healthy relationships

Healthy Relationships Allow For Repair (Toxic Relationships Only Talk about It)

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No relationship is perfect, and it’s normal for everyone to experience some conflict and ruptures with their partners. But in healthy relationships, both parties aim to come together to create sustainable solutions for change.

In addition, they usually take accountability for their wrongdoings and make a conscious effort to be respectful and compassionate to one another.

However, toxic relationships are built differently. One partner tends to be more invested in themselves than the greater good of the relationship. There may be patterns of criticism, disrespect, or downright abuse.

As a result, it can almost feel impossible to repair or heal from damage. 

What Really Makes For Healthy Relationships?

Do healthy relationships happen by chance? Or do they require purposeful intention and discipline? Are some people more likely to have them than others? While no two dynamics are exactly the same, there are common features in loving, healthy relationships. 

Consistent Trust 

How well do you trust your partner when they aren’t around you? How confident do you feel that they tell the truth at all times? 

Trust takes time to earn, but it’s a non-negotiable part of a healthy relationship. When you trust someone, you feel safe knowing that they are who they say they are (and that they do what they say they do).

Signs of trust in a relationship include: 

  • Feeling confident about your partner’s activities or whereabouts 
  • A sense of consistent reassurance of their love and commitment towards you.
  • Enjoying time spent together without needing to be together 24/7.
  • Believing what they say and do without looking for signs of dishonesty or betrayal.  
  • Being on the same page regarding commitment. 

Subsequently, lacking trust for one another is one of the key signs of a toxic relationship. It creates endless opportunities for suspicion, anger, and confusion. With that said, trust also needs to be on even ground. For example, even if you completely trust your partner, problems can still emerge if they don’t trust you. The opposite is also true. 

Additionally, if you have been betrayed in the past, trusting a new partner may seem frightening or naive. But over time, trust issues will erode the integrity of any relationship. 

Respect

Respect is paramount in healthy relationships. Respectful relationships allow both partners to feel safe to honor their values and state their needs. You both treat each other as equals, and you enjoy learning and growing with one another. 

Respect also includes: 

  • Listening to one another openly and without distractions.
  • Valuing your differences and seeking to compromise when needed.
  • Giving each other the benefit of the doubt.
  • Encouraging one another when needed.
  • Adhering to boundaries at all times. 

Keep in mind that it can be challenging to respect a partner if you lack self-respect. People with low self-esteem may find themselves in relationships where others mistreat them- it reinforces the negative views they might hold about themselves.

Abusive partners do not respect their partners or their needs. If they do appear to respect you, it’s often only because your values currently align with theirs. But the moment that homeostasis feels threatened, they will turn on you. They will make you out to be the villain, and they will likely hurt you to restore a sense of desperate power and control. 

Interdependence 

Humans are wired for social connection- we need relationships to thrive. We grow, learn, and adapt when others support us. 

Interdependence refers to sharing emotional intimacy with others without compromising your sense of self. In these relationships, partners freely come together for connection while also honoring their independent needs. 

This definition is dramatically different from codependency, which often entails weak boundaries and a lack of mutual respect. Unfortunately, most toxic relationships have a sense of codependency- you might feel smothered, mistrustful, anxious, or uncertain around your partner.

Signs of interdependent relationships include:

  • Feeling like you want your partner rather than desperately needing them.
  • Enjoying time spent together and time spent apart.
  • Having outside relationships and hobbies that you enjoy pursuing.
  • Feeling like your partner is a safe and secure base.
  • Having a sense of natural, healthy, vibrant love for one another

Playfulness & Fun

Your partner doesn’t need to be your best friend, but many people in healthy relationships feel that way about their partners. They don’t just love their partner- they genuinely like their company. 

While many relationships start with a carefree sense of wonder, some couples lose this joy as time goes on. Therefore, it’s a positive sign if you two can laugh and have fun together. 

Toxic relationships leave little room for playfulness and fun. Instead, things may seem serious all the time. Or, in some cases, you never know what mood your partner will be in – one week, you’re both arguing nonstop, and the next, he wants to whisk you away on a spontaneous vacation. This erratic up-and-down connection can be just as alarming.

Healthy Conflict Resolution

Even the happiest couples disagree, and conflicts themselves aren’t an indicator of a bad relationship. But messy conflicts with even dirtier resolutions often create lose-lose situations.

In a healthy relationship, partners aim to empathize with the other person’s opinion. They try to react calmly, respectfully, and with the other person’s best interest in mind.

Even when they disagree, people in healthy relationships avoid turning against each other when faced with a problem. Instead, they perceive it as something they can tackle together- rather than wasting time trying to prove who’s right or wrong.

Sometimes, there isn’t a clear answer to the argument. In healthy relationships, partners don’t try to “hash it out” repeatedly until something changes. Instead, they can usually accept that they may need to revisit the issue later- or that they need to agree to disagree. 

Finally, healthy conflict resolution entails an inherent sense of picking your battles. Conflict can be tiresome, even when you love the other person. Therefore, if your partner seems to argue over everything or criticize you over each mistake, that’s a serious red flag. 

Are Toxic Relationships All Talk (With No Action?)

Maybe you believe they can change. Perhaps they keep telling you that things will get better…and you’re hopeful, desperate, and eager to trust them.

And yet, their words fall flat every single time. That’s because toxic people know how to manipulate situations to meet their own needs. For example, they might promise never to cheat again, or they might insist they will go to therapy with you. But if they know you won’t leave, they will only do the bare minimum to keep you around.

In other instances, they will start love-bombing (lavishing you with praise and love), smearing (spreading lies or exploiting private information about your life to stack others against you), or gaslighting you to make you question reality.

It’s unrealistic to say people can’t change. Instead, most people can’t and won’t change for the long term. Furthermore, if you’re always the one believing in the relationship, if you’re the one excusing abuse time and time again, and if things continue turning sideways and upside-down, the odds of change remain devastatingly low. 

If you’ve been in your relationship for some time, you probably know that serious, positive change is unlikely. But, unfortunately, the longer you stay committed, the more challenging it may feel to leave. 

What if the Relationship Is Only “A Little” Toxic?

You might be reading about healthy relationships and wondering, what if things are only a little unhealthy? What if, most of the time, it’s all going okay?

Let’s unpack what “a little toxic” might actually mean. In the best-case scenario, your relationship may need some work. But, on the other hand, if you and your partner are consistently receptive and adaptive to making improvements, the relationship may improve.

In other cases, “a little toxic” may have a different meaning. For instance, let’s say you have a history of abusive relationships. If your current partner seems even the slightest bit better than past partners, you may feel more inclined to excuse questionable behavior.

Or, let’s say you struggle with low self-esteem and have fears of being alone. If these apply, you might also believe that “a little toxic” is worth the price of being in a relationship.

Finally, it’s important to note that relationships can be misleading and disillusioning, especially when you’re in them. It’s easy to feel blind to all the warning signs once you feel committed to the other person. 

That’s why it’s so important to try to hold yourself accountable and educate yourself on healthy relationships. Denial can be a strong motivator, but it almost always leads to greater depths of despair. 

Final Thoughts

Healthy relationships require a healthy sense of self. Learning how to let go of toxic patterns (and relationships) can be challenging, but it’s always worth the effort. Unfortunately, over time, abuse often progresses- it can become so bad that you lose your entire sense of self.

No matter your circumstances, you are inherently deserving of love and happiness. It’s possible to break free from unhealthy cycles and find fulfillment and joy in life (and relationships)!

Get tools to honor yourself enough so that if red flags pop up in the future, you can walk away and mean it!

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