Keeping Healthy Relationships
Have you ever known someone who wanted a relationship to work so much they gave up their own needs or opinions? They focused on keeping the other person happy so much they made themselves miserable.
Or maybe you've seen someone who insisted on what they wanted all of the time, and it hurt the relationship? The other person felt ignored or attacked and eventually blew up at them or avoided them.
A healthy relationship balances the needs of everyone involved. It includes maintaining positivity in the relationship, getting what you need, and keeping self-respect.
Positivity in the Relationship
If someone feels good around you, they will likely want to continue spending time with you. We maintain a relationship when we focus on making the other person feel positive.
Here are three ways to make them feel better:
- Be pleasant. Use a friendly tone. Show respect. Don’t insult or attack them.
- Be interested. Listen to them. Share their excitement. Don’t interrupt or change the subject.
- Be understanding. Show that you understand their opinions and feelings. Showing that you understand their viewpoint or experience doesn’t mean you need to agree with them. For example, “I understand how you feel nervous” or “It makes sense you wanted that.”
Get What You Want
It’s important to express our wants and needs in a relationship. It can be hard to know what to say or how strongly you should push for something. Sometimes it feels easier to avoid asking for anything.
Military kids often have to grow up faster than other kids.13 They usually take on more responsibility. They also might worry about their parents’ safety or their parents’ stress more. On the positive side, military kids are often more independent and more adaptable. Unfortunately, it can also make them reluctant to ask for help. Or they might downplay their needs when they do ask for something.
If you feel unsure about how to ask for something, use this tool to help.
Example: You want to go to a late night movie premiere with your friends, but your parents enforce a curfew. You could use this tool to see how strongly you should ask your parents to make an exception.
It’s easy to focus on the other person in a relationship, but it’s equally important to be true to yourself and feel good about yourself. If a relationship consistently makes you feel bad about yourself, it isn’t healthy.
Keeping self-respect means:
- Being fair. Treat yourself and the other person equally.
- Apologize appropriately. Don’t over-apologize. For example, you don’t have to apologize for expressing a preference, need, or sticking to your values.
- Value your values. Be honest about your values and stick to them. In the moment, it might feel more comfortable to give in to what another person wants. If it goes against an important value, it will feel worse in the long term.
- Be truthful. Do not lie, exaggerate, or deliberately mislead. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you are lying. (The exception would be if your safety is at risk.)
Confidence helps with keeping self-respect. So how do you become confident?
Confidence takes time and practice to develop. Here are some ideas for practicing confidence.
It's hard to have confidence if people (of any age) say mean things, use hurtful words, or say something that causes you to feel bad about yourself. What other people say to you or about you does not have to be the same words in your mind.
Example: Think about the words that you use in your own head. Instead of "I'm no good," say "I made a mistake," or "I am still learning." You can use this activity to work on your self-confidence.
Check out these examples for some ideas.
Balance in Conflict
It’s normal in a relationship to have complaints or disagreements.
When we feel upset about something, we often fall back on old habits. Suppose you usually focus on making the other person happy. In that case, you might only focus on creating positivity while ignoring your own needs. Suppose you usually become stubborn and focus only on demanding what you want. In that case, you might start using insults or a harsh tone.
Before you go into a challenging conversation, it can be helpful to review the three traits of a balanced relationship.14
- How do I want them to feel about me when we finish talking?
- What do I want from this person (or in this situation)?
- How do I want to feel about myself when we finish talking?