Are you in a relationship that you would like to see grow to a healthy place? Have you wondered how over time the relationship that was once healthy, no longer is? Maybe you are longing to be in a relationship in the future and your hopes are for something that is healthier than any relationship you have been in throughout your lifetime. No matter what your relationship status is, you can benefit from understanding the secrets of having healthy relationships.
Top 3 Secrets to Healthy Relationships
Top Secret #1: Define What a Meaningful Relationship is to YouIt might be helpful to define for yourself what a relationship is. As you work on your definition, you will want to focus on the people who you would say you are in a relationship with.
Sometimes people reserve the word for something that is between them and their significant other or for what they have with their close friends. You might interchange marriage and friendship with the word relationship.
Some use the word to describe whatever exists when they think about their children and how they interact. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word relationship as “the state of being related or interrelated,” so really a relationship is what you have when you are interacting with someone or something. The best definition should probably include what a meaningful relationship would look like for you and the people in your life.
As you process what adds meaning to your relationships, you might want to begin by thinking about meaningful relationships you have had in the past. It is always nice to remember the things that you enjoyed about people who you have been in a relationship with so that you can shape your relationships to come.
Previous relationships, both positive and negative, might have a bigger impact on how you view relationships than you believe, so it is also important for you to think about the things that were hurtful in past relationships also so that you don’t have a repeat situation in the future.
One way to decide what is meaningful for you is to break down the different types of relationships you are in currently or hope to be in the future.
Questions to Help You Determine What is Meaningful to You
Here are a few questions you can answer to determine what is meaningful to you, as a way to understand your needs, wants, and the desired outcome.
- How much is too much of yourself to give to others? What do you expect them to give to you?
- When do you feel the most connected to people in your life?
- How do you know when feelings are mutual within your relationships?
- What are your top “must haves?”
- Do you enjoy large circles of people or small?
- What do you need to experience before someone goes from your friend to more?
- Are you able to respect the boundaries of others and request that they respect yours?
- Is work just a place you go to, or do you want more from your co-workers?
- How much support do you think your family should give and what areas of your life should they support the most?
- What are you looking for from church? A family or just a place to worship?
- Who is your family? Are they biological?
- How do you see yourself reflected in what you hope for in your relationships?
Now that you have some idea of what a meaningful relationship means to you, you can begin to either search for what you want or recognize what you already have. Starting at the beginning of this process if one great way to have a healthy relationship.
Top Secret #2: Communicating with CareWhen you have someone who is really important to you in your life, you usually try your best to show love and affection.
Communication is the one area where we all seem to forget about being kind to the people we are in a relationship with. When talking with your loved ones, it is necessary to communicate effectively to achieve the best outcome possible, but sometimes that seemingly effective communication leaves out basic relational skills, like being respectful or caring about the feelings of others.
Caring for the person you are communicating with may not seem very important when you think about all the other things you are trying to do in the conversation, but it is. To have healthy relationships with everyone in your life, you may need to think about your care for others as you communicate with them.
Caring communication may look different depending on who you are communicating with. If you are talking with a child you are in a relationship with, caring for them may include allowing them to share completely with you in a way that makes sense to them, possibly through paying or drawing. Being respectful of the stage the child is in might include you explaining what you are trying to communicate in a way that they can understand.
Often when communicating with children the adults give directives without checking in with the child about their feelings. When you care about the child you are in a relationship with you will take time to slow down and show that you do value what they feel or think which will validate their position in the conversation too.
When you communicate with care in your marriage you might look like you listening to your spouse more and understanding their perspective even when you want to share yours. Marriage can include conflict-filled conversations where everyone wants to be correct and heard without allowing the other person the same opportunity.
It seems odd that these types of conversations happen between two people who are in love with one another, but sometimes the passion that each individual has about something causes them to ignore the feelings, unintentionally, of their spouse.
How to Communicate with Care
These are a few ways to remain hopeful in your marriage and communicate with care:
- Make sure your words are full of love and not hate.
- Process your thoughts before you speak.
- Give your spouse time to respond.
- Stay focused and really hear what your spouse is saying.
- Be mindful of your body language and facial expressions.
- Remember to be truthful.
- Always get clarity before moving on.
- Remain willing to repeat yourself when asked.
- Do not intentionally hurt your spouse in response to your own emotions.
- Value your spouse’s time.
If you make those ten things a priority in your marriage, your relationship with your spouse should continue to be healthy throughout the years. As you think about how to communicate with care in the relationships you have with other people like your family and friends, some of the same things apply.
Your relationships with your family members probably have always been the same, which may not be the best if the relationships aren’t healthy. In families, we do what we have always done.We may over talk one another, say mean things, and stop speaking to people for long periods of time. Things might go back to being pleasant, but the feelings that get crushed in that type of communication may not ever fully heal without some type of followup conversation to check in and talk about what happened.
In your family, you can be the one to step up and try something different. Being curious and asking questions about why your family functions the way that it does could be a great place to begin because having understanding will promote compassion.
Once you understand the history behind some of the behaviors that seem to be a norm for your family, you can then start to lead family discussions in a way that invites people to share and everyone feels welcome. Family togetherness through difficult conversations can be hard to manage when some family members do not feel safe enough to share their heart with those around them.
Productive communication within families and friendships is important. The results of a conversation where the communication was effective, simply because everyone felt cared about is rewarding. That type of communication can reconcile relationships that could have been broken for years without it. Being willing to reconcile with the people in our lives who mean the most to us is a beautiful thing.
There is a story in the Bible that really shows how communicating with care can make a difference in both a positive and negative way. The book of Job looks deeply at the relationship between a man who lost everything, his friends, and God.
If you know the story, imagine how different Job’s relationship with his friends would have been if they would have truly communicated with care the whole time. They did begin caring for Job immediately after his tragic loss, as the Bible says in Job 2:11, which was a very kind thing to do.
When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. – Job 2:11
When Job’s friends were communicating over time though, it went from concern to condemnation, but not entirely on purpose. Our intentions may be great, but the person we are communicating with might receive our actions in a way that is not life giving to them.
Job’s friends thought that they understood what was going on, so based on their own understanding they suggested that Job go to God and then told him in Job 5:17 how he should feel about what is happening in his life.
But consider the joy of those corrected by God! Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin. – Job 5:17
Job did not find it helpful that his friends switched from caring about him to being uninterested in what the real situation was because they were tired of hearing Job express his hurt feelings. Eventually, God starts to have a conversation with Job and He tells Job’s friends that they spoke inaccurately about him.
God demands that they offer burnt offerings and that Job prays for his friends. Possibly praying for our friends is the way to communicate from a place of care. The Bible says things got better for Job overall and the relationship between him and his friends was reconciled too, as seen in Job 42:10-11:
“When Job prayed for his friends. The Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled and comforted hm because of all of all the trials the Lord has brought against him.”
With some awareness, thought, and guidance we all can communicate effectively and with care by slowing down, listening to what the other person is saying, saying kind, but truthful things and intentionally loving the people with whom we are in relationship.
Top Secret #3: Boundaries
Finally, we are at a very important step in having a healthy relationship. Creating boundaries for yourself in relationships can be difficult at first if you don’t know what you want or don’t want yet.
Some people enter into relationships with their own ideas about what they are willing to allow and not allow, while others do not know for sure until they have experienced the relationship and all of the things that come with it.
Boundaries should be set for you because not everyone will respect your boundaries. Although, in a healthy relationship they should, they don’t always. Your own personal boundary is something that you have to keep to remain safe, happy, and healthy. In relationships, your boundary might be to only let close friends borrow anything over $200.
To respect your own boundaries and keep a healthy relationship with the people around you, you do not lend people who are not close to you anything over the amount you stated. People in your life may still ask you for more than $200 because they do not respect your boundaries, so you could find yourself in a situation where you do not feel valued or cared about. When it comes to boundaries and people not respecting them, a lot of things disappear in the relationship, along with the positive health that once existed.
As you are thinking through the boundaries that you want to set for yourself, talk to someone in the relationship who understands you and practicing communicating with care so that you can shift the relationship from an unhealthy place to a healthy one. Everyone will need to set their own boundaries and people in the relationships will have to respect them, but it begins with the individual first.
Christian Counseling to Establish Healthy Relationships
If you are in an unhealthy relationship and want to manage all of what can come with that situation, there are counselors here at Seattle Christian Counseling who are fully equipped to help you and are ready to do so. People are not all compatible, so as you work with a counselor, you will likely see where personality differences may make life a little harder.
Be encouraged though, and remember there are just a few tips necessary to change the relationship you are currently in. With these three secrets to having a healthy relationship, you will be on your way in no time.
“Smiling Sisters”, Courtesy of Caroline Hernandez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Chatting”, Courtesy of Alex Holyoake, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Friends”, Courtesy of Trung Thanh, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mother and Daughter”, Courtesy of Dario Valenzuela, Unsplash.com, CC0 License