Human beings are social creatures; we need contact with other people in order to thrive. Among Maslow's hierarchy of needs, love and a sense of belonging are at the top. Research also demonstrates that social support is one of the key components to happiness. Because connecting to others is essential to our well-being, we need to make sure that our relationships are growth-promoting. Here are some ways to evaluate the status of your relationships.
10 Keys to a Healthy Relationship
Research has demonstrated that these 10 elements are often present in successful marriages. While all of them may not apply to the types of relationships that students have, they are useful to keep in mind when your focus is on making your relationship last.
1) communication skills and understanding
2) positive comments
3) conflict-resolution skills
5) mutual support
7) sharing household tasks
8) sharing decision making
9) freedom to be genuine, authentic
10) capacity for action, sense of personal strength
Other factors that contribute to happy relationships include:
- being in a relationship with someone who is secure
- a bias toward seeing strengths in your partner that are not apparent to others
- being in a relationship w/ an optimistic person
- having a partner who makes you feel validated, even during an argument
Balance is another important aspect of healthy relationships. Initially, we often spend a lot of time, energy, and thought on a new relationship, which is normal. But how much focus is too much? Here are some areas to keep in mind:
- academics: your grades start to fall
- other relationships: your friends complain that they never see you
- you being to drastically alter your behavior because of your partner (e.g., dress differently, avoid friends, engage in high risk behaviors, keep secrets)\
- you begin to use your partner like a drug, needing him or her in order to feel OK
- your sense of self-worth becomes dependent on your partner
Another important component of healthy relationships is developing a positive relationship with yourself. Most students are familiar with the Golden Rule--the idea that we should treat others the way we wish to be treated. Ironically, for some of us, it is easier to treat others better than we treat ourselves. For example, we may be generous with our time when others need us but neglect to take time out for the things that we enjoy or need. Similarly, while we are adamant about how wonderful, beautiful, and intelligent our friends are, we talk to ourselves in a demeaning, degrading way.
Consequently, in order to practice what we preach, many of us can benefit from some practice in treating ourselves with respect. Here are some tips in doing so.
- Examine your self-statements. Do you tell yourself that you're fat, incompetent, stupid? Is this the way you would talk to someone you love?
- Take time out for you. It's easy to rationalize giving your time away by telling yourself that an hour of your time means more to someone else than it does to you. In doing so, however, you often end up with no time for yourself, which makes you less able to help other people effectively. Make yourself a priority.
- Take your own advice. We can often be very insightful, wise, and helpful to others. But when it comes to taking our own advice, we fall short. Think of the helpful things you've said to other people and apply them to yourself.
- Examine your relationships. We are often able to recognize when friends and loved ones are in relationships that are more harmful. However, when it comes to unburdening ourselves, we use the excuse that we can take it, while others cannot. (Or others deserve loving relationships, but we do not.) Pay attention to these kinds of excuses for staying in a relationship that may be draining your resources.
- Develop your emotional intelligence. Students often dedicate a great deal of time and effort developing their cognitive skills but may do little to enhance their ability to recognize, describe, utilize, and communicate their emotions. Become familiar and comfortable with your own feelings, including the unpleasant ones. Doing so will also allow you to have more empathy and compassion for others.