What Is A Healthy Relationship?

A healthy relationship is like a healthy body...or two healthy bodies. And we have already defined what any relationship as...

An acknowledged...voluntary connection between two people...that has definite boundaries which create different rules of engagement ...depending on what kind of relationship it is.

So the boundaries and rules of interaction will be different in a romantic relationship from those in an intimate relationship. And those differ from the boundaries and rules of abusive relationships.

Okay...so what's a healthy relationship. Well, let's give it a go...we'll use the body as an example...

  • Your body is healthy when it can maintain itself functioning properly without a third party helping you...like a physician...or a breathing apparatus.

  • Your body is healthy when it can call on its immune system to prevent disease...or to cure you.
So let's apply those ideas to a healthy relationship...which is one that...
  • has the means to prevent things going wrong...
  • and the means of self-correction when things do go wrong
What prevents things going wrong?

A healthy relationship has certain fundamental processes between the two people involved...such as...
  1. good interpersonal communication
  2. effective listening
  3. obvious marks of respect for each other

These are as fundamental to your relationship health as your immune system is to your body's health.

With these fundamentals active on a daily basis...the people involved in a healthy relationship...like a healthy immune system...can quickly identify...communicate and take action about anything troublesome before the trouble takes on a life of its own...and infects other parts of the relationship.

This response readiness to glitches in a healthy relationship prevents a major falling out...so the people involved don't need a third party counselor to intervene to bring the relationship back to normal healthy functioning.

This readiness to protect the relationship from melt down may be triggered by a simple rule of thumb some people use...such as...

"We don't let the sun go down on our anger".

And that gives the pair...who use that particular trigger...a deadline for taking action before feelings harden.

Other effective communicators have different ways to signal each other of the need to talk...make amends...negotiate...etc.

Effective listening means...
  1. accurately understanding what is said to you and...
  2. reflecting that accurate understanding back to the one talking to you...
In that order!

Many people try to do step two when they haven't done step one...and naturally they get it wrong...which makes things worse.

To be an effective listener you have to hear...and respond...to the other person in the vernacular that they use to describe their perspective of the world.

For example...

Learning to listen effectively

Bob and Sue got to the point where their differences seem irreconcilable...so they went to a marriage counselor. As the marriage counselor listened...she learned that Bob and Sue spoke in different grammars. That is...they did not hear each other accurately.

Bob spoke to Sue...almost entirely in visual statements.

He would reassure Sue over and over that he saw her point...or that "I see what you mean...or "I can see it from your perspective.

And Sue never seemed to see that Bob was agreeing with her. And so the fights continued.

And Sue also never felt that Bob understood her because... Sue used feeling terms almost exclusively.

For Bob to see her point only left Sue feeling that Bob did not appreciate (a feeling) how she felt. "Don't you understand how put down I feel when you don't call if you're going to be late?" she asks.

And that was another thing the marriage counselor noted...Bob spoke in statements that he "saw" Sue's point.

And even though Sue used a feeling vocabulary
...she didn't state her feelings...she only asked asked Bob questions about his knowledge of her feelings..without telling him what they were.

And Bob instead of asking (using Sue's interrogatory style) about her feelings...he just let Sue ask him

There is no way these people could have a healthy relationship...with an active immune system...until they spoke the same language.

A healthy relationship...like a healthy immune system doesn't work at cross purposes with itself. And there's no use discussing a problem if one person only speaks Swahili and the other one only speaks Farsi.

What does it sound like when it's right?

Change in Bob and Sue's communication style does not mean they have to give up anything...in order to have a healthy relationship When you learn a new langauge...you don't give up your mother tongue to communicate with someone in their language. You don't give up anything...you add something.

So here are Bob and Sue discussing Bob's tendency not to show up on time for dinner and not call Sue to say he'll be late.

Sue: When you just don't show up...I feel slighted. (Sue now talks about how she's feeling instead of giving Bob pop quizzes on what he knows about her unstated feelings.)

Bob: Tell me more...I'm not sure what you mean by feeling slighted. (Bob doesn't say "I don't see what you mean. He just asks for more about Sue's feeling of being slighted.)

Well...you know on our honeymoon we would ring for room service anytime of the day or night?

Yeah...that's the life alright.

Well that's what I mean by feeling slighted. It's like I shop and cook and have to guess when you'll ring for room service. I'm just a waiter.

Okay...now I'm beginning to get the picture (doesn't give up his visual vocabulary). You feel like you're on call whenever I'm ready for you to serve me something. (He describes her feeling accurately. And she let's him know...)

Sue: Yeah. Now your beginning to see how I feel. (Sue begins to use Bob's vocabulary. It was easier for Bob to see how Sue feels when she gave him the graphic image of a luxurious room service).

Bob: And I used to tip the waiter...but I don't even tip you. How do you feel about that? (Both laugh) Sue: Depends on what you're offering...

So...there you have it. A healthy relationship...whether it's a marriage...friendship...colleagues...a christian relationship ...a Bhuddist one...or Hindu...

It needs a self-correcting immune system unique to human relationships...and that is effective communication...which begins with accurate listening.

You can get from this healthy relationship page to the relationship_boundaries page.

Or you can...

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