Am I In A “Good” Relationship?
As a teacher of university courses on interpersonal communication, and a relationship counselor, this is a question I have been asked frequently.
The answer is not complicated. In any relationship, romantic and platonic alike, there are some clear signs that things are going well, and a few major signs that perhaps you should reconsider if this relationship is right for you.
1. Everyone should have the same goals for the relationship.
Relationships are what we make them, through our words AND actions. If you start out by being uncertain, timid, or unclear, or worse yet, evasive or deceptive, about what kind of relationship you want, don’t be surprised if it ends up not meeting your needs. The key is to be straight from the start, or at least as soon as you know what you want. If someone gets scared and runs away because you were honest about your intentions, or because you set boundaries, that person wasn’t right for you anyway. However, when you are both on the same page, your relationship can be a much more comfortable and enjoyable experience.
2. Both parties put equal effort in to making the relationship work.
Texting is not a substitute for real conversation; feelings such as appreciation, pride, love, etc., should not be going unexpressed, even if it takes effort to do so; honesty and trust should not be replaced by game playing, insecurity, and jealousy; mutual support and dependability should be the norm and being hurt should not have begun to feel natural; and self-denial or self-deception should be avoided in favor of effective communication and mutual effort at solving and overcoming the problems that inevitably arise in any relationship.
3. Everyone involved is committed to effective communication.
It IS the relationship. Doing it effectively means expressing your thoughts, opinions, needs, and feelings, in ways that are not accusatory, spiteful, hostile, or insulting, but oriented toward constructive problem solving; it also means truly LISTENING to others without judging, or becoming defensive; it means seeing inevitable disagreements as an opportunity to learn from each other, not as a threat to your self-esteem or pride. And you should not expect the important people in your life to read your mind. It’s far better to talk about an issue and find out the truth, than to keep going on assuming things and get nowhere.
4. Loving actions consistently reinforce loving words.
In other words, in, good relationships, partners show those they value how much they are valued through regular actions, not just words. If you don’t know how, it’s time to learn. Otherwise, your words will likely be seen as insincere.
5. Expectations of perfection are strictly forbidden.
No relationship is perfect; nor are the people involved in them. Relationships are hard work; and some people, for whatever reason, may just be as good at them yet as others.
That’s not a cause for felling shame or guilt, or laying blame. It’s an opportunity for self improvement.
People make mistakes; people sometimes do things without fully understanding all of the potential consequences of their actions; people sometimes say or do things they later regret. That is simply being human. And for these reasons, relationships sometimes get off track. Those relationships that are “good” relationships are those where the parties involved expect this to happen, and know how to effectively work together as a team to get through such rough times, by taking and sharing responsibility, rather than engaging in denial, blaming, attacking, or defensiveness.
6. There is a healthy blend of freedom and teamwork.
Strong relationships are built on a solid foundation of teamwork. They are about two people who are willing to make adjustments for each other in real time as needed, and give more when the other person can’t help but give a little less. And most of all, they are about commitment; commitment to the other person, yes; but also, and more importantly, commitment to making the relationship work.
However, it is also true that we should never feel trapped in a relationship. In fact, if either person feels trapped, there is no relationship. Being in a relationship is first and foremost about choice—choosing to engage with this other person; choosing to work together to experience the caring, mutually supportive, and fulfilling journey that a truly loving relationship can become. Feeling trapped, for whatever reason, is contrary to that goal.
7. Personal growth is embraced, celebrated, and shared.
Loving is not about losing yourself in someone else, it’s about finding yourself in someone else.
A best friend or a lifelong partner can help you realize the best in yourself. Ideally, you both grow into better selves by spending time together and nurturing each other’s growth.
When you start thinking you know everything you need to know, that there is nothing more for you to learn, or that you have grown as much as you can, that’s when you become a drag on your relationships. Living is all about continually learning and growing, and continually becoming, and close personal relationships are a main vehicle for that growth.
8. Involvement of outsiders is minimal; but you must remain open to it, when it becomes necessary.
Relationships often don’t make sense from the outside. So don’t let outsiders- friends, relatives, whatever-interfere with.