This article was originally published on P.S. I Love You on December 1, 2017
I stayed in an unhealthy relationship for longer than I should have because “relationships take work” and I loved him, so I was willing to put some in. Even when I felt miserable, even when I felt unwanted, even when I felt undesired, even when I felt like an accessory.
It’s true that relationships take work, but in a healthy relationship, the work does not look like unhealthy fighting (blame, aggression, name-calling), constantly trying to “fix” innumerable problems, trying to express what you need from them over and over without them “getting it” even after three times, without them making behavioral changes that actually last.
A healthy relationship’s work is proactive.
It’s not all making up for screw-ups, putting out fires, or doing damage control.
It’s buying flowers “just because,” not to apologize. It’s texting cute messages to make them feel special, not because they seem distant lately. It’s reading that book on healthy conflict resolution together before there’s a lot of conflict to resolve.
It’s work that’s an investment into the Love Bank, that looks more like actively building something together than constantly repairing.
A healthy relationship’s work is mutually carried.
If you love someone you fight for them. This is what I’ve always been told and I still believe it for the most part. But until what point?
Until you realize that you are always the only one fighting for the relationship because no matter how strong you are or how emotionally healthy you are, you can’t carry the entire relationship on your own. It’s not healthy, it’s not possible, it’s not fair.
In a healthy relationship, both partners put in the work of being vulnerable, of making sacrifices, of giving up time with the guys or the girls because you haven’t seen one another for awhile, of planning date nights and being intentional about reconnecting.
Both partners take ownership for the health and nurturing of their relationship, treating it as sacred instead of one partner being left to feel like they’re the only one who cares.
A healthy relationship’s work is based in integrity.
You don’t work on a relationship just for your own selfish needs of wanting what a relationship gives you, whether that be companionship, sex on tap, or dinners. You invest work in order to honor another human being you care about, in order to love them well, and in order to do right by them.
When it comes to how you treat one another and how you go about the relationship on your end, you value honesty, loyalty, faithfulness, transparency, generosity, and respect. You go about the relationship with these values not because you *have* to. Because of the love you have for your partner and the high esteem in which you hold them, behaviors that reflect these values manifest naturally as a result, even when they’re not in the room.
A healthy relationship’s work is partnership.
You fight for the relationship, not for them to recognize that you are “right,” not for them to see your side, not for your pride or your ego. Your S.O. isn’t an antagonist to defend yourself against but is a partner to work with. Your arguments aren’t about about “winning” but about resolving issues and moving towards one another.
You view yourselves as being on the Same Team, and there’s no such thing as winning at the expense of your partner’s feelings. If one of you is unhappy or hurt, if they’re “losing” an argument, then you lose together. If you win, you win together.
One of my personal priorities is gaining more wisdom in the area of having healthier relationships — with friends, with family, and with lovers. One of the best ways to do this is to learn to identify healthy and unhealthy behavior in both yourself and in others.
As you do this, you will be able to practice more emotionally healthy mindsets and habits, responding to conflict and relational situations more effectively.