Romantic relationships are one of the most frequently discussed concerns in counseling. Lots of people would agree that it is at least as hard to maintain a relationship as it is finding that special someone.
What constitutes a healthy relationship? Mutual respect, trust, and support are basic building blocks. Honesty and safety, both physical and emotional, must be a given, not a privilege to be earned. Open communication and willingness to negotiate keep relationships steady. In addition, we all deserve to be respected by our partner as a unique individual, while acknowledging that we can make conscious choices to mutually make positive changes in our behaviors and attitudes towards our partner.
There are clear warning signs that a relationship is in trouble and that something fundamental needs to change. Possessiveness and controlling behaviors, as well as threats or use of violence are obviously huge red flags. Less easy to detect are unfair and unrealistic expectations that may slowly seep into a relationship once the initial romance wears off. These expectations can be of your partner, yourself, or the relationship as a whole. Some examples of common unrealistic expectations in relationships are:
- Expecting that he/she will change.
- Hoping that he/she will never change.
- Assuming that your partner thinks and reacts as you do.
- Assuming that your partner knows your wants and needs.
- Expecting that he/she has the same priorities, goals, and interests as you.
- Believing that the relationship will fulfill all of your social, intellectual, and personal needs.
- Giving up other interests, activities, and friends.
- Seeking improved self-esteem through the relationship.
- Feeling incomplete without a relationship.
- Expecting that each new relationship is "the one."
- Expecting that he/she will never make mistakes.
- Viewing conflict as a threat to the relationship and to be avoided at all costs.
- Working hard to get the relationship started, but exerting little effort to keep it going.
- Trying to be what he/she wants, rather than being yourself.
- Not understanding that feelings of love and passion change with time, as do your priorities and expectations.
Most people recognize themselves somewhere in these expectations. Individuals who succeed in relationships are able to recognize and work on unrealistic expectations of oneself and others.
Finally - what many forget is that within a relationship, you also have to be accountable to yourself. This means that being part of a healthy relationship is taking care of yourself. This can be deduced from several of the above bullet points. By being yourself – from the beginning, keeping your own life balanced, and not losing yourself in the relationship, you plant seeds of stability and health within a healthy partnership.
If you are struggling with finding or maintaining a healthy relationship, talking to a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional can help. I am a Houston psychologist and I work with both couples and individuals. Call me for a free consultation at 713-364-8328 or visit DrGortner.com for more information on my services.