What is reasonable to expect out of a relationship? Love and support? Understanding and encouragement? A sense of safety and belonging? Knowing that your partner really sees you? Knowing that your partner truly values you? Knowing that your feelings and needs matter to your partner? Trusting your partner even when you are not with him or her? Both of you seeking resolution, taking responsibility and attempting to restore closeness after conflict? If these things seem way over the top because you’re used to surviving with far less, they are not.
These are basic standards you should expect from a healthy relationship:
- Both people are free to speak up and voice their opinions and feelings without fearing punishment.
- The relationship is based on mutual respect and support for one another.
- Both people are comfortable communicating their needs, knowing that they will be heard and not criticized, put down, or hurt.
- Each person is allowed to be an individual, is encouraged in their successes, and is supported in their other relationships.
- Both people are willing to listen to one another and give each other the space to speak up about their feelings.
- Even if a person does not agree with their partner, they respect that their feelings and opinions may differ from their own and that their partner has a right to them.
- Both people work to try to find a solution to problems.
- There are no personal attacks, name-calling, belittling remarks, threats, manipulation, or physical aggression of any kind.
- Both people are responsible for their own behavior.
- Blame is not placed on one person for the other one’s actions, nor are excuses made for inflicting pain on one another (e.g., “I’m mad so I have the right to make you pay for it”).
- Both people should feel encouraged and supported, not like there is competition between the two of you or that either of you is being sabotaged.
- Both people should feel equally encouraged, supported, valued, and loved. It should not be lopsided.
- Both people’s voices, opinions, thoughts, and ideas should carry the same weight.
- Although sometimes adjustments need to be made, neither one of you should have to sacrifice too much to give the other one what they want.
- Both people genuinely want what is best for each other, recognizing how they can both benefit from one another’s successes.
- Each person builds each other up; there is no tearing one another down.
- Each person seeks to make the other happy.
- Both people support one another in their dreams.
- Both people have the sense that they have a real partner, a teammate with whom they can go through life.
- There is real intimacy in the relationship.
- Both people have the sense that they are seen for who they truly are.
If this sounds too good to be true, it isn’t. This is what you should be prepared to offer in a relationship, and it is what you should expect in return.
Remember, conflict is normal and healthy in any relationship. What is important is that both people feel valued and respected even during hard times. Every couple has disagreements and times where they feel hurt or misunderstood. It is even normal to have periods of time where one or both people feel more disconnected than usual. However, even during those times, you should not need to question if you are valued and loved.
Long-term, loving, committed relationships do exist, and they are based on a mutual respect for one another. A healthy relationship is based on love, not ownership. There is room for both people to explore separate interests. Individual growth and expansion are encouraged. There is trust because it is safe to risk being vulnerable and open in the relationship.
Excerpt from If He’s So Great, Why Do I Feel So Bad?