A foundational key to avoiding unhealthy relationships is being able to describe what a healthy relationship is, so when unhealthy ones appear, they will be much easier to spot and therefore avoid.
There is a serious problem though.
Most people have very few references for what a healthy relationship looks and feels like. Few of us want a relationship like our parent's, yet that is our primary source of information about marriage during our formative years.
We need to know what a healthy relationship looks like so we can avoid unhealthy ones.
Now...many years ago, before there were scanning machines to detect counterfeit money, bank employees were trained to recognize the real from the fake.
What's interesting is that they spent all their time looking at the real money, studying it's features, and none on trying to spot the counterfeit.
The goal was to get the employees so conditioned to the features of the genuine article that anything that deviated from it would stand out immediately.
It works the same way in relationships.
We need to concentrate our focus on the traits of a healthy relationship.
A healthy relationship is one that involves 2 people who invest their time and energy to build a team. The relationship is a high priority for both members and requires attention for it to grow and get stronger.
This seems so obvious, yet to most people it's not. Study after study has shown that when asked what is most important to them, people rank their family relationships at the top.
The core of the family is the marriage relationship. In any organization, the health of the relationship of those steering the ship is foundational to it's long term success.
Yet, in spite of what the vast majority of people claim is important to them, their actions don't match their words.
Work, children, friends, hobbies, in-laws and out-laws, and a multitude of other activities and relationships are allowed to crowd the couple out from their proper place of importance within the family unit.
The health of the marriage or dating relationship is governed by the same principles that govern physical fitness or the obtaining of some worthy goal like a university degree.
What we put into it, far more often than not, we get out.
A healthy relationship exists where there is mutual trust and respect for each other's thoughts and feelings. The uniqueness of each person is honoured and seen as a complimentary facet to the make up of the team. A key to the team's strength is found in it's diversity.
Sadly, the unique character traits of a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse that were once admired, often become the key reasons for discontent in an unhealthy relationship.
Men and women begin to want their partner to behave more like them, to think like them and understand their unique point of view in spite of the fact that not only are men and women radically different biologically, they are socialized and conditioned very differently as well.
Couples in a healthy relationship understand that trust and respect, for the most part, is earned. If I behave in a manner that is trustworthy by keeping my commitments, I can earn both trust and respect. If I respect my wife's opinions, views and feelings, even though I may not share them, or even disagree with them, I can earn trust and respect.
In healthy relationships, listening does not mean agreeing.
A healthy relationship is one where differences of opinions are accepted and even welcomed. It's normal to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Disagreement does not equal rejection in healthy relationships. That's worth repeating. Disagreement does not equal rejection is healthy relationships.
As much as diversity of abilities is important, agreement on values is vital for the relationship to thrive. Spiritual or religious beliefs need to be considered if the couple is to prosper, as do values and beliefs regarding work, child raising and in-laws.
Healthy relationships require time to be spent discussing and considering issues surrounding how to raise the children. Do you want to have a parent staying home with the children? How do you feel about either of your in-laws coming to stay with you for extended periods of time? Are you health conscious and your spouse is not? How might you balance your career demands with your desire to have a healthy family be a part of? Do the two of you agree on where your child will be schooled?
The answers to these questions are based on your values and beliefs about what is important. These need serious consideration for your relationship to thrive.
About the Author
Chris Keenan is the founder of Relationship Sharing. They help people share and learn about relationships in small groups via telephone conferencing. If you want more free relationship articles then go to http://www.relationshipsharing.com for hundreds of relationship articles. Try their "relationship sharing" service for free!