Our personal relationships are an essential part of life. We are naturally wired to connect and collaborate with others.
Healthy relationships contain core essential elements including respect, appreciation, and freedom. In balanced relationships, each person contributes thoughts and feelings while remaining responsible for his or her own behavior.
Healthy relationships are equitable; both people contribute equally — or at least balance out in the long run. Lack of balance in a relationship can show up as criticism, control, or neglect. Unhealthy relationships not only erode the mind and body, they create barriers and slow our spiritual growth.
In order for our relationships to remain healthy, here are five considerations:
Communication is consistent. Without clear communication, relationships wither. We are all unique individuals, and our perceptions, assumptions, and conclusions are also unique. Having differing opinions can be a good thing! Too much of the same routine can result in complacency and boredom. And communication isn’t just speaking; effective listening skills are imperative. Sometimes we learn the most about ourselves from each other.
Respect isn’t optional; it’s necessary. Unhealthy relationships are often a result of losing respect for one another. Respect comes from appreciating differences, considering perspectives, and honoring preferences. Once you lose respect for someone, the relationship starts to unravel. Over time, respect — like trust — can be earned by actions and words. Even if a relationship has become stagnant or distant, respect can still endure.
Healthy boundaries are clear. Creating healthy personal boundaries facilitates self-reliance and helps to develop nurturing, loving, and mature relationships. Having clear boundaries requires that we focus on ourselves and learn to communicate our preferences in healthy and respectful ways. Setting personal boundaries allows us to express our truth and beliefs to others with confidence and courage. Acknowledging and honoring the personal boundaries of others demonstrates respect and builds trust.
Growing together is as important as growing individually. We are all in a perpetual state of growth and expansion. When we grow individually, we expand our thoughts and beliefs by learning from ourselves. When we grow in relationships, we learn from each other. The contrast that our relationships bring may cause us to grow apart unless we make a commitment to recognize our differences as strengths. Growing together in relationship means being able to learn from each other, embrace differences, and choose to walk together on a common path.
Follow the love. Authentic love conquers all doubt, fear, shortcomings, feelings of inadequacy, and negativity. To be truly loved by someone is to be recognized and “seen” for all of the things we are — complete and whole — with all of our strengths and weaknesses; ups and downs; fabulousness and foibles. And it all begins with us. When we learn to love, accept, support, and appreciate ourselves, our relationships will always benefit.
This article was written by Michael Thomas Sunnarborg
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