Quality relationships are possible, but we must prioritize the present, not the past.
Relationships are significant to our overall psychological well-being. On the evidence, people often list relationships with family and friends among their most important things. For example, we often hear people talk about the people who were most influential to them during their development. Additionally, there are many examples of people actively seeking mentors to assist with their growth in their many endeavors.
I do not wish to overgeneralize relationships or taint the idea of relationships from a single narrative based on my limited view. However, I would hasten to make a bold declaration that relationship is the oxygen that keeps people alive. Therefore, we should take great care in preserving the thing that keeps us alive. When we find ourselves in unsatisfying connections or without significant relationships with others, we can feel alienated, isolated, and withdrawn from the world around us. The feeling something is missing is unsettling, so we endeavor to make ourselves whole by developing healthy relationships.
Once we enter relationships of any kind, we desire to keep them healthy. However, when we enter relationships, we bring our personal and observed histories into the relationship. Our personal history revolves around our previous experiences in relationships, and the things we decide are acceptable and those we deem to be unacceptable. The observed history is grounded in our observational learning from whom we took cues about how relationships should work.
The combination of our personal and observed histories influences our behaviors. Consequently, we must develop insights into how our behaviors impact our relationships. We must act when our behaviors begin to cut off the oxygen that keeps us alive and creates animosity. Therefore, we first recognize our unhealthy behaviors with an emphasis on producing personal change. We must also take careful inventory of our behaviors and identify how our behaviors create discord in the union. Finally, it is unacceptable to rationalize unhealthy behaviors within relationships with "I am who I am" to justify unhealthy behaviors.
Unhealthy behaviors place a strain on relationships. These behaviors manifest as criticism, defensive listening, resentment, hostility, aggression, and ridicule. These behaviors may even extend to the withholding of affection and instances of quid pro quo transactions. The behavioral manifestations are likely the result of unfinished business that prevents secure attachments leaving you stuck emotionally in a situation that affects your present functioning. Thereby leaving you on high alert for the inappropriate discharge of pent-up emotions. Ideally, you want to improve your frustration tolerance and learn to properly communicate your feelings. Healthy behaviors do not create the same relational pressure as unhealthy behaviors.
There are those moments when relationships seem like the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme. In what way might you be thinking or asking yourself? I imagine Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall to represent when the relationship is most healthy. When Humpty falls represents the fracturing of the relationship. For example, in the nursery rhyme, "Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put humpy together again." The effort to restore Humpty signifies an attempt at fixing the relationships.
Healthy Relationship Behaviors
The establishment of healthy boundaries, so when these boundaries are crossed, you can express your discomfort and say what you want instead,
Practice judgment-free communication and learn to recognize when you are being judgmental.
Direct communication (no hinting at what you want) say what you wish to accomplish in concise language. Remember, the other person having to guess what you desire can result in frustration for both parties.
Demonstration of mutual respect through appropriate communication and actions.
Accept there will be disagreements and prioritize reasonable solutions.
Getting even is not the same as problem-solving.
Decisions that affect the relationship may require mutual consent.
Show respect for privacy and space.
Indeed, relationships can seem so strong yet so fragile. The fragility of relationships has to do with our appreciation for them and their value to our personal development. We sometimes get carried away with saying we do not need people in our lives, and we sever relationships for whatever reason. But, of course, there is an argument to be made some relationships are toxic, and the most appropriate action is to close the chapter on the relationship. So important is the recognition that destructive behaviors in relationships are not always one-sided. Therefore, any attempt to reconcile the relationship between two or more people is taking accountability for individual or group behaviors.
Crucially, our responsibility is to make better choices when dealing with the people we need and want to have in our lives. This means you balance your needs and those of the people you want in your life.
Stay Naturally Curious
Corey, G. (1996). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (5th ed), Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.
Motz, A. (2014). Toxic couples: The psychology of domestic violence. Routledge.