Healthy relationships don’t just magically happen. There are several key ingredients that are present in every healthy relationship and some that are necessarily absent. Too many people normalize harmful behaviors and dismiss the importance of positive behaviors. The bottom-line is however you can’t have great relationships if you and others aren’t great in them. If you want to feel loving connection then be loving in your connections—and hold your loved ones accountable to do the same. Great relationship require both people to:
1. Be loving/kind: No one likes to be around someone who is unkind—especially a good friend, lover or spouse! People want to spend time with those with whom they feel good to be around. We have enough hard times in life—we don’t need to succumb to meanness by our loved ones too.
2. Have a voice: If you can’t speak your truth, share your thoughts and opinions and ask for what you want, then healthy relationships will be elusive at best. In order to hold your own in a relationship you have to actually speak up in them. It’s not the job of other people to read your mind; it’s your job to share your thinking, feelings, hopes, dreams and upsets.
3. Be accountable: Part of humanity is making mistakes—we all make them and none of us can avoid them. Making mistakes however, is not nearly as big of an issue as pretending we don’t or blaming our mistakes/actions on others. If you are unwilling to be accountable for how your behavior impacts others and to repair the damage those behaviors cause, then you’re not in healthy relationships. Accountability is a pre-requisite for healthy relationships.
4. Show up: Being physically and emotionally present is also a key pre-requisite of healthy relationships. It doesn’t matter how much you tell your loved ones they’re important if you’re always gone working, zoning out, on your phone or emotionally absent. Relationships are all about connection. They require conversation, time together, partnering, sharing and two people mutually showing up for one another. Show up.
5. Holds others accountable: Doing everything in your power to please others, not upset others and/or to avoid conflict, is a recipe for disaster in any relationship. Being an adult requires that we are able to hold others accountable for their behaviors. If you were unwilling to stand up for yourself—why would anyone else stand up for you?
6. Remove rage/explosions/blow ups from your interactions: Blow-ups, rage and anger outbursts harm relationships. They push those closest to you away, break connection and leave others feeling unsafe in your presence. Nothing about that is okay, harmless or “normal”. No matter how you try to rationalize these, they always come at a cost.
7. Be supportive: The closest people in your life should be able to count on you in good times and bad. They should know you have their back no matter what and that you will be there when they need a shoulder to lean on or an ear to lend. If you’re not giving, then your relationships are one-sided. People grow tired of having of being the only one giving in a relationship.
8. Treat others as equals: Equality is essential—for you and those around you. The moment you treat someone as less than you, you have damaged the relationship and broken connection. People don’t like to be around those who look down on them or think less of them. Don’t put others in a one-down position towards you and don’t allow others to put you in a one-down position towards them. Walk away from those who see you as less than anyone.
9. Don’t be a jerk: Mean comments, ogling, harassing, intimidating, shaming etc., are all rude, toxic and harmful moves that break connection. No one likes to be around someone who’s arrogant and mean. Knock it off if you’re doing it and find better friends etc., if they’re doing these things to you. Raise the bar.
10. Tune in and tune out: Healthy relationships require time and attention. Tune into the people in your life who matter and listen to what they have to say, how they’re feeling and what they want. Tune out technology, peer pressure, toxic cultural messages and harmful thinking.
Creating healthy relationships is not rocket science. Great relationships require that you bring compassionate humanity to the table at all times. Meanness pushes others away; kindness brings others closer. Period. One-way relationships push others away; give and take relationships keep others close. Being in your own world and hardly ever listening, supporting or emotionally showing up for others keeps you lonely; being emotionally present seldom leaves you lonely. The choice is yours when it comes to great relationships—either you show up in them or you don’t find yourself in them. You choose.
Challenge: If great relationships have eluded you, pay attention to how you’ve been showing up with the people in your life. The problem is either in how you’re showing up (or not) OR in who you’re choosing. Either way, the work is yours to change. Either show up differently or walk away from those who refuse to treat you well.