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The Good Relationship Guide (part one)

July 16, 2009

happy relationshipLast week we looked at relationship break-ups and how to handle them in a healthy way. Many relationships break down because people are focusing on the wrong values and qualities when they initially pair up or have unrealistically high expectations of their partner whilst having low expectations of what they actually need to put into the relationship themselves.

Anyone who has lived in a negative relationship like this will know how demoralising, all-consuming and generally detrimental to your wellbeing it can be. On the other hand, a good relationship can enhance an already positive existence immeasurably. So bearing this in mind, here is a brief guide to finding, recognising and maintaining a good relationship.

1. Know – and love – yourself.

At the end of my last blog entry, I stated that ‘the better you know yourself, the more likely you are to find the person who you can truly be happy with’. I really cannot reiterate this enough, as I truly believe that for most of us, this is the one and only condition necessary for meeting ‘Mr/Ms Right’.

When I was married, I can remember looking through my wardrobe to find something to wear and realising that my clothes were in a number of radically different styles. Within this small selection of garments was the punk, the hippy, the businesswoman, the ‘wife’, to name but a few – but which outfit defined the real me? Who on earth was I? The fact was, I had no idea so was desperately trying on different identities in an attempt to find out. Of course, simply changing my external image was never going to lead to a deeper knowledge of my inner self, and it was little wonder that with such a lack of self-awareness, my marriage ultimately foundered.

If you don’t know who you are, then you will not be in touch with your inner guidance, you will not know what brings you real joy and you probably won’t like yourself very much either. Consequently, you will enter a relationship, not because you want to enjoy an intimate friendship and share a lifetime of mutual love and support, but because you are hoping that your chosen partner will fill up the empty shell which exists where your authentic self should be, or will be your escape route from something, be it physical circumstances or psychological/emotional torment. You will end up attracting someone with similar or complementary insecurities and when the initial buzz is over, you will find yourself stuck in a dysfunctional relationship with someone you probably don’t even like all that much, never mind love.

Paradoxically, the best way to guarantee a positive relationship in the future is to spend some time as a single person, getting to know and love yourself. Loving yourself means developing self-respect (treating yourself in a loving way) and self-acceptance (loving yourself, warts and all). Why would you expect anyone else to love you if you don’t think you’re lovable? So take some time out from the relationship merry-go-round and do some personal development work to heal your emotional wounds and break the unhealthy patterns which drag you back into dysfunctional relationships time and time again. It may take some time but the rewards you gain through discovering your authentic self  – namely, fulfilment, harmony and serenity  – are definitely worth it. (For more on this, check out my blog entry ‘The greatest gift you will ever give yourself’.)

2. Listen to your inner guidance

As you get to know yourself better, you will become more in tune with your inner guidance or intuition – and as you feel more at ease with yourself, you will be more inclined to listen to this wise inner voice. If you think back to previous negative relationships you may have had, you probably knew quite early on that something was amiss, but your desperate need to be in a relationship overrode your inner wisdom. I once met a man whose opening words were ‘I was never unfaithful to my ex wife or ex girlfriends’. This immediately set alarm bells ringing and I actually went home and wrote in my journal ‘Watch this one – could be a ladies’ man!’ Unfortunately I was feeling particularly vulnerable when I met this man, so ignored my intuition and ended up having a fairly miserable two year relationship with him – which ended when I caught him in the arms of another woman.

As well as helping you to avoid the rotten apples, your inner guidance will also lead you to the good ones too, if you get out of your own (or your ego’s) way and allow yourself to pay heed to it. Karen was invited to a party which she didn’t really want to attend – she was single and knew it would be mostly couples, and it was in a local pub which she didn’t really like. However the voice of her inner guidance seemed determined she should go despite her misgivings, so she arranged a babysitter for her small son and went. That night she met the man who turned out to be her soulmate. Interestingly, it transpired that he had also been reluctant to attend but felt the same inexplicable pull as Karen to turn up anyway.

And of course, it will be the voice of your inner guidance which will let you know, quietly but insistently, that you’ve finally met ‘The One’….

3. Share similar values and interests…

This does not mean that you’re into hot guys and he happens to be hot, or you’re into rich women and she happens to be rich, or any other similar superficial ‘quality’. If such things are still your main criteria for a relationship then you will never be happy and will always be on the lookout for something better – after all, there’s always the possibility that someone hotter or richer is just around the corner. And of course, just because someone is hot or rich, it does not necessarily follow that they are pleasant or compatible in any way with you.

What this actually means is that you have similar values regarding love and life. Does he or she value positive qualities such as compassion and integrity? If you’re looking for a serious commitment with this person, then you also need to be sure they’re on the same page as you in the areas which are most important to you – for example, how and where you want to live, how you feel about marriage and children, your views on work and money, political and spiritual beliefs and so on.

It also helps if you have similar interests – perhaps you both like to go walking at weekends, or share a love of live music. Enjoyable shared experiences are an important bonding tool and create a history of happy memories which can be important when you go through an inevitable rough patch.  A similar sense of humour is also essential to see you through the good times and the bad – couples who laugh together, last together. Ultimately, if you fall in love with someone who is also your best friend, you can’t go far wrong.

4. …but keep some of your life for you.

Remember Penny from the ‘dumpee’ blog? Because she had a full life in her own right, with her own friends and a variety of creative interests, her relationship with Paul was not the centre of her universe. Penny chose to be in the relationship because she enjoyed being with Paul, not because she needed to be with him. Subsequently, when he left, though she was very upset, she knew that she would get over it and didn’t feel like her life was over.

There’s nothing attractive about someone who needs to be with you constantly and appears to have no existence beyond their relationship with you. A healthy relationship is interdependent – the supportive and mutually beneficial union of two independent adults – rather than co-dependent – the desperate attachment of two needy wounded children. Time apart from your partner doing your own thing makes you a much more interesting and well-rounded person who will have so much more to bring to the relationship, and is also healthy for your own personal growth and holistic well-being, giving you the opportunity for relaxation and reflection.

5. Do unto your partner as you would have your partner do unto you.

The cornerstones of a good relationship are respect and consideration. People seem to forget that ‘love’ is a verb and therefore protestations of love are simply not enough. If someone is declaring their love for you, yet they can’t be bothered to ring when they say they will, turn up on time or talk to you in a civil way; or if they ignore you in public while flirting with other people, are unfaithful to you, or prefer to spend all their free time out drinking with their friends rather than be with you, then their actions are speaking much louder than their words.

Mutually loving partners will demonstrate this love consistently through loving behaviour. This doesn’t have to consist of big flamboyant gestures, though these are wonderful for special occasions; simple daily actions which show that you care for someone’s wellbeing as much as your own are sufficient. As well as the basic courtesies like punctuality, faithfulness, civility and so on, these actions could also include things like: running them a bath or giving them a foot rub after a hard day; surprising them with a bar of their favourite chocolate or that CD you heard them mention a few days ago; bringing them a cup of tea in bed in the morning; warming their gloves on the radiator before they go out in the winter; or a quick call or text to say ‘I love you’ during the day. Small things, perhaps, but it is little gestures like these which bring sunshine and joy into your lives and enhance your existence as a couple.

More in Part Two

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4 comments

  1. A great read and how very true it is.
    Thanks for that , very helpful.


  2. […] part one I talked about how respect and consideration are the cornerstones of a healthy relationship. […]


  3. Helo,
    Thanks for this article, it is very useful. I met a guy before few months, my inner voice kept on saying that he isnt the right man, i didnt follow my intuiton and got myself into few months of stress and guilt. He became quite passionate with me, earlier i didnt like it but i guess being an empath i started liking it as i was picking his emotions i guess. He made my life a living hell, i ditched him so many times but then the guilt of hurting him, i started seeing him again and now i came to know that he is a womanizer, has more 2-3 girls. he cheated on me , i wasnt surprised because i felt it earlier. Now iam happy that i got rid of him.


    • Hello Seema
      Glad that you enjoyed the article and VERY glad that you finally saw the light about your ex-boyfriend! My article on this site called ‘How to have a healthy relationship break-up‘ may help you to find the strength to end things sooner if such a situation ever arises again. Although I’m sure it won’t, now you’ve recognised the truth of your intuitive voice 😉

      Warmest wishes
      Sharon



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