This article does NOT apply to relationships that have domestic violence (physical, emotional, psychological, or financial violence or control). If you feel fear in your relationship, please read about domestic violence.
Healthy relationships feel like balmy days at the beach. Colors are brighter; sounds more pleasing; food yummy; work fun. The future is bright. And although problems exist, none of them are insurmountable because you have mutual goals, values, and interests. You are not alone.
Unhealthy relationships–no matter who you have them with (parent, child, sibling, intimate partner, ex-partner, friend)–feel like a one way trip into a black hole.
In healthy relationships we feel safe, loved, cared for unconditionally, respected, free to express opinions and feelings. You have your partner’s back and he/she yours. You support the other person’s strengths (and she/he yours), encourage personal growth, repair ruptures (all relationships have them), accept and/or forgive flaws (to flaw is to be human). You spend time together as well as apart. You have mutual and individual friends, family, and interests.
We need healthy relationships to enjoy life, to thrive and to be our best self. Unfortunately, most of us don’t know a lot about healthy relationships. We learn how to relate to others from our early caregivers, from our culture, and from the media. We have unrealistic expectations from movies, magazines, and the internet. And then we see organizations from PTA to US Congress fighting as if their lives depended on it. It’s a complicated topic.
If mom and dad, or mom and mom, or dad and dad fought like cats and dogs or apples and oranges or Venus and Mars, you–their son or daughter–may have found your way into a relationship like theirs. Even when you decided not to. We’re just hardwired like that.
Sometimes mom and dad got along fine, but you still wound up with a partner who doesn’t have, in M. Scott Peck’s words, your personal growth in mind. The way you learned to relate is not your fault. What you do about it is. Some relationships are repairable, but it takes an effort from all parties, not just you.
The good news is, we can heal from old wounds and learn to relate so that we feel heard, seen, understood. Simultaneously, we can learn how to hear, see, and understand (empathize with) others.
The only way we can heal is in relationship. — Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD., co-developer of Imago Relationship Therapy
Avoiding others and trying to dig your way out of ineffective patterns of relating by yourself may be making your situation more painful. That’s where therapy comes in. Change is difficult, and possible.
The only person who wants change is a wet baby. — Pat Ogden, PhD.