Why are relationships important?
- Humans need relationship to survive. Without them, people can suffer trauma. Studies have shown that infants who do not receive positive relationship with trusted people experience developmental delays and can even die from lack of social-emotional care. We, as adults, also need these positive experiences to survive and thrive. The great news is, that even if we haven’t had the best models of healthy relationships from those around us, we can learn how to develop them for ourselves.
What is a “healthy” relationship?
- A healthy relationship is filled with love, respect, and joy—in the best of times. And in hard times, healthy relationships can provide support, empathy, and knowledge. When we have a healthy relationship in our life, we share our joys and concerns about life. And we can learn more about our own needs, desires, dreams, and fears—as well as those of others.*
- When we have healthy relationships in our life, every day can be an adventure of discovery.
When we have healthy relationships in our life, every day can be an adventure of discovery.
What are the key factors of a healthy relationship?
Communication: Sharing information with each other is important. Confusion or a lack of communication is one of the biggest hurdles in a relationship and leads to many conflicts and break downs.
- If what you are doing will impact another person, let them know so that they can prepare and respond.
- If you need or expect something from someone, make sure you talk to them about it and establish clear information about it.
- When something is bothering you, speak up and talk to the people around you.
- If you have a concern with someone, talk to that person directly.
- Clarify to make sure that you have understood each other.
For example, if you have a problem with your spouse, sit down and have an honest conversation with them.
Empathy and Respect: To respect another person, you must see them as an equal. It means respecting their interest or expertise on something, their needs, boundaries, strengths, limits, fears, and dreams. And you must also respect these yourself as well. Here are three steps to developing empathy and respect for yourself and your partner:
- Understanding yourself is the first step. Ask yourself, “What are my needs, my boundaries, my limits, my fears and my dreams?” Studies have shown that we cannot provide for others what we do not provide for ourselves. Knowing your own answers to these key traits helps you to follow through on the other key aspects of healthy relationships.
- The second step is listening to the other person’s perspective. This can be your partner, child, friend, or colleague. You do not have to agree about everything but asking questions and really listening is important when learning to respect another person. (Learn about “Active Listening” here).
- Learn to resolve conflicts in a healthy way: When resolving conflicts, take time to understand your partner’s underlying concerns. These may be concerns that the other person has not spoken directly about, but these unspoken concerns could be fueling long-standing disagreements. Take time to listen, understand and respect those concerns.
- Find a “win-win” solution. A “win-win” solution is one that makes both people happy. A solution can also be a “yes with conditions”, instead of a “no”. Respect that everyone has the right to their own comfort levels and boundaries.
For example, imagine that your child does not want to go to school.
Instead of yelling at them, sit down and ask them why they do not want to go to school.
You may learn that they are being bullied or are struggling to finish homework on time. Once you learn of these issues, together, you can make a solution that addresses their concerns.
Boundaries: We all have personal boundaries on what make us feel good, comfortable, and safe. Remember that you shouldn’t feel nervous or scared to set personal boundaries in any relationship.
For example, Isa shares a room with her younger sister, Mila.
Sometimes Mila goes into Isa’s closet when she is not there. This makes Isa feel like she could lose her belongings.
Mila responds by explaining how Isa’s “boundary”—that is, asking Mila not to go into her closet— impacts her.
Mila says that sometimes she might need to borrow something of Isa’s when she is not home.
Together, they came up with a plan together in which Mila will text Isa when she needs to borrow something with a promise to return it.
Trust: Trust is built over time and through the many little things we do each day. Here are some ways you can build trust:
- Learn how to be open, honest and vulnerable with another person. Read more about specific techniques here.
- Demonstrate personal integrity. There is a saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” This means that in order to build trust, you must do what you say you will do.
- Show that you value the relationship by developing healthy relationship skills together.
For example, Mohamad and Ahmed are good friends. They make time each week to get together—usually to play soccer at the local playfield, and they also talk about what is going on in their lives.
When they talk, Mohamed also shares what he thinks and feels about their interactions and relationship, especially clarifying when there might be confusion. This helps Ahmed feel secure in the relationship and able to be honest and vulnerable as well.
They know that they can count on each other sharing joys and concerns about life together.
Support: Lift up one another, and support your partner, child, friend, etc. through the good times and bad times.
For example, Basima is struggling in her job and worried she might be fired.
Her husband, Adil, sees her worrying and reaches out to talk about it. Basima shares that this morning her boss gave her negative feedback on a new work project.
Adil knows how talented and knowledgeable Basima is at her work. He listens to her concerns, empathizes with her disappointment, and shares with her his confidence in her to turn it around and show her colleagues what she can do.
They explore the situation together, Adil encourages Basima as she explores a variety of solutions to the situation.
*“Unhealthy” relationships may include, among other things, violence, emotional or psychological manipulation. Read more about those here. If you need help to escape violence, call ReWA at (206) 721-0243 between 9-5pm, and afterhours, call the Peace in the Home Helpline: 1(888) 847-7205.
[box]If you want to learn more about Healthy Relationships, you can come to ReWA’s Center for Social Emotional Wellbeing.[/box]
Other Resources: Create a Love Map
Love Maps are a fun and creative way to explore how well we know our family and friends.
For example, Anaya wants to strengthen her new marriage with her husband, Ahmed. One way to do this is by creating a love map. Anaya can start this by exploring her husband’s interest, hobbies, etc. Anaya uses this MAPS to strengthen her bond, understanding, and love of Ahmed.