The early months of dating are fun and exciting, but a successful long-term relationship requires ongoing effort and compromise by both partners. To establish a solid foundation, each partner must be emotionally healthy. Before you commit to a new relationship or move forward with an existing one, find out just how healthy (or not) your partner is.
How do you find out this information without probing or interrogating? Have many conversations with your partner about their history. Talk about yourself and ask your partner about their life story. Ask about their earliest memory, such as… How old were you? What where you doing? Where were you living? Who was there? Ask about their most influential childhood experience – what it was, how it affected them and if it still affects them.
Ask about their family… who they are, the quality of the relationships, and the lessons learned from their mother/father. Discuss their teen years. Ask about the biggest changes that occurred, the most influential event, and the affect it had on them. Really listen; the goal is to get know what makes your partner tick.
Getting to know a potential partner’s life story can help you to better understand their perspectives on life and how their upbringing has influenced who they are today, their past decisions and how it can affect future ones. It will help you to get a better picture of the defenses that your mate may have and hide behind. According to psychiatrist Emanuel H. Rosen, author of “Think Like a Shrink: 100 Principles for Seeing Deeply Into Yourself and Others,” you can learn to see through those defenses. Be mindful of these 5 basic principles:
1. If you want to know how emotionally healthy someone is, look at their intimate relationships.
2. How you feel about yourself is significantly determined by how nurturing your parents/caregivers and siblings were to you when you were growing up.
3. People who say they “don’t remember” their childhood are usually emotionally troubled.
4. Sexual compatibility is critical to a healthy relationship.
5. A healthy person can turn off their work personality when at home.
Characteristics of Healthy People
Healthy people have certain characteristics that indicate desirable traits such as honesty, kindness, loyalty, trustworthiness, industriousness, stability, responsibility, self-reliance, self-awareness and sensibility. According to Family Therapist Dr. David Mullen, the following 12 signs indicate emotional health:
1. They articulate their feelings, both positive and negative.
2. They maintain close relationships with family but live their life independently.
3. They take care of their health and appearance.
4. They take responsibility for their words and actions.
5. They demonstrate a good work ethic.
6. They handle their finances responsibly.
7. They can maintain long-term personal friendships.
8. They resolve conflicts in a constructive manner.
9. They show interest in the well-being of others.
10. They are psychologically finished with previous intimate relationships.
11. They balance the need for control with the ability to be flexible.
12. They have a positive, optimistic outlook on life.
Relationships are give and take, and both partners must be able to do both. Healthy partners share feelings, responsibilities and goals for the future. They notice considerate gestures and acknowledge them. They take every opportunity to show gratitude rather than focusing on flaws or mistakes. Healthy partners admit to mistakes and establish a habit of saying they are sorry. They learn about each other’s interests and hobbies, and build a list of activities to enjoy together. They have a supportive social circle. Resource: The Counseling and Mental Health Center, University of Texas at Austin http://cmhc.utexas.edu/healthyrelationships.html
1. Partners are friends throughout the life of the relationship
2. Partners can manage conflict without threats.
2. Both partners protect and nourish the relationship.
3. Both partners feel “special” to the other.
4. Both partners have clarity as to who they are.
5. Both partners have compatible values (financial, family).
6. Both partners can communicate feelings.
7. The relationship feels nurturing, comfortable, and fun.
8. The sexual relationship works well and is mutually satisfying.
9. Both partners can and do honor their word.
10. There is no abuse: physical, verbal, emotional.
11. Both partners have clear boundaries.
12. Each partner is able to handle jobs/outside relationships without threatening the relationship.
13. Both partners attend to the needs of each other willingly and lovingly.
14. Both partners are committed to the relationship.
Life changes constantly, and so do people. Changes that occur outside the relationship can impact our needs and desires within the relationship. Embrace these changes; see them as an opportunity to build even stronger bonds with your partner. The ability to survive tough times and rebound after a crisis is necessary for the long-term survival of a relationship. Agree to weather the storms together as a team. Family Therapist Sally Connolly notes 7 tips for having a healthy relationship:
1. Go slowly; it takes time to get to know someone.
2. Think about your past relationships and learn from them.
3. Have a checklist of qualities that are important to you.
4. Dating is more about finding someone healthy enough for you than finding someone who likes you.
5. Meet your date’s friends; take notice how he/she acts around them.
6. Consider rules for yourself about intimacy that you’re comfortable with.
7. Never mistake lust for love.
Emotional health is a result of a person’s upbringing, attitude, temperament and experiences. It is who they are. Healthy individuals tend to make better choices when choosing a partner. Choosing a troubled or unstable partner can be a reflection or indication of your own emotional health. An unhealthy partner can only offer an unhealthy relationship. You cannot fix an unhealthy partner or change them; people are constantly telling you who they are by their spoken words, gestures and behavior… listen!
Determine how much you’re willing to give up and what compromises you will need to make. Don’t lose yourself in the relationship or give up your own dreams. Relationships should be consciously selected, analyzed, nurtured and sometimes relinquished.