Photo by Khadeeja Yasser
I wasn’t going to let the month of ‘love’ go by without slipping in a relationship post. Today I want to talk about a few things that define a good relationship. I say good because even great ones have room for improvement.
For most people, it’s not that we don’t want to build great relationship, it’s just that we haven’t acquired the tools to help us do so. Whether you are looking forward to being in one, or you are already in a relationship, there is something here for you.
A healthy relationship begins with healthy boundaries. There is a tendency to ignore the importance of setting healthy boundaries from the onset. You decide what is healthy for you and your relationship. A relationship that lacks boundaries tends to be co-dependent and emotionally draining.
Boundaries say we are responsible for our emotions, our attitudes, and our choices. Boundaries also say we each have the space to have our own separate life. There are things we do together and things we do separately. We can have different dreams or even hobbies. We don’t have to like the same thing to be able to relate. We respect each other’s individuality and refrain from trying to morph into one person in the relationship.
We are self-aware of how we show up in the relationship. The hardest thing to see is ourselves. We are blinded by our weaknesses because we have programmed ourselves to look at our little faults with rose-colored glasses. In a good relationship, the glasses have to come off, we become aware of how others experience us. We become aware of how we show up in different situations. For example, how do we react when we are under pressure? How do we respond to failure? How do we respond when we feel threatened or insecure?
Self-awareness helps us see ourselves correctly and spare people the immense work of having to introduce us to ourselves. Relationships have a glorious way of being a mirror that helps us see the things we couldn’t see on our own. Most often, the people most impacted by our flaws will in one way or another tell us about them.
Communication is at the core of any great relationship. Communication in relationships is different because even the person who has the gift of gab will have to learn how to effectively communicate with the person they are in a relationship with. Effective communication means that we speak in a language that the other person understands, and vice versa.
This is where the love languages come in. Some people will not hear you unless your conversation is dripping with affirmation. They need to hear positive, affirming words before they can hear anything else you have to say. Others listen through actions, your words mean nothing to them if your actions don’t follow. Others hear through touch, if you can’t connect with them through touch, you cannot get to them. The hard work is learning how to communicate in a way that makes you heard and in a way that makes the other person listen.
A relationship without sacrifice will die. Sacrifice says I am willing to die so this relationship can have life. There will be seasons where one person has to do more dying than the other. We die to our selfish nature. We die to our wants; our rights, we die to our entitlement. We die to ourselves to serve one another and ultimately serve the relationship. Most relationships die because one, or both people have refused to die to themselves. If one or both of you is not dying, your relationship will die.
Humility is the ability to say, “ Forgive me I was wrong.” It’s also humility to say, “I don’t have the answer, or I’m struggling with this, I need your help.” Humility is also the ability to treat people better than ourselves( easier said than done). We don’t have a natural tendency to prefer others to ourselves. The human heart is outrageously prideful. We see our pride clearly in relationships. pride and relationship don’t go together. A good relationship has two people choosing humility every day for the sake of their relationship.
A vow that hasn’t been tested means nothing. I read somewhere that commitment is you doing what you said you will do long after the feeling you said you will do it in has left. I cannot put it perfectly. Commitment is keeping our word. It’s making a choice that we will choose this person even when it’s not convenient. I will choose them even when I’m embarrassed by their actions; choose them when I don’t feel love, choose them when it’s incredibly hard and when it’s easier to walk away rather than stay. Godly relationships are built on our commitment before God to love that person even when they are not loveable. Life will give you plenty of opportunities to want to leave, but, commitment is the safety net we give to each other to make mistakes and grow from them.
Adulting will teach you very quickly that people who tell the truth get in trouble. So we learn to lie for self-protection. In relationships, we lie to protect ourselves from the other person’s response to our failures or mistakes. We tell half-truths to protect ourselves from seeing the hurt our actions have caused the other person. Honesty isn’t easy because we are programmed to self-protect at all costs. But to have a great relationship, we have to practice honesty. Honesty protects connection in a relationship; dishonesty corrodes it. Honesty keeps us accountable to each other.
Someone said… If you think telling the truth is costly! Try lies! Dishonesty tends to escalate into bigger problems. One lie leads to another, and another, and now we are in a hole that we created with all our little lies. Eventually, we have to tell the truth, which will be more costly than if we came clean from the start.
Good relationships don’t happen overnight. They aren’t instagrammable most of the time. They happen in the mundane day-to-day choices we make to grow in every way and to put in the necessary work until they become great.