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Whether you are a part of a long-time marriage, or dating, it is challenging to know whether our interactions are making the grade when it comes to being a “healthy” relationship. It seems that modern psychology and every women’s magazine puts out endless information on toxic relationships, abusive relationships, and even recovering from relationships with narcissistic partners. We have lists of what not to do, instead we need resources which outline the specific patterns and behaviors which are observed in mutually healthy relationships. Enclosed please find and use our mini check list compiled by Pittsburgh’s own top ranked team of therapists and Marriage Counselors, here are 10 joyous behaviors exhibited in mindfully healthy relationships.
- Communicate honestly, letting each other know where they stand on important topics about the present and future. It takes courage and consistency to discuss our needs and it takes mindfulness to share them constructively. They don’t stay superficial in communication either, they use the process of intimacy enhancing conversations.
- Make each other and the relationship a priority, we make time for what is important to us so even the most busy can find some moments through the day to check in, to make time to be a part of the relationship.
- We care for our mental, emotional, and physical health when we are in a healthy relationship, if we suffer from anxiety, depression, anger, or any form of addiction, we take measures to manage those things and we don’t make other people responsible for our self-care or emotional hygiene.
- Honor each others boundaries and needs, including the need to be unique, free, and spend time with friends outside of the relationship.
- Do relationship ‘Check-In’s’, for long-time together, or married couples this means setting a weekly date and time to do your relationship laundry, sorting, cleaning, and folding ‘the unmentionables.’ Healthy relationships don’t keep the closet full of unspoken skeletons, they clean the metaphorical relationship house and they do this often. This has multiple maintenance functions, this means we are not constantly complaining about the problems in the relationship or household, and we are also acknowledging that we will discuss the areas that need more attention or improvement.
- Become a master at accepting feedback. This means that we take the time to lower our defenses and hear feedback from our partner. When our partner shares their needs or feelings, this is an investment in the relationship and we must be tender and grateful with their trust in communicating their needs. Hearing constructive feedback or our partners needs is different from being criticized, sharing needs in a healthy way that can be assimilated takes work.
- Take a break in conflict, calm down and pause before responding, this means that we tame our own inner fire to maintain logic and equitably when we respond. A good rule of thumb is to take a 20 minute break when our heart rate goes over 95 bpm, this prevents us from saying or doing things that will worsen the conflict. When we are calm we can reengage our conflict discussion and practice compassionate conflict resolution.
- Learn how your partner communicates their love, we all mean something a little different by being in love, and saying ‘I love you.’ Figure out what you do that makes your partner feel loved and the inverse. Loving is not one size fits all, we all need something a little different from each other and when we love, its not about how we want to love, love is all about the other person and honoring what they need from us.
- Communicate your gratitude, let your partner know what exactly you appreciate about them, this creates a culture of gratitude in the relationship. The warmth that comes from gratitude is an infectious bonding agent. Some relationships get off track, they bring an attitude of negativity to their lens, they think, my partner hasn’t done anything special, I haven’t gotten flowers, if this is what you are thinking, then becoming mindful of attitude is imperative. Now you might be thinking this lady, she doesn’t know my pain, she doesn’t know my suffering in this relationship, clinging to bitter suffering and anger does not heal the relationship. Live in gratitude, even if you say, ‘thanks for coming home today.’ That’s a start, that’s the kind of awareness of small moments that we mean. Gratitude, this is the kind of attitude that encourages us to scan the environment for opportunities to expand being grateful.
- They practice non-sexual touching, holding hands, hugging, kissing and sharing in physical intimacy produce oxytocin, they accelerate bonding and even can protect us from colds and viruses. Sex is a natural out-cursor to non-sexual touching and of course all relationships go through periods of lower sexual frequency but then they get back on track. While there are differences in libido for various persons, any mismatches in libido within a relationship should be discussed and compromises found.
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC is the Founder of The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh which is an integrative counseling center which provides individual, marriage counseling, and family counseling as well as wellness services, to Western Pennsylvania. Their practice also offers virtual services for individuals and couples around the world. Stephanie is a licensed counselor, a speaker, writer, and educator in the field of mindfulness and relationships.