Life’s journey can lead us down unexpected and often difficult paths, especially in matters of the heart. Maybe you’ve found yourself in an unhealthy relationship or maybe you’ve experienced a pattern of relationship problems. On top of these issues, maybe you are navigating the complexities of an unplanned pregnancy. Whatever your current situation, you are not alone. Help is available. Change is possible; it doesn’t have to be this way. Brighter days await.
In this blog, we’ll explore five essential components of a healthy relationship. Our aim is to provide guidance as you begin your journey toward nurturing healthier connections. Take a breath and believe in your ability to make positive, life-giving choices. You may need to work to heal a rocky relationship, or you may need to forge a new path without that relationship.
1. Vulnerability and Authenticity
20th-century theologian and writer known mostly for his Narnia series wisely concluded in his book The Four Loves, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” Vulnerability is showing your true self and sharing your true feelings. In healthy relationships, authenticity is key. Be true to yourself, embracing your needs, your strengths, and issues, and encourage your partner to do the same. If you feel unseen and not heard, say it. If something is bothering you about how you’re being treated, express it. Invite your partner to do the same. True connection thrives when both individuals allow themselves to show up and be vulnerable with each other.
2. Effective Communication
Effective communication stems from vulnerability and authenticity. It is the lifeblood of a healthy relationship. On her site TrueLoveDates.com, relationship expert Debra Fileta emphasizes, “Communication is about both talking and listening.” So, we need to both express what we feel and need and listen to our partner’s feelings and needs. Open and honest conversations, free from judgment and criticism, are essential. If we keep our true feelings and needs to ourselves, our relationship is not growing or thriving. Create a safe space where you and your partner can share your thoughts and feelings, fostering mutual understanding and trust. Assume good intentions of each other and try not to allow defensiveness to be your first reaction. If your partner tends to go on the defensive every time you express a concern, see if you can work through it, but be prepared to seek counseling or possibly end the relationship if you’re not seeing growth and a desire to improve.
3. Respect for Boundaries
Respecting each other’s boundaries is fundamental to a healthy relationship. Boundaries help define what is acceptable and what is not in terms of behavior, communication, and personal space. Truelovedates.com highlights, “Healthy boundaries protect your individuality while maintaining a strong connection.” Clearly define your boundaries and encourage your partner to do the same. You might set boundaries around how much personal time and space you need, intimacy, and money. Be true to yourself and your needs as you create and communicate these. Recognize that setting and respecting boundaries is a sign of love and respect, not a barrier to intimacy. Additionally, creating and expressing boundaries is a way to ensure that differences are acknowledged and respected rather than causing conflict.
4. Empathy and Support
Empathy is a powerful force in relationships. It’s putting yourself as much as you can in the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of another person. When you’re consumed by your own feelings, it can be hard to see things from someone else’s perspective. To the degree, you are able to, show empathy toward your partner’s feelings and experiences and offer your unwavering support. In turn, seek a partner who provides the same empathetic and supportive environment for you. You deserve someone who truly sees you and feels your pain, not someone who causes you pain.
5. Shared Values and Goals
Building a strong foundation often means aligning your values and long-term goals. Fileta asserts, “Shared values are like the glue that holds a relationship together.” Take the time to understand your partner’s values and communicate your own. Ideally, discussions around values and goals should happen early in a relationship before you’re even committed to someone. When you share common values and aspirations, you can work together to build a future filled with joy and fulfillment. If you realize your values and goals are not aligned with your partner’s, you’ll need to evaluate whether to navigate these differences together or to go your separate ways.
Healthy relationships are within your reach, even if you’re currently facing a challenge or have experienced broken relationships in the past. As you work toward nurturing healthier connections, do so with kindness toward yourself and an unwavering commitment to these vital components: vulnerability and authenticity, effective communication, respect for boundaries, empathy and support, and shared values and goals.
Embrace these components with love, self-compassion, and the belief that you deserve the healthy, fulfilling relationships you desire.
At Hope Rising, our goal is to provide a trustworthy and safe place for you to receive support when facing an unplanned pregnancy. If you or you and your partner need counseling to get on a better relationship path, we recommend connecting with a licensed counselor. If you find yourself in an unsafe situation, emergency help is available. Call the National Hotline for Domestic Violence at 800-799-7233.
Lewis, C.S. The Four Loves. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., 2002.
Fileta, Debra. Truelovedates.com, truelovedates.com/. Accessed 14 Sept. 2023.