A Healthy Relationship …what does that look like?
As a relationship counselor, one of the biggest problems I see is that people in relationships are under the mistaken impression that their partner is supposed to meet their needs for them. This stems from the romantic notion that when two people get together, they mysteriously become “one.” This is an idea that has left many people feeling disappointed. When two people get together into a committed, exclusive relationship, some things become easier; others become more difficult.
It’s easier to handle finances with two incomes. Household chores can be shared, reducing the overall load. There are two of you to run the necessary errands of maintaining a household. And you don’t have to deal with the sometimes unpleasant task of meeting new people, sifting through interest on dating sites, managing the way you want to say, “It’s not you, it’s me. I’m just not feeling this.” Being in a relationship will often leave you with the feeling that there is someone in the world who really gets you. You also know your partner’s idiosyncrasies around sex and romance so there is a sense of comfort and predictability.
It becomes more difficult to find time alone. Sometimes you can’t find things because the other person has moved them. Conversely, there are someone else’s things laying around where you would never leave things. You might need to compromise on ideal temperature, what friends to hang out with and where to go on vacation. When there is a disagreement, it can be painful to have the conversations that can move those issues forward, or alternatively enduring the silence that can come when you or your partner is unhappy. Sex and romance may become boring and unexciting.
Research shows that there is typically a two-year period of the ecstasy of a new relationship. This can be explained by pheromones and the excitement of discovery. But what happens at the two-year mark? This is when some couples become disillusioned and unhappy.
Because of Disney, the Hallmark channel and Harlequin romance novels, people in our culture have a somewhat skewed version of what a healthy relationship is. High expectations to resemble the images seen in media can lead to this unhappiness. Life is not what you see on social media, movies or romance novels. Relationships require commitment, desire and motivation to work. Does yours have what it takes?
Both people in the relationship have five basic needs but you experience them to varying degrees—you may have a high Connection need, while your partner has a high Freedom need or you may have a high Survival need and your partner has a low Survival need. Perhaps you both have a high need for Joy but completely different ideas about how to satisfy it. All of this can cause challenges in a relationship. Does it mean you have an unhealthy relationship that is broken or beyond repair? Absolutely not.
One of the hardest and least romantic things to come to terms with in a relationship is that you, and you alone, are ultimately responsible for getting your needs met. Similarly, your partner is the one who must meet his or her own needs. When you are in a healthy relationship, each partner is committed to creating the conditions where the other person can get their needs met easily most of the time. I say most of the time because there may be times when one person is prioritizing their needs above the needs of the relationship. When this happens occasionally, it’s not a deal breaker. However, if it’s happening consistently, you might want to seek professional help to work through it or possibly end the relationship.
The challenge I see when people commit is they expect the other person to do what they want and that isn’t fair. If the person didn’t like baseball when you were dating, don’t expect them to suddenly start after you get married or move in together. If your partner didn’t like spending time with your sister, don’t expect him to suddenly want to accompany you to dinner with her. Committing to a relationship does not mean you will suddenly undergo a major personality change.
If you are in a relationship and find yourself upset over what a significant other is doing or not doing, you have every right to ask for what you want. You can even ask three times to cover the possibility that the person may have forgotten but after three times, it is time to accept that your loved one’s actions are working for him or her and obliging what you are asking for is not likely. What you do with this realization is the pivotal point. You can devote yourself to making their life difficult until they do what you want or you can take responsibility for your own unhappiness and decide how you can best solve the problem you are having.
There are basically four ways you can do that:
- Do it yourself.
- Get someone else to do it.
- Change what you want.
- Change your mind about how important it is to you and let it go without resentment.
There may be situations that wouldn’t fit all those possibilities but they are the choices to run through when attempting to fix your problem. Because it is, in fact, your problem when you want something you aren’t getting. It isn’t your partner’s problem to fix. In fact, he or she probably isn’t even thinking about it and is extremely unlikely to be doing what they are doing just to frustrate you. He or she is busy meeting their needs.
In healthy relationships, each person takes full responsibility for the fulfilment of their own needs and often prioritizes the needs of the relationship over their own individual needs. What does this look like? It means if you are the Freedom person, you will opt for together time sometimes even when you’d rather be doing something else because you recognize it’s good for the relationship. Conversely, if you are the Connection person, you will encourage your partner to have some Freedom time because you realize that is also good for the relationship.
If you are having challenges figuring out how to prioritize the needs of the relationship or take responsibility for your own needs, you may want to seek some brief coaching to help you do that. Don’t end a relationship that has the potential of becoming great because you are struggling with how to make to make it work. Invest in the future of the relationship.