When you think of all the healthy relationships in your life, what examples do you think of? Is it your best friend that you’ve had since kindergarten, is it your relationship with your family, or is it that person you’ve been dating for a few years? What qualities are present in those relationships? How do you make is last? What do you think draws you to these particular people? Is it interest based; like your book club, running clubs, workout groups, or fellow golfers? If you think on it you will be able to identify several of the same characteristics in all of these relationships.
According to research by Hall Health Center, “Two people develop a connection based on the following traits: cooperation, trust, honesty, safety, support, accountability, and fairness.” All healthy relationships should be based on the aforementioned healthy building blocks. When beginning a new relationship, ask yourself this, “Do you feel safe, happy, content, relaxed, able to be yourself, and can you trust this person?” If you already have a relationship, you can ask yourself the same question, examine the answers, and modify the relationship to where both parties reach a mutual goal.
Friendships and relationships often begin in the most innocent of ways, especially when we are young. I remember as a teen hearing a sermon on friendship. He stated that a person who has five true friends in their lifetime is a very fortunate person. At the time, surrounded by my group of friends, I felt very fortunate. He went on to discuss all of the positive healthy qualities that those friendships should have, loyalty and trust being among the top five. As we age, we hopefully realize that the quality of our friendships/relationships are more important than the quantity. It is better to have one positive friendship/relationship than many negative ones.
As we move from friendships into spousal relationships, the need to identify healthy qualities in a person becomes more important. It’s not always about who you have the most fun with, you need to be able to connect with someone on spiritual and emotional level. Healthy romantic relationships allow both people to feel supported and connected while maintaining their individuality. Each person should have a strong sense of self-worth that is not dependent on the status of their relationship. Respecting one another’s likes and dislikes, but agreeing to find common ground on disagreements with no fear of violence or retribution is key in a nurturing and supportive relationship.
How do we identify when we are in an unhealthy relationship? Abuse in general means to mistreat, hurt, or injure. While abusive acts can be carried out by men and women, most victims of abuse are women. Most abusive relationships don’t necessarily begin with violent acts, but instead with a slow assertion of control and alienation from friends and family. One example would be, “He screams at me from the background while I am on the phone with a friend inviting us to dinner.” Eventually this friend will quit calling fearing they are making things worse. The more isolated she becomes the more control he can assert. She begins to feel she has no where to turn, she may even begin to feel embarrassed to tell anyone of her situation fearing no one will believe her because to the public he will often appear successful and charming.
There are many forms of abuse:
Verbal abuse use words or the tone of words to control and hurt another person. Verbal abuse in a marriage destroys intimacy and respect. Some examples include; intimidating with threats, accusations, degrading with private or public put downs, confuse with mind games or twisting what is said. In scripture we find an example of verbal abuse from Psalm 10:7 “His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats: trouble and evil are under his tongue.”
Emotional abuse can be passive or aggressive. For example: withholding emotional support, withholding important information, not allowing access to money or finances, giving her an allowance, making her feel guilty about the children, or threatens to take the children away.
Physical abuse can include: pushing/shoving, confining/trapping in a room by standing in the doorway, scratching, pinching, spitting, hitting walls, breaking objects, harming a pet or child, pulling hair, etc.
Sexual abuse happens in both married and unmarried couples. Women often experience sexual abuse without realizing it. Some examples include: adultery, forced sexual acts, withholding romance and intimacy, sexually degrading remarks, and guilt tripping into sex.
If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, get help immediately. Many areas offer domestic violence shelters. One way to access help is through local law enforcement. Most importantly, tell someone and get the support you need in order to get to a safe place.
In closing, keep in mind that all relationships experience conflict, but open communications is important, as are healthy boundaries. Seek professional intervention to assist you and your spouse in order to have the healthiest relationship possible.