The expression “no man is an island” quoted by John Donne in 1624 comes to mind when the topic of relationships arises. As much as we may have days wishing for our own island where we could bury our head in the sand and disconnect from everyone and everything, people need people and connection is what we need to thrive as human beings.
Ideally, relationships should be a source of support and stability that enriches our wellbeing. Unfortunately, they can also be a source of stress and end up compromising our wellbeing. Relationships form a big part of our day-to-day functioning and it would thus make sense that we think about the health of our respective core relationships.
Some elements that we should consider:
Communicating effectively is about being open, honest and direct with one another. You are essentially acknowledging the relationship as a two-way street that requires a specialised balance of give and take. This can be a starting point as it requires you to be mindful of your own feelings and perspectives while also considering the other and vice versa.
Some questions you can ask yourself:
- Are you able to express yourself assertively?
- Are you able to actively hear the other person’s point of view?
- Do you feel heard and acknowledged by the other person?
- Do you make the effort to hear and acknowledge their opinions even if it is not in accordance with yours?
Conflict is normal and not necessarily a bad thing. It can be constructive as it creates a platform to address difficult feelings, concerns or misunderstandings and can bring about necessary changes. Avoiding conflict to keep the peace just creates a false sense of security and delays the inevitable. By the same token (depending on the issue itself), it might also be about choosing your battles and utilizing your energy where it counts. Handled appropriately, conflict can be a building block to a stronger relationship
Healthy boundaries are about teaching people how to treat and respect you. It provides a much-needed structure in any relationship as it allows each individual to take self-inventory and be clear in terms of what their needs, limits, values, etc are. Sometimes the lines become blurry when boundaries are unclear leading to overstepping or undermining the other. A better question maybe are you aware of where you end and the other person begins? As much as a relationship can be linked to words like “we”, ‘’us’’ or ‘’our’’, it should not diminish your individuality and what makes you, you.
The experience of being in a healthy relationship can be seen as:
- feeling free to be yourself with the other
- feeling safe to trust the other person with your vulnerabilities
- not feeling controlled by the other person and not trying to be controlling of the other person
- feeling comfortable spending time doing things together and spending time apart
- honest and open with one another
- understanding of the others’ perspective even if you don’t agree with it
Being an effective communicator, setting healthy boundaries with one another and addressing conflict constructively can go a long way in laying the foundation of a healthy relationship. Mutual respect, trust, love and understanding are also fundamental “bricks” that can complement the relationship. A healthy relationship is a work in progress and therefore a healthy relation will not necessarily be a perfect relationship thereby leaving room to grow, rise to challenges and make adaptations.
Take some time out to reflect on your core relationships:
- How would you rate the health of the relationship?
- What part do you play and how does it affect the other person?
- What part does the other person play and how does it affect you?
- What is working in the relationship?
- What is not working in the relationship?
- What changes need to happen?
Remember it is okay to reach out and seek further support for yourself and/or your relationship.
Rafeeqah Tajoodeen, Occupational Therapist, Akeso Kenilworth