The 7 Keys to a Happy & Healthy Relationship: Part 1
Updated: Dec 23, 2019
***This is part 1 of a 2 part series***
There are several factors that contribute to happy romantic relationships. We could probably go around a room, and everyone would be able to list off something: things in common, respect, quality time together, healthy boundaries and limits, communication, etc. The list is endless....
Do you know what's interesting? The things that are important to a romantic relationship are equally important in ALL relationships! Regardless if you are talking about a parent-child relationship, a friendship, or a marriage, they all require the same ingredients to make it healthy!
Don't believe me? Watch... we're going to dissect some of the core foundations to any happy and healthy relationship. I'll show you how the keys to being a successful parent are the same to a happy marriage!
We're going to boil it all down to 7 key elements! We'll look at each one independently, and by the time we're done, you'll see how being a great parent will also make you an awesome spouse!
First on the list is RESPECT. This is a big one, and it should be the foundation to all your relationships. If you were to google this word, you would get the following definition:
"Consideration for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others."
Simply put, this means that you are mindful of how your actions (or inaction) affect others. In a romantic relationship, we all want our partners to treat us respectfully, always taking into consideration our own emotions, thoughts, rights, etc. In return, we respect our partners as well. A relationship devoid of respect is doomed to fail eventually.
Respect should also be a core foundation to the relationship you have with your child. Any parent wants to make sure their child respects them, but the respect has got to flow both ways. In order to gain respect, you must also freely give it. When we treat our children with respect, we model to them HOW to be respectful, which then allows them to mirror that behavior back to us.
More importantly, when you treat your child with respect on a regular basis from infancy through adulthood, you help to foster a positive sense of self in your child. This will contribute towards your child feeling independent and confident in who they are. The respect will also help to foster a positive Parent-Child Relationship.
2. Healthy Boundaries & Limits
All relationships have boundaries. Let's face it, there are just some things you don't want your romantic partner to do to you, no matter how in love you are. As such, you set a limit on what you are willing to tolerate. The same thing happens in Parent-Child Relationships. There are certain behaviors you just won't tolerate from your child, like talking-back or physical aggression towards you.
There are also boundaries going the opposite direction too! There are things your child doesn't enjoy either, like being yelled at or being criticized (i.e. "How could you do something so stupid!"). Because of the nature of the Parent-Child Relationship, your child isn't as able to set limits with you as you are with them. That's why it falls on YOU to model healthy boundaries and limits within the relationship with your child.
You must also be willing and able to recognize and apologize when you have crossed that boundary. This shows your child that they are worthy of being treated with respect and helps to form positive self-esteem.
The same is true in friendships and romantic relationships. If your spouse continuously crosses that boundary or limit you have set, you're going to begin feeling resentment and bitterness towards that person. Over the course of time, if you stay in this boundary-crossing relationship, you'll find your self-esteem will begin to slip into a negative space. As such, healthy boundaries and limits are a key ingredient to positive relationships!
Independence is highly valued for many individuals, and it's important for healthy relationships too. There's something we call "enmeshment" in psychotherapy, where 2 or more individuals have blurred boundaries. This term is often used to describe "co-dependency," and can be found in romantic relationships and in parent-child relationships.
To explain this concept as simply as possible, one person disappears into the other. Symptoms of enmeshment include, but are not limited to:
> feeling guilty for a family member’s unhappiness
> being unable to express your own feelings and needs
> privacy is disregarded or even considered inappropriate
> children are expected to take care of parents
> individuality is seen as a betrayal
In healthy relationships, each person has a sense of their own identity that is separate from the other. Each person has their own set of likes and dislikes, and they are able to express those things freely and without hesitation.
Finally, each person is able to accept the point-of-view of others without feeling offended or upset because that view might be contrary to their own. This independence breeds confidence in one's own self, and it brings diversity to the relationship.
What this all boil down too??? You can't loose your individuality in your relationships. You need to remain true to your unique self. Failure to do so is going to lead to depressive symptoms and an unhappy relationship. But here's the kicker! The same is true for your spouse!
YOU need to be ok with allowing your romantic partner to maintain their unique selves too! If you find yourself becoming angry at them for having a different opinion than you, that should be a red flag to YOU.
Youneed to do some soul-searching (and probably reach out to a therapist) to help you unpack what all these emotions are really about. I guarantee they are about some past hurts you have to come face-to-face with.
Independence is a core of great parenting too. You want to encourage your children to think for themselves and even challenge them to have a different opinion than you. This can be really hard, especially if the topic is something you are really passionate about.
Growing up in my own household, my father pushed independent thought. Friendly family debates were encouraged and a regular occurrence in my childhood home. From politics and religion, to why dessert is the best course of a meal, my dad was all about critical thinking and independent thought. He encouraged us to formulate our own opinions and would frequently debate me and my sisters on these topics. Best part of all, he encouraged us to question:
"Question everything Krystal. Question your teachers, the government, the president, the priest, your boss, everything! Never be afraid to ask questions and challenge the status quo. Even question me... I want you to question me. Just remember, always do so with respect."
Encourage respectful independence and model respectful independence, and you'll see how your children develop leadership skills, critical thinking skills, and become respected, independent persons themselves.