Healthy living gets an extra spotlight this time of year. Health and well-being are certainly about much more that what we eat or how much we exercise. One huge component of health is the quality of our relationships. Relationships are central in all our lives on some level, whether it’s romantic love, friendships, family, co-workers – relationship health is key to our well-being.
Now, before you tune out because you don’t think the idea of unhealthy relationship applies to you… 100% of us have been receiving end of unhealthy relationship behaviors and 100% of us have done unhealthy things in relationships. It’s part of being human.
What a healthy relationship looks like is not the same for everyone, so what is healthy for me might not be what it takes for it to be healthy for you. In this way, a relationship is a creation – you build it with another person. Some relationships will be more intimate than others because some people have a similar capacity for building to your capacities. Some people are more demolition than builder and do things that make it difficult to build with them. No one is right or wrong, just different capacities for building intimacy.
Lack of reciprocity emotionally can make it difficult to build a healthy relationship. If you share and share and share your feelings and the other person doesn’t have the capacity to be vulnerable and share theirs as well – this makes the building process very, very difficult. It has taken me a really long time to understand this in my life. I am also coming to understand that when you do a majority or the emotional lifting in a relationship, you actually kind of train the other person to be emotionally "lazy" with their reciprocity.
These relationships with those who are less capable of reciprocation don’t have to be discarded or discounted, but if you don’t have equality in the level of vulnerability you and the other person are willing to go to – you just have to be realistic about that relationship. Some people are just either not willing or capable to go to a deeper, heart level in emotional connection and that’s okay. But it that is what you need or what to give and it’s not reciprocated – it will compromise the trust in the relationship in a painful way. It won’t feel safe to be vulnerable and authentic, not only because you feel overly exposed emotionally but also because it is the reciprocity of emotional connection that helps us build a sense of who the other person is as well as helps you to know who YOU are as well. Yes, we get to know ourselves by getting to know other people... paradox.
My old pattern in these relationships was if the other person was not giving or sharing as much as I was emotionally – well I’d just give more! This is a big time set up for resentment, hurt and exhaustion. Which certainly isn’t what a healthy relationship would look like for any of us I’m guessing.
So, knowing what a healthy relationship is for you is great info and can help you to drop blame when others aren’t capable relationship builders. You can stay kind, compassionate and understand who can meet you where you are in skill level and desire who can’t. And if you catch yourself doing more of the building than the other person, it’s time to ask yourself what’s driving you to accept less reciprocity than you need to feel healthy. The answer is always within yourself.
Sandy Edie Hansen
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