Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a particular relationship – whether a platonic friendship or an intimate relationship – is good for you or worthy of you investing your time. Consider these attributes as some of the basic elements that are crucial to healthy relationships. Obviously, no kind of aggressive, threatening or violent behavior should be present in any of the relationships and that holds true no matter what type of relationship you are developing.
Ask yourself . . . is the person (or persons) you have in mind:
- Safety – this means that you feel safe with the people with whom you spend time and that the environments you are in also feel safe. Specifically, safety means that no one uses words or engages in any kind of behavior that diminishes your mental, emotional or physical integrity. No name calling, accusations, shutting out, intimidating behaviors, threats or physical harm.
- Positive – meaning they are optimistic, have a positive outlook and are well-intentioned in how they relate to and with you and others and in their actions with you and others. Are optimism and being well-intentioned aspects of their overall approach to people and life?
- Predictable – this means that you have a pretty good idea how someone will respond to people and life demands (does not include people who: “fly off the handle”, threaten others, get angry and yell at people or kick, throw or hit things when frustrated). Remember, I started with positive first for a reason. People’s actions must be truly well-intentioned.
- Congruent – the best way to understand congruence is that a person’s words and actions match their thoughts and feelings – this can be reflected in the simplest of interactions such as a person calling at an agreed upon time. It may also involve more challenging experiences like telling someone you are angry with them, that you are disappointed by something they did, or that you really care about and love them (especially as close to the time that you are feeling it – not weeks or months later).
- Consistent – think of this as predictability over time
- Responsive – means that the person truly listens to what you have to say – shows a genuine interest in your experiences (positive and negative) and makes a concerted effort to help you sort out your concerns, validate your feelings, generate alternative solutions and affirm your successes. In the ideal, the people in your life help soothe your distress and celebrate your successes.
- Reciprocal – this means your experience with the other person is mutual or two-way – there is relative balance between each person’s contribution to the relationship – or understood another way – a relative balance between the give and take between you and the people in your life.
- Stimulating – means that the relationship is alive and you feel alive in it. You are in a state of constant learning and evolving as a person. You individually and collectively pursue new or novel experiences that invite both of you to stretch and grow.
Emotional and physical safety in relationships creates a foundation for emotional growth and well-being. If those or other elements mentioned above are not in place for you, it may mean you need to take some time to reflect on your next steps.
These steps may include such actions as talking to the person about your concerns, limiting your time with that person, or if necessary, no longer having any contact with him or her. Challenging? Yes. The benefits of living a happier, more peaceful and less stressful life are well worth your efforts.