Healthy relationships don’t just happen; they take time, patience and two people who truly want to work together to create something meaningful.
What does it take to create and nurture a healthy relationship? That’s a question Angel and I get asked by readers and coaching clients on a daily basis. After a decade of coaching individuals and couples and researching how people build healthy, lasting relationships, we have learned a lot about what it takes.
Whether you’re working to improve your marriage, a dating relationship, or a friendship, there are lots of little things you can do to keep your relationship on track. And since we’ve recently covered some of these healthy relationship strategies here and here, today I want to take a look at the flipside – what people in healthy relationships don’t do:
2. They don’t expect their relationships to solve all their problems.– While a healthy relationship can certainly bring joy, it’s not anyone else’s job to fill in your empty inner space. That’s your job and yours alone; and until you accept responsibility for your emptiness, pain, or boredom, problems will inevitably ensue and persist in the relationship.
3. They don’t expect their relationships to be easy. – Long-tern relationships are amazing, but rarely easy. Resisting the hard times and seeing them as immediate evidence that something is wrong or that you’re with the wrong person only aggravates the difficulties. By contrast, finding the willingness to view the challenges as an opportunity to learn will give you the energy and strength you need to continue to move forward and grow your relationship to the next level.
4. They don’t let fear overpower their love and trust. – You never lose by loving; you lose by holding back. No relationship is impossible until you refuse to give it a chance. Love means giving someone the chance to hurt you, but trusting them not to. Without this trust, a relationship cannot survive. You cannot just believe what you fear from others; you have to believe in the good faith of others. If you are ever going to have someone trust you, you must feel that you can trust them too. (Read The Mastery of Love.)
5. They don’t keep secrets. – Trust is the foundation of a relationship, and when trust is broken it takes time and willingness on the part of both people involved to repair it and heal. All too often, I’ll hear a coaching client say something like, “I didn’t tell her but I didn’t lie about it, either.” This statement is a contradiction, as omissions are lies. If you’re covering up your tracks in any way, it’s only a matter of time before the truth is revealed and trust in the relationship is broken. Speak the truth, no matter what the consequences. Being honest is the only way to be at peace with yourself and others.
6. They don’t fake their feelings. – Do not contrive to be a loving person: work to be a real person instead. Being real is being loving.
7. They don’t hide who they are. – There’s nothing better for your happiness and your relationships than for you to be at your best, showing everyone in every way who you are and what you stand for.
8. They don’t look to others for validation of their identity. – Never wait around for someone else to give you permission to be yourself. You don’t need anyone’s validation to be happy or to live a good life. That’s a state of mind only you can create, and then bring in to the relationship with you.
9. They don’t hold hateful grudges. – It’s a good time, right now, for letting go. Let’s not drag angst into tomorrow. Let’s regroup, make amends where we can, and move on. Make peace with people as much as you are able. Even if forgiveness doesn’t equal reconciliation, lay down the sword and let it be. Life is too short.
10. They don’t focus on the unchangeable past. – Sometimes happiness in relationships amounts to making peace with something that can’t be fixed. Sometimes you let it go, and sometimes you hold it broken. It amounts to forgiveness in any case.
11. They don’t expect their loved ones to always be strong. – Sometimes people let us down because they can’t hold us up. “I can’t carry you” doesn’t mean, “I don’t love you.” It may simply mean, “I’m struggling too.”
12. They don’t focus on people’s flaws. – Do your best to maintain sincere love in your heart for others. The more you see the good in them, the more good you will uncover in yourself.
13. They don’t give out of obligation, or because they want to be paid back. – Do something special for someone you love, and for a stranger today. Do it because you can and because it makes the world a happier place. Always give more than you take. When you shift your attitude from “how can I gain” to “how can I give,” you’ll be amazed at the gifts you receive. Truth be told, the most successful people in the most successful relationships are looking for ways to help others. The most unsuccessful people are still asking, “What’s in it for me?”
14. They don’t take their relationships for granted. – An incredible thing happens when you pay close attention. It’s by participating more in your relationships that you breathe life into them. So make time for those you care about. With our busy schedules we often forget to relax and enjoy the great company we have. In human relationships distance is not measured in miles, but in affection. Two people can be right next to each other, yet miles apart. So don’t ignore someone you care about, because lack of concern hurts more than angry words.
15. They don’t just show up when times are good. – Be there through the good, bad, happy, and sad times… no matter what. Be willing to provide a listening ear, a hug, and emotional support in all circumstances. In a healthy relationship, both people can trust that they can count on each other, and are willing to be available not only when it’s convenient, but when they need each other the most.
16. They don’t try to constantly “fix” the people they care about. – The art of caring for another is rooted in love and respect. It means listening to them wholeheartedly and letting them know by your complete presence that they are seen and valued. It’s not a space where you try to fix the other person. It’s about being witness to the totality of another human being. (Read The Gifts of Imperfection.)
17. They don’t talk when they need to listen. – It takes some courage to stand up and speak; it takes even more courage to open your mind and listen. Pay attention and be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble. The people in your life often need a listening ear more than they need a rambling voice. And don’t listen with the intent to reply; hear what is being said with the intent to understand. You are as beautiful as the love you give, and you are as wise as the silence you leave behind.
18. They don’t take everything personally. – If you take everything personally, you will remain offended for the rest of your life. What other people do is because of them, not you. Never permit the behavior of other people to tell you how you feel.
19. They don’t neglect their own self-awareness. – When two people meet, the prize always goes to the one with the most self-insight. He or she will be calmer, more confident, and more at ease with the other.
20. They don’t say “yes” when they need to say “no.” – You can’t always be agreeable; that’s how people take advantage of you. Sometimes you have to set clear boundaries.
21. They don’t let people hold them back indefinitely. – Give people lots of chances, but realize that you can’t grow by hanging out with people who refuse to grow themselves. Try to spend less time with those who are stubborn and stuck in their comfort zones. And if someone doesn’t want to let you grow, it might be time to let them go. Your relationships should help you in the long run, not hurt you.
22. They don’t resist or interfere with other people’s growth. – Healthy relationships move in the direction of personal growth: for the relationship and for each individual. A desire to impede the growth of the other for one’s comfort is an expression of fear. Even when one is concerned that the relationship may dissolve, they accept that their paths may diverge for the benefit of both. Mutual growth is put before personal gain.
23. They don’t rebound and rush into replacement relationships. – If you painfully lose a valuable friend or lover, do not rush out at once for a replacement. Such hurried action prevents you from examining your heartache and breaking free of it. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
24. They don’t look at past relationships as failures. – Although not all relationships are meant to be, there are no failed relationships, because every person in your life has a lesson to teach. And the lessons you learn make future relationships that much stronger.
25. They don’t let what’s behind them define them. – As long as you’re worried that you could replicate a hurtful relationship from the past, you won’t be free to create new, healthy bonds. Regardless of what fears you have, work to release them. Start by acknowledging that these fears are present, and then remind yourself that you’re not doomed to any particular fate. You’re the one running your life, and you have the power to create healthy relationships. If you find yourself veering off course, you can correct this. If you’ve made mistakes in your past, you can learn from them.