracks.
Asking the Question
The first thing we need to address is that you’re asking this question at all. While asking this question does not necessarily indicate abuse within your relationship, it is a red flag. People in healthy, toxicity-free relationships rarely feel the need to ask themselves if there is abuse happening. While asking a question doesn’t have to mean the answer is a bad one, it does mean you should do yourself the courtesy of looking deeper.
The Pillars of a Healthy Relationship
There are many people who are under the impression that all you need for a successful relationship is love. The truth is, love is only an emotion, and a single emotion cannot form the foundation for a healthy relationship. In fact, many abusive relationships have an abundance of the emotion love. The problem is that they lack the foundational pillars required to be healthy. What are those pillars?
The first and most important pillar is that of respect. Some people confuse love and respect. If you’ve ever delved into a Love and Respect series, you’ll have heard that women have some innate need for love, more than respect, and men the opposite. This is simply untrue. This belief is borne of sexism. Both men and women have an innate need for respect. The reality is, women have just commonly learned to settle for love – an emotion – over respect – an action.
While there is a certain brand of respect that means you look to someone as an authority, there is a more basal type of respect. The type of respect we’re talking about today is the respect you have when you believe that another person belongs to themself. That means allowing them to have their own opinions, present how they want, speak how they want, and decide what they want in their life, without trying to interfere or control them.
Without this type of respect, a relationship is on shaky ground and may quickly become toxic or abusive.
The next pillar is something that people often mistake as being inherent to the emotion of love. A relationship needs compassion to thrive.
Compassion is something that everyone should aim to have. It is also something people mistakenly call empathy and sympathy quite often. While empathy and sympathy are one’s ability to feel or understand another’s emotions, compassion is one’s desire to act kindly. Even if you don’t understand how someone feels, you can still act compassionately.
If a relationship does not have both partners aiming to act compassionately, things can quickly crumble. A disinterest in compassion is a bad sign for anyone but, when it’s your partner, it can have really damaging consequences.
Following compassion, a relationship needs consideration. They go hand in hand. Consideration is when you strive to consider your partner’s needs and how your actions affect them. One can be considerate without being compassionate. But, to consider and understand a person’s needs and then decide against compassion is a sign of negligence, toxicity, or abuse.
Last but not least, we have compromise. Compromise is the willingness to find a middle ground when you and your partner disagree on something. Compromise is not one partner constantly sacrificing things for the other. Compromise is always a steady balance of give and take. If one partner is the only one ever “compromising,” the other partner is taking advantage of them and it may be an abuse situation.
What Else Is There?
Check in with next month’s Part 2 if you want to know more. These are the foundational pillars to a healthy relationship. But, we still have to answer the question: “Is my relationship healthy?” Check back next month to see how your relationship stands up to these important interpersonal ingredients. Until then, if you’re concerned with how your relationship is going, it might be time to call a professional. Esther Benbihy provides relationship counseling that seeks to find and soothe the cause of relationship turmoil. Give us a call if you’d like to schedule an appointment.