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Relationship Issues

Relationships are an essential part of life. From the day your are born and throughout life, you form relationships with your family, friends, and significant others. It is important to maintain healthy relationships through open communication and respect for the other person.

In a healthy love relationship, each partner enjoys both safety and passion. Shared values, goals, and lifestyle preferences are the core of the relationship. Sharing these things creates a sense of mutual respect. Trust and security are also keys to a healthy relationship.

How to Begin a Healthy Relationship
The first step in initiating a relationship is to find out what you want from the relationship. Love, happiness, respect, commitment, and fulfillment may all be possibilities of what you need and want from a relationship.

    • Know what you want.
    • Use effective communication skills.
    • Be aware of how unresolved childhood and family issues can affect your role in a relationship.
    • Work through conflict; do not become discouraged by it.
    • Make agreements about your relationship. You should agree to:
      • Be honest with one another.
      • Discuss your feelings openly; do not hide them.
      • Talk openly about sex if it becomes an issue.
      • Confront any issues that are bothering you right away.
    • You should also make agreements on any other issues that you feel are important.

Vital Components for Maintaining a Healthy Relationship

  • Communication. Honest communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship. Communication involves sharing your thoughts, opinions, and emotions honestly and openly with your partner.
  • Expectations. You expect certain things of your partner; in turn your partner has certain expectations of you. The key to expectations is making them realistic. When expectations are realistic, they are more likely to be met leaving both partners satisfied and happy.
  • Gratification. There are two types of gratification--physical (safety, sensual, and sexual) and emotional (love, caring, and affection). In a healthy relationship, both partners are honest about what their needs are, and both partners are willing and able to meet the other partner's needs on a long-term basis.
  • Influence. Influence deals with who leads and is in control. Healthy relationships thrive on each partner's ability to work together and compromise when conflicts arise. Neither partner feels the need to dominate; instead, each person supports the other's strengths and knows that the conflict will be resolved to meet the needs of both people.
  • Trust. Rational trust is supported by the fact that your partner is trustworthy and you feel confident and safe with his or her honesty, character, ability, and strength. To develop this trust you must communicate openly about who you are and what is important to you. As the relationship progresses so should the trust between you and your partner.
  • Boundaries and Sociability. Each partner has a need to be autonomous and keep a sense of self otherwise he or she will become consumed by the relationship. Boundaries establish where one person begins and the other person ends. Me, you, and us need to be defined as separate entities. This also holds true for the social aspect of building relationships and making friends. There need to be boundaries for your friends, my friends, and our friends, to create a balanced social network.

Stages of a Relationship*
Every relationship goes through an endless cycle of stages that either strengthen or end the relationship.

    • Attraction. You are attracted to a person for some reason and want to know more about them.
    • The "first date." This stage involves asking that person to a movie, out for coffee, or a lunch date. This step takes the most courage and can be the most rewarding.
    • The "testing" stage. During this stage the two of you will spend a lot of time together and begin disclosing more personal information about yourselves to each other. This stage is a test because it determines whether you progress to the next level, decide to remain friends, or end the relationship completely.
    • Conflict. Conflict is a constant part of life and it is also a major part of relationships. Conflict is another test of the relationship. It can end in one of two ways.
      1. If the two of you overcome the conflict, it strengthens the relationship and brings you closer together. You now realize that you can work through tough times and you become more trusting of the other person. Or…
      2. The conflict does not get resolved, and the relationship reaches a plateau or ends completely.

This cycle is valid for every relationship whether it is with a friend, family member, teacher, or love interest. Each stage is repeated and the relationship is continually tested. If a positive outcome is reached, the relationship is continually strengthened by each conflict.

A relationship should leave you and your partner with feelings of contentment, self-worth, and fulfillment. If this is not the case, you and your partner should seek help through counseling or therapy in order to sort through the conflicts before they become irreparable.

A healthy relationship requires constant work and nurturing. Like a plant, if it is not constantly looked after, it will die. Relationships take time, energy, and effort, but in the end the benefits of a successful relationship outweighs the costs.

* "Getting What You Want From Relationships." 1996. ETR Associates.