The True Hallmarks of Healthy Relationships
The True Hallmarks of Healthy Relationships
We were created to be in relationship with others.
But that doesn't mean it's easy to do so.
Whether we're talking about friendships, romantic relationships, family dynamics, or workplace relationships, there are healthy relationships and unhealthy relationships.
While these relationships all look different in obvious ways, there are common threads that can help determine whether they're healthy or unhealthy, and ways to ensure that we're growing in ways that make all of our relationships healthier.
Honesty is one of the biggest hallmarks of a healthy relationship of any nature.
If we can't be honest with our people, they're never going to get to know the real us, and we're never going to feel like we can be fully ourselves or completely trust them.
Relationships demand honesty (some at greater levels than others, but all at some level).
All it takes is someone going first and sharing something real. It doesn't have to be earth-shattering. We can start small, sharing a minor detail to test the waters. Then as the relationship develops over time, we can continue to share more.
If we feel like someone else isn't being honest with us, it's best to mention it directly, but with grace and kindness. They might feel uncomfortable or too vulnerable, and being confrontational or critical won't help them feel like they can open up with us. Sometimes it takes us offering up our own vulnerability for them to reciprocate.
When we're in relationships with other people, we will inevitably run into disagreements and conflict. That's just a fact of human nature.
People mess up. People's expectations go unmet. People get disappointed. People get let down. People make mistakes. People hurt people.
If we can't change those facts, then we can at least work on how we respond to conflict. Our response is what makes or breaks the relationship, not the conflict itself.
When we've been hurt or wronged or disappointed, we have the opportunity to approach others with grace and honesty. We can tell them why we feel the way we feel. We can confront the issue instead of accusing the person or talking about them behind their back.
And when we've hurt others, we can choose to not be defensive or make excuses, but to apologize, hear the other person out, and try to make amends.
Here are some general rules for addressing conflict in a healthy way:
Don't fight in public. Just don't. It won't reflect well on anyone involved and has a tendency to make the conflict escalate.
Seek a resolution over a compromise. Don't just grudgingly try to appease both parties; strive to actually solve the problem.
Pray about it more than you talk about it. Go to God first. Let off steam with Him before you engage with the other person. Ask for clear vision regarding the issue to know if you're actually in the wrong or if this is something you need to address with the other person.
Talk calmly. Nothing gets resolved when voices are raised. It just makes everyone more on edge and convinced they're right.
Seek having a right relationship over being right. If you prioritize the health of your relationship over having to be right, you'll find that the conflict isn't as big of a deal because it's not worth it to try to have the last word if you hurt the other person.
Listen more than you speak. Listening is the most important part of communicating (not just in conflict), and if you really hear where the other person is coming from, you'll have a foundation to build upon as you work to resolve the conflict together.
Time your conflict-resolution conversation for when you have time to work it out. Don't bring something up when the other person is halfway out the door. It just stirs up trouble without giving hope of finishing it, building even more feelings of resentment.
Don't stew and hold it all inside. Nobody likes having a litany of issues brought up all at once. It's more effective to tackle each problem as it arises than to harbor a list to bombard someone with later.
Laugh together! Laughter has an amazing ability to bring levity into our lives, no matter what's going on.
If you and your friend, significant other, coworker, neighbor, or family member can laugh together, then you've successfully found common ground that you can go back to when things get awkward or tough.
Laughter binds us together because it increases our feelings of friendship and compassion. So lean into laughter and fun!
A better title might be a willingness to work until the problem is solved, but that's too long for a title.
You and your people need to be committed enough to work through your issues. It doesn't work if one person is unwilling to budge. You both need to be able to lean in, work toward a mutually-beneficial solution, and get creative with your problem-solving!
If someone is unwilling to bend or meet you halfway, they're probably not in a healthy place themselves, and they're definitely not treating you with the respect and care you deserve.
That being said, sometimes you can't avoid those kinds of relationships (in the workplace, neighborhood, or family, for example), but you can work to manage your expectations, have honest conversations, and do your very best to engage in healthy conflict resolution with those individuals.
TRYING NEW THINGS
One of the most fun things to do with others is to try new things! There are so many new experiences to be had out there, and the most fun way to experience them is alongside our people.
Life is too full and too abundant for us to do the exact same thing every single day without any kind of variety thrown in for good measure. And we'll never grow or mature without trying new things. So why not try new things with other people?
Some ideas for new things you could try with your people:
watch a new movie or show in a genre you don't normally gravitate toward
go to a different store to find some clothes a little outside of your comfort zone
travel to a nearby town you haven't been to before
be a hometown tourist and go places in your own backyard that are new to you
try a new recipe or buy a new cookbook
read a new book together (or join a book club)
take classes to learn a new skill, like cooking or dancing
SERVING EACH OTHER
Relationships of all kinds are about mutual service. The specific methods of service will vary, but deep down, that's what it's all about (hokey pokey reference, anyone?).
When we approach our relationships through a lens of service, the things we do for others are no longer drudgery; they're acts of love to show how much we care for and appreciate our people.
When we come from a place of service, it no longer matters so much if our efforts are reciprocated because we're not asking for them to be. We're simply doing our level best to love and serve, and that's a gift to us, too!
And when we're in a relationship where both people are committed to mutual service, we're doubly blessed! We can take turns serving, take turns washing the dishes, take turns paying for dinner, take turns doing the laundry, take turns running the report, take turns making dinner, take turns babysitting each other's kids. It lessens the load and brings us all more joy, all while deepening our relationships!
One of my favorite ways to get to know people better is to ask them questions, and then ask follow-up questions.
When a conversation stalls, I might ask someone how their day was, how their grandma's doing after her recent surgery, or what they're looking to the most about fall.
And when I haven't heard from a friend in a while, I like to check back in to ask how they've been, how that new business idea turned out, and how their summer was.
It doesn't have to be complicated or formal. I'm not talking about starting a game of 20 Questions (although that's tons of fun, too! I have my own version here). I'm just talking about getting the conversation going, and connecting on a deeper level, with personalized questions that let your people know you've been paying attention to what's going on in their lives.
So get out there, be honest, resolve conflict well, laugh, solve problems, try new things, serve, and ask some questions!