Guidelines for telling when a relationship is healthy
Some time ago, I was reading a forum where the topic of good relationships was raised. Someone asked how to tell when a relationship is good; what markers, if you will, indicate positive, thriving relationships.
I put some thought to it. I’ve long had a sense of what makes for relationships that I find satisfying, but hadn’t really codified it beyond that. After chewing on it for a while, here’s what I came up with:
- Am I striving to treat others with compassion, even when it’s hard? Am I being treated with compassion?
- Does this relationship offer me the opportunity to grow and develop in the way that feeds me and makes me happy? Does it offer the same opportunities to all the other people involved?
- Am I moving with courage in this relationship? Are the people around me moving with courage? That is, do the people involved say things like “I think this will make me happy, so I will reach for it” rather than “”I have been hurt before, so I better not”? Do they say “Here are the things that scare me, and here are the things you can do to help support me” rather than “Here is a list of things I forbid you to do”?
- Does this relationship help me to be the best possible version of myself? When I look around at the other folks involved, do I see the best of them?
- Can I say whatever I need to say, whenever I need to say it, and have a reasonable expectation that I will be heard and understood? Am I creating an environment where everyone else can tell me what they need to say, even if it’s something I don’t want to hear, and I will hear it?
- Is this relationship fair to everyone concerned? Not “fair” as in “everyone gets the same thing,” but “fair” in that “everyone has a hand in the relationship, everyone’s voice can be heard, and everyone has the ability to help build the things that make their parts of it happy and healthy.”
- Does this relationship give all the people involved the opportunity and support they need to pursue their joy?
- Are the people in the relationship committed to handling conflict, when it comes up, in a constructive, positive, and reasonable way, rather than with anger or antagonism?
- Do the people involved forgive one another their lapses and fallibilities?
- Does each person in the relationship have a say in knowing what’s best for him or her, rather than one person dictating what’s best for others?
These, I think, make a good starting point for determining whether or not a relationship is good.
Note: Since writing this, I’ve made a list of the ideals and principles that help make for relationships that have these features, which I’ve made into a poster.