When I was younger, I had a big heart. I was hurting because I didn’t have a father figure. I’d meet people and I’d go out of my way to help them. I’d literally go to the ends of the earth to please them. My relationships weren’t much better. I always felt I had to prove to them how much I loved them. I’d get told things like ‘you’re too kind’ or ‘you’re very generous.’ When the love wasn’t returned I was horrified. I felt shame and pain. I couldn’t understand why, after everything I’d done for these people why they didn’t love me in return.
It also left me with some unhealthy scars and an inability to trust people. When I met people I’d get consumed by anxiety. I’d think that people didn’t like me. It took me an incredibly long time to build up friendships and when I did I always felt like I wasn’t good enough and I was frightened deep down that they didn’t care about me or they would eventually abandon me. Which of course after a while they always did. Either I’d served my purpose or I’d started to notice some shifty behaviour and question it. That was when the discard would come and all those uncomfortable wounds would be opened up.
So what are the fundamentals of a healthy relationship?
You listen to each other. If one of you has a conflicting opinion, you respect it. Can you have a disagreement and respect each others opinion?
You communicate openly and without judgement. Do you both have a voice? Or is there a power struggle for who is right.
You trust each other and respect each others boundaries. Do you trust your partner? If you establish something as unacceptable to you, does your partner respect this?
Do you make time for each other and plan things together? Do you talk about a future and set goals together? Short term and long term? Are you excited about spending time together?
Do you remember details about each others life? Are you interested in each other’s lives? Do you highlight the positives of each others lives? Or do they just talk about their crazy exes?
Do you engage in healthy activities with each other? Do you do things together like take walks or do sports together?
LISTENING I always think this is a tell tail sign after an argument. Once the dust has settled, do you sit an talk about what has happened or do you just sweep it under the rug and pretend it hasn’t happened. Even if someone hasn’t apologised yet, you at least sit down and talk about what’s happened. You put closure on what has happened and try to understand it from their perspective. In an unhealthy relationship you’ll usually get the guilt trip at this point. The dominante one and the weaker one. If you listen to each other, even if things feel raw you should feel equal and free to express your opinion without things blowing up into a full scale argument again. You also want to fix things or come to a mutual understanding that you are not compatible.
COMMUNICATION Do you feel safe to talk about things. Can you communicate openly. Do you feel free to talk about anything you want? …or is there a subject that you’re not allowed to talk about? Maybe you feel like if you talk about it your friend/ partner becomes angry, or it will lead to an argument. Do you often receive the silent treatment? Do you feel like you have to tread on egg shells to please them? Do people actively ignore you during an argument? These are all signs of emotional abuse. Healthy communication relies on respect of each other. It allows information to be exchanged freely without any limitations.
TRUST This one can be tough sometimes, for example I was once in a relationship with someone who frequently went out all night and didn’t come home, we lived with our kids. Whenever I got upset about it I was told I was being jealous. In reality I had a boundary of what I felt was acceptable and he kept crossing it. It wasn’t necessarily that either of us were wrong, I don’t think he was cheating, we just had conflicting views on what we thought were acceptable. This was something that took me a while to get my head around but in the end I realised that we just weren’t compatible anymore. I was just hurting myself by sticking around.
PLANNING Do you make plans together? Do you have a goal for the future together? If they have some time off work do they make plans with you first and then fit in other stuff around that? Or are you bottom of the list?
This can be really damaging to yourself esteem if you stick around someone like this. Sure sometimes everyone needs some space, that’s healthy. What’s not healthy is that if they’re always out with friends or they don’t make an effort to see you. You are in a relationship together, you should be an important part of their life.
What’s also unhealthy is if one of you has a life and the other doesn’t. Maybe one of you is an introvert and the other is an extrovert, if one of you doesn’t want to go out that’s fine, but look at your life before you met each other. Maybe you were introverted but you used to love travelling alone, now the thought of going anyway without your partner seems very unlikely. This should be a major red flag that something isn’t right. If one of you is happily living their best life and you’re sat at home feeling lonely and thinking what has happened to my life? A controlling partner. That’s what.
INTRESTED Are they interested in what you’ve got to say? Do you feel exciting when you talk to them? Or do they make you feel like you’re insignificant? Do you feel like you’re not as good as them?
A loving partner will love what you have to say. Someone that is invested in themselves will not like you feeling good about yourself. Beware also that the narcissist will love bomb you at first. To someone insecure and lacking in confidence this will feel amazing. If you’ve made friends with someone and they’re filling you up with excessive compliments be wary. It might feel good but these people are like vampires for your soul. They will stop doing this when you’re hooked and then enters the narcissist . These people will really damage you if you let them.
HEALTHY Do you do lots of healthy activities together? …. or is it drinking non stop? People who care about you, care about your health. They don’t like to see you suffer and they put your mental and physical health first. They care about your well being and help you to be the best version of yourself.
Sometimes when we have feelings for someone it can blind us to someones actions. It’s even harder when you share a mutual bond such as children or a mortgage. It can be hard to know what to do for the best. Life is a challenge for all of us. We can’t all be perfect however how we treat others says a lot about who we are. Keep these six things in mind and it should help you make clearer decisions.
One day maybe we’ll all have a world were we look after each other, until then look out for yourself.