There probably are more than just three caterpillars to a healthy relationship but I find these that set the foundation for longevity and balance. There are certain frames, protocols, processes, and tools to be used in any type of relating. Relationships don’t fail, they don’t even necessarily end, they just shift their shape. When you’re willing to see it from that perspective, you’re already stepping outside of what relationships should look like.
That harsh voice in your head that says you’re falling behind, you’re not measuring up to what others want for you, it’s just a story you’ve bought into. It isn’t your fault, it isn’t anything you need to blame yourself for. Become observant of yourself; of your thoughts, actions, and reactions. This will raise your own awareness of how you show up and where you’re operating from.
You cannot change something that you’re not aware of first.
Communication is one of my personal favorite topics when it comes to dealing with relationships and guiding my clients to effective communication. One paragraph, even one article is not enough time to cover the topic. But this is where it all begins.
The way two people can communicate with one another says a lot about the dynamic they have. Are you listening to understand or are you listening to get your point across? Two completely different ways of listening. If you’re wanting to win the conversation, you’ve already lost. There are no winners or losers when it comes to communication.
By having an open, honest, and non-judgmental environment creates the space for the person to be able to open up about most anything. It’s a snowball effect of creating boundaries, trust, and intimacy. It strengthens the bond between two people when there’s the open door policy for honest conversations.
Healthy way of talking takes responsibility for oneself. Never blames the other person for anything rather recognizes their own triggers.
One does not need to raise their voice to get their point across. When proper containers have been set, it’s easier to talk about the harder stuff too. Even, or especially, when upset.
No one likes ultimatums, therefore you shouldn’t give your partner any either. This goes back to step one; take responsibility for your emotions, feelings, thoughts, and reactions.
We’ve dedicated an entire episode on our Relationship-ish podcast whereby we give plenty of examples of how to communicate more effectively.
Boundaries are part of knowing who you are and understanding your physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, material, and sexual needs. So often we don’t even know what our boundaries are. How can you communicate your personal needs if you don’t have clarity yourself?
Start by thinking which of these areas do you need to assert boundaries. What are your overall expectations? What do you need? What do you tolerate and do not tolerate? What are some of your fears?
A lot of people have this fear that if they set boundaries, the other person will reject or leave them. When the opposite is in fact true, setting clear boundaries is a form of self-care.
Are you a person who always says yes, when you really mean to say no? Only to find yourself resenting the other person because you don’t want to do something you’ve promised you would. Take responsibility for yourself, because when you do, you are aware that nobody is to blame as no one has done anything to you. All it is, is awareness of self.
Once the container has been set for appropriately talking to your partner, you’re more able to communicate your own needs to the other person as well.
What I mean by discipline is to be disciplined enough in following through. Disappointments happen when we are unable to keep the commitments to ourselves. When we’re disappointed in ourselves, it is easy to start the blame-game. We start going down the rabbit hole before we know it. So, you find the evidence of being a huge disappointment to others, when in reality the only person you’ve disappointed is yourself.
That’s also why I have “no blame, no shame, no guilt” -policy with my clients. That kind of mentality leads to a lot of unnecessary pain, miscommunications, and misunderstandings.
It is easier said than done, especially in the beginning. You want to cave in on your previously made agreement because you want to please your partner. You’d like nothing more than to have them be pleased with you. You have a nagging feeling that they are disappointed in you. But what if I told you that they’re more proud of you for standing up to yourself?
Lastly, have an open door policy for you and your partner to be able to bring up anything and everything. Life is about growth, we evolve, change and shift. We learn new things, we unlearn from old habits. As you evolve, so does your boundaries and with that your relationship also evolves. This isn’t a once-off conversation to be had but continuous check-ins with one another. The last thing you want is to make assumptions of your partner and their needs, you’ll save yourself from a lot of heartache by just talking to them.