Our most rewarding relationships are based on the following 10 elements of healthy relationships. The real work of maintaining our relationships is to keep each of these areas evolving and working for everyone involved. If each participant does their part by showing up in these 10 areas, while avoiding the unhealthy behaviors of drama, using, or manipulation, relationships become healthy, easily maintained and sustainable.
Here are the 10 elements of healthy relationships:
1. Trust. Relationships are built on trust. Trust is earned when each participant keeps and fulfills commitments, agreements and promises. Trust is also dependent upon the level of honesty exchanged. If truth is lacking between two people, then there is probably little trust. If truth and honesty are missing in the relationship, then trust suffers or is nonexistent.
2. Communication. For effective communication to occur in relationships, it must have the elements of responsiveness, openness, and honesty. Taking the time to respond thoughtfully rather than simply reacting always serves us better. Open and honest communication deepens the bond between people and leads to lasting relationships.
3. Honesty. Telling the truth is the foundation upon which lasting relationships are built. With a high degree of truth telling, agreements in relationships can be based on facts rather than assumptions, partial truths, or lies. Healthy relationships require a high degree of honesty and integrity.
4. Reciprocity. Reciprocity is the give and take in relationships that shifts over time. Healthy relationships give and take in patterns of reciprocity that are mutually beneficial to both parties. When patterns of reciprocity are balanced, then a relationship feels vibrant and both parties feel energized and fulfilled when they come together and when they part.
5. Time. Relationships are developed, built and maintained over time. It is important to look at the relationship as a whole; and avoid getting caught up on one event or uncomfortable moment, but rather seeing how isolated events relate to the totality of your interactions. You can’t look at one isolated incident or event to decide the fate of a relationship. There are some deal breakers, but there are often many more deal makers in relationships that make them worth the effort over time.
“A healthy relationship always has moments of disagreement; and conflict resolution reveals each person’s ability to compromise for mutual solutions.”
6. Compromise. People give and take (compromise) in ways nurturing to both people and the relationship. A healthy relationship always has moments of disagreement; and conflict resolution reveals each person’s ability to compromise for mutual solutions. People who are flexible and compromising find their relationships evolve organically and peacefully, even during times of conflict. What would the world be like if we all took personal responsibility for conflicts that arise?
7. Shared Values. There is a natural tendency in all of us to seek those with similar values and beliefs. We do not always have to agree on our beliefs to have healthy relationships, but our shared values in certain areas often influence the capacity for healthy relationships to evolve. When we share most of our common values with another person, it is much easier to find common ground and makes for more compatible relationships.
8. Shared Interests. Being in a relationship is coming together to engage, and one of the ways we come together is through our shared interests and corresponding shared experiences. Some relationships seem to require a variety of experiences to keep them interesting and engaging, while others find comfort and enjoyment in the ritual of repeated activities together. The layering of shared experiences is how we come to know one another.
9. Respect. A relationship always begins with a precedent of mutual respect, but how it proceeds from there determines how respect unfolds in the relationship. You respect people when you value what they say, or you value what they do, and the best form of respect exists when both are present. Respect is built on words and actions based on honesty and truth.
10. Support. Through our care and support we nurture the relationships in our lives. Support is not only about helping each other through the difficult times, but also showing up to celebrate our successes in the good times. While our family of birth may provide that fiber of support early in our life, developing your chosen family built on reciprocal support brings us the resilience we can depend upon to nurture and sustain us in both the bad times, and the good times.
Looking at each of the elements dynamically over the course of time, rather than expecting all elements to be present at any static point in time, keeps our relationships fluid and resilient. When each element is present in our relationships, then the healthy relationships are sustainable over a lifetime, returning to us the gift of joy and happiness we seek in all of our relationships.
Steven DeSalvo is the author of the book "Relationship Dynamics," which looks at how we develop and sustain healthier dynamics in relationships that last a lifetime. Connect with Steven on Twitter at @BecomeAdult or visit www.BecomeAnAdult.com.