Like anything in life worth having, healthy relationships require work and effort. Both partners must be willing and prepared to put in the work. Love binds you, but commitment is necessary not only for maintaining the relationship but also for supporting each other’s continued growth together.
Let’s look at the basic ingredients for building a solid foundation and becoming aware of what’s healthy (Green Flags) and what should be considered a warning signal (Red Flags).
1 GALLON OF COMMUNICATION
The most fundamental aspect of any relationship is how we communicate what we both want and need. Effective communication is a two-way street – where both partners have equal responsibility and seek understanding and resolution, instead of arguments and drama. A one-sided relationship is not balanced since one person invests more energy, emotion, and effort and ends up feeling alone, drained, and taken advantage of.
- Be comfortable and free to be ourselves.
- The heart of communication is being honest and open to sharing our true thoughts and feelings with the goal of understanding and being understood.
- Invest in the ability to resolve conflicts by agreeing to come together and move towards peaceful solutions that benefit both partners (win-win).
- Know how to fight fair and learn how to agree to disagree.
- Being proactive means taking responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and actions, expressing ourselves clearly, and treating our partner with kindness, understanding, and compassion.
- Feel like we have to walk on eggshells when around the other person.
- Feel trapped, ignored, and lied to; lack empathy and caring.
- We must hide our authentic selves and not express our true thoughts and feelings.
- We’re the ones always giving up what we want to keep the other person happy.
- Instead of fighting fairly, fight dirty. Name-calling, belittling, mean jokes, threats, manipulation, and passive aggression.
- Hostility could include bullying, physical, verbal, emotional or mental abuse, putting the fear of God in you, and gaslighting.
- Partner always needs to be right, places the blame on you, and takes no responsibility for their actions.
2 HEAPING SPOONFULS OF TRUST
Without trust, we have no confidence in our partner or their feelings for us. It is essential to know that they will be there for us and always have our backs. Trust is about creating that safe space where we can open up, make ourselves vulnerable, and have no doubt that they are also being genuine and caring. Trust is relying on someone we know won’t hurt us and will consistently show up.
- Mutual trust is about showing affection, support, equality, loyalty, and respect.
- We can confide our deepest thoughts and have a sense of comfort and growth together.
- Owning up to our mistakes and being transparent.
- Feel secure and safe in our connection.
- Feel controlled and have a sense of unease and insecurity.
- Jealousy is always an issue.
- Picking fights.
- Hiding things or being overly secretive, defensive, or overprotective.
- Feel betrayed, isolated, afraid of opening up, and getting hurt again.
3 CUPS OF RESPECT
Mutual respect is understanding their perspective; even if we disagree, we respect our partner’s point of view. The highest form of respect is active listening. We pay attention and offer emotional validation, making the other person feel accepted and understood. Treat others as equals and as we would like to be treated.
- Acknowledge and support each other, valuing their opinion and choices.
- Work together as a team and ensure both of our needs are met.
- Treat each other with kindness and empathy.
- Make decisions together and encourage each other to grow while also making the time and space to pursue our passions.
- Establish healthy boundaries where we feel empowered, calm, comfortable and secure.
- Regular fighting, negative criticism, and frequent lying.
- Demeaning and belittling, devaluing our opinions.
- Constant threats and feeling pressured.
- Condescending, shaming, and dismissive.
- Showing disrespect by always ignoring your boundaries.
- Breaking promises and taking you for granted
- No regard for other people’s needs or time, sense of entitlement, and lack of empathy.
- Feel trapped, used, emotionally bullied, and unappreciated.
- No one should base their self-worth and a sense of purpose upon their partner’s approval.
- No one should sacrifice their wellbeing or give up who they are just to fit the mold of what someone else wants them to be.
4 HANDFULS OF A WHOLE LOT OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
Unconditional love is about accepting your partner for who they are. Trying to change them implies that they are not good enough. In essence, we are both perfect the way we are.
Healthy relationships are not perfect. What makes it perfect is how we accept imperfections and continue to progress and grow into loving relationships.
Unconditional love starts with self-acceptance. The level of self-acceptance we have with ourselves will determine the quality of our relationships.
- Look for the good in each other and look for solutions to each problem.
- Take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
- Have no fear of making mistakes. Every experience brings vital lessons. Learn from them and move on.
- Stop arguing and ask, “What is more important?” “Would we rather be right, or would we rather be happy?”
- What’s important is not winning the argument but rather that we can continue to love and respect each other and choose compassion, happiness, peace, and harmony.
- Practice forgiveness, an intentional decision to let go of resentment, hurt, and anger.
- Develop an attitude of gratitude. Expressing our appreciation for the other person makes them feel valued.
- Thank you are the two most powerful words that help us focus on what we have. The more we focus on what we have, the more it grows.
- Blaming, judging, and holding grudges.
- Keep repeating the same old mistakes.
- Always angry, making excuses, and complaining.
- Resentful and indifferent, showing no appreciation, never giving compliments.
- Feel empty, and even if we have it all, it will never be enough if we keep focusing on what we don’t have.
- Instead of feeling complete and looking for balance, one insists on having it their way all the time, and if we want their love, it comes with a long list of conditions and demands.
A DASH OF PLAYFULNESS
The first thing to go when experiencing relationship problems is laughter.
Remember how much fun we had at the beginning of the relationship? As we get caught up in the day-to-day routine, we might forget to maintain our playfulness which can lead to boring relationships.
Finding ways to enjoy life and have fun together is necessary for maintaining a close, strong, and healthy relationship. Schedule quality time together doing fun activities. We need to keep that spark alive, especially to balance out those long hours of work and everyday challenges. The more fun we have, the more happiness we will find in our relationship and in life. Prioritize the well-being of your relationship.
LAST, BUT NOT LEAST, THE SECRET INGREDIENT – A SPRINKLE OF ROMANCE
A little romance goes a long way and is the ingredient that keeps us connected at a deeper level and strengthens our bond. Every day, find intentional and thoughtful ways of expressing those loving feelings and affection.
Put the love back into the relationship by doing those small things that make a big difference. Love is a verb. It requires action and becoming more caring, attentive, and understanding. Rekindle those feelings that brought you together and keep that flame alive with a healthy dose of the essential ingredients.
To summarize the recipe;
- Take a scoop of love
- Mix it well with communication
- Add a large amount of trust
- Whisk in lots of respect
- Blend with forgiveness
- Sprinkle with laughter
- Combine all the ingredients with some patience
- Garnish with hugs and affection
- Serve generous portions daily to each other with a side of passion and smiles
Like any great meal we enjoy, we need to nourish our relationship. Every day we must be present and pay attention to what we feed our relationship. Cultivate healthy habits that nurture and heal relationships to get long-lasting benefits.
What are you feeding your relationship?