The Top 5 Foundations of a Healthy Relationship

4 May 2013
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Foundation # 1: Emotional availability

Emotional availability occurs when both individuals are open to, and prepared for, a relationship…should one develop – assuming they are not already in one. Very often I hear daters say:  ”I’m not looking for a relationship”.  Typically, that is a bunch of b.s. that daters tell not only others, but something they likely tell themselves.  Although one may not be “looking”, per se, anyone who is actively “dating” – even if the desire is lodged deep, deep, down inside of them – is hoping to find and secure that elusive “chemistry”.  When one person says to another person who they’ve been dating:  ”I’m not looking for a relationship”, what it really means is:  ”I’m not open to having a relationship with you“.  Harsh, but most often, true.  For those already in a relationship, emotional availability means that both partners are open to listening to each other’s feelings, thoughts, dreams and fears with the intent of understanding their partner, demonstrating active listening (which includes paraphrasing, asking probing questions and expressing empathy) and working together to address unmet needs and wants.

Foundation # 2: Alignment

Most people have been taught that for a relationship to work, one needs to be prepared to “compromise”.  It seems more productive for two people in a relationship to be aligned to the same goals than it is for them to negotiate and compromise different goals. Wanting the same outcomes and aligning themselves to those outcomes lessens the likelihood of resentment down the road.

For example, if one person really wants to spend the first three years of marriage travelling and the other person would prefer to stay at home and start a family and then travel later, only a compromise will work as the couple cannot do both at the same time.

Unfortunately though, a compromise is win/lose-win/lose where each person is giving up something and gaining only a fraction of what they wanted in the first place. It would be better to partner with someone who wants the same things from the get-go.

I acknowledge that the example provided is surmountable, and that compromise can work, however, alignment removes the requirement to negotiate and compromise and becomes more an issue of timing, financial resources and planning – together.

Foundation # 3: Commitment

This requires a declaration of some sort, from both parties, where each individual understands what they are committing to, what is expected of them by their partner and what “success” looks like. Commitment only lends itself to healthy relationships when it’s present on both sides. If one person is straddling the commitment fence, the foundation is cracked. Often we see people in “relationships” where one person doesn’t want a commitment. This allows them to enjoy the perks of the “relationship” without the associated and necessary accountability.

Foundation # 4: Emotional Predictability

While unpredictability may make dating interesting and exciting…it is not always ideal once a relationship has been established. Ideally, you know your partner well enough to anticipate their behaviour, reactions and demeanour on a day-to-day basis. You know who and what you’re coming home to.

This is not to suggest that healthy relationships should be boring, lacking in spontaneity and void of surprises…just not at every turn, and not on an emotional level.

Foundation # 5: Psychological Safety

This is all-encompassing, including trust, integrity, honesty, friendship and communication. It’s when your partner has your best interests in mind. Everything they do in your relationship comes from a place of kindness, sincerity and love. You are psychologically safe when you can say or do anything without fear of repercussions. The antithesis of walking on eggshells.