A healthy relationship is one of the most important factors that contributes to happiness. At times we minimize the value of connection, as evidenced by how little time we allot for grieving the loss of a loved one and in our willingness to sacrifice relationships for productivity. However, all mammals need relationships to survive. This is why even relationships with our pets can be as important as our relationships with our friends, family, and romantic partners.
Although we may recognize when we are in an unhealthy relationship, it can be difficult to articulate what we need in a healthy one. Some of the most basic needs that relationships fulfill include:
• Reciprocity: being able to give and receive love freely.
• Mutual respect: being able to affirm and support the other person.
• Intimacy: feeling emotionally and physically close to another.
• Boundaries: awareness of ourselves and the other person as separate individuals.
• Commitment: allowing one another to feel secure in the relationship.
• Vulnerability: being able to share our most private experiences with another.
• Communication: having a sense of being heard and known by the other person.
In order enter into a healthy relationship, a person must be able to have a healthy
relationship with themselves. Here are some suggestions for developing a better self-relationship:
- Self-check: Take a few minutes throughout the day to check in with your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in that moment without judging them or trying to change them. Consider it a kind of "weather update" for your emotions.
- Self-talk: Pay attention to your inner dialogue. Are you critical of yourself? Do you talk to yourself in a loving manner? Make a conscious effort to be empathic and compassionate in your self-talk.
- Focus on the present: Much of our time is spent reflecting on the past or planning for the future rather than living our lives in the moment. Pay close attention to everything that is going on around you and inside you as often as possible.
- Acceptance and control: Much of our unhappiness stems from trying to control ourselves or others in unrealistic ways. Practice accepting whatever is true in the moment, even if it is something unpleasant. Be realistic about what is and is not in your control.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness requires discipline in the same way that healthy eating and exercise require discipline. You can practice mindfulness through meditation, yoga, and everyday mindfulness in tasks such as eating and walking.