Is Your Relationship Healthy, Going Through Growing Pains, Or Simply Not Working Out?
Is Your Relationship Healthy, Going Through Growing Pains, Or Simply Not Working Out? (2017) — When the topic of relationships comes up, one of the first images that comes to my mind is quicksand. It doesn’t matter if the relationship is good or bad, every relationship has characteristics which are similar to quicksand, the main one being you are being pulled together into a force which is greater than either one of you alone. That force may be positive or negative, irregardless it is a force, and you are being sucked into it.
Reflecting on the question, “Is your relationship healthy?” Just over two years ago, I received an email from a wonderful lady who was now single again after a long marriage. In her email, she wrote, “For the last few years of my relationship, he was a good friend but nothing more, like a roommate who never touched me, or pursued any kind of deep relationship with me.”
If we are going to talk about romantic relationships, then we must be clear in our understanding of what a romantic relationship is versus a platonic relationship.
Is Your Relationship Healthy – What Is A Platonic Relationship?
There is a great deal of confusion between people in understanding the line between platonic and romantic relationships.
Platonic relationships are best described as a social relationship with one or more other people, where people interact with each other, share similar characteristics and collectively have a sense of unity.
There are key markers which usually exist in a platonic relationship, and they include:
- The establishing of an acquaintance;
- The build up or “getting to know you” stage;
- The continuation stage where a relationship carries on without significant change;
- The deterioration stage where distancing from each other begins;
- The termination stage.
Most platonic relationships are routinely identified between people who are learning to trust each other with topics such as their personal weaknesses, mistakes, fears, and behaviours ( often described by some as platonic love). As platonic relationships progress, conflicts arise and it’s here that many people learn how to disagree with, challenge, and question one another. This is usually as far as most platonic relationships go. There is no permeance in one’s commitment to the other.
Platonic friendships can be deep and life long without crossing over into the emotional and physical intimacy found in a romantic relationship.
Is Your Relationship Healthy – What Is A Romantic Relationship?
Is your relationship healthy? Romantic relationships are different when compared to platonic relationships, as they include a neurological and biological component.
The key markers of a romantic relationship include:
- The establishing of an acquaintance;
- The neurological or chemical response which triggers an attraction (infatuation);
- The build up or “getting to know you” progression where relational intimacy begins to develop and establish itself;
- The commitment progression, (where infatuation begins to grow into love) whether discussed and decided upon as a couple in a formal manner, or where one loses any interest in pursuing a relationship with someone else other than their current partner;
- The practicing of physical intimacy in a variety of forms from cuddling, to kissing, to the stimulation of erogenous zones, sexual intercourse;
- The continuation progression where a relationship expands the depth of it’s people skills, communication skills including conflict resolution skills, emotional intelligence, accountability, vulnerability, emotional literacy, social intelligence, social skills based on a new “couple” identity, and socionics;
- The deterioration progression where a couple learns to successfully or unsuccessfully address relational complacency, abuse, infidelity, breaches of trust, and lack of accountability;
- The termination progression through death at the end of a life long commitment, or early termination by mutual or individual choice.
Is Your Relationship Healthy – How Do You Know?
Is your relationship healthy? Every relationship faces challenges and hurdles – to think otherwise would be nothing short of a delusion. For relational intimacy to exist, there must be a strong sense of being in a close personal association complete with a sense of belonging together. (Intimate relationship, n.d.) That includes growing comfortable with your partner’s pimples, body odour, and sorry to say… the ramifications of their flatulence.
Genuine intimacy in human relationships requires dialogue, transparency, vulnerability, and reciprocity. (Intimate relationship, n.d.) The key point that many lose sight of is found in the word “reciprocity”. Healthy relationships require that two people be committed to the ongoing nurturing of an intimate relationship.
To sustain a healthy relationship for any length of time, there is a required well-developed emotional and interpersonal awareness. Healthy relational intimacy requires the willingness of each other to be both healthy individuals as well as healthy partners committed to an intimate relationship. (Intimate relationship, n.d.)
Healthy relationships grow out of healthy relational skills. Poor skills in developing relational intimacy can lead to problems which arise from getting too close too quickly; struggling to find the boundary needed to sustain a relational connection; being poorly skilled as a friend or life partner, rejecting self-disclosure (withholding personal details) or even rejecting friendships and those who have a healthy relationship (Intimate relationship, n.d.)
The psychological consequences of dysfunctional intimacy problems are often found in adults who have difficulty in forming and maintaining intimate relationships such as those who would fall into the categories of being narcissists, or those who possess an avoidant adult attachment style.
Some healthy relational partners often experience the dysfunctional relational limitations of their partners, especially in the area of intimacy, and thus develop fears of adverse relational consequences or decay resulting in a disruption or collapse of the relationship.
Studies show that when a relational partner struggles with, or walks through life exhibiting a fear of intimacy, it negatively impacts relational comfort, emotional closeness, and relationship satisfaction. Those same studies show that when a relational partner struggles with intimacy, that fear positively feeds and deepens patterns of loneliness and personality trait anxiety.
Every relationship provides signs which help a person gauge the current health of a relationship. When we stop to ask the question, is your relationship healthy, then these are a few questions we want to ask ourselves:
- Does your partner tend to stay inside their head leaving you confused as to what he or she is feeling or thinking? If so, then your partner is struggling in matching your investment in relational intimacy and an imbalance exists.
- Do you find yourself spending time with your partner wondering if they do or do not actually love you, or did you have to ask them if your relationship was a genuine relationship or not?
- Does he or she choose to interact with other members of your sex (friends who continually ask them out knowing they are in a relationship with you) in a manner which leaves you feeling off balance, questioning the strength of your relationship? Does your relationship go on for months without your partner publicly declaring their relationship status change in social media profiles?
- Does he or she repeatedly leave you feeling as if you are a convenience but not a priority?
- Does he or she disguise their put downs of you as “sarcastic” humour.
- When he or she gets angry, do you feel at risk?
- Does he or she focus on what they are or are not getting from you in the relationship, without visibly investing themselves in the relationship? (Love is an act of giving…not receiving. If a partner is not giving to you or the relationship, then there are grounds to question the presence of your partner’s love for you.)
- Have conflicts become a contest as to who can hurt the other the most, without providing any form of constructive conflict resolution?
- Is he or she being secretive about past relationships (a major personal health concern), or dishonest about issues such as family relationships, money, or the status of current relationships. Or is he or she continually asking you to spend your money or time, without stepping up to share the costs or invest their time helping you?
- Is he or she jeopardizing the intimacy in the relationship by discussing, without your consent, the private details of the relationship with friends.
If you answered yes to, or identified with any of the above scenarios, then your relationship is not running on an even keel, and may not be definable as a healthy relationship, but more definable as a destructive relationship.
There is a huge difference between a healthy relationship stumbling through growing pains and a destructive relationship. When a destructive relationship tries to grow forward, one or both partners begin to experience deepening disappointment, anger, self-doubt, and inner anguish as they watch the relationship crash on the rocks, leaving both partners battered and bruised, figuratively speaking.
Is Your Relationship Healthy, or Just Going Through Growing Pains?
It’s not uncommon for relationship partners to individually grow concerned over the status of their relationship failing to realize the relationship is healthy, just simply going through a relational seasonal change.
While some psychologists will tell you, a relationship goes through 3 stages, others will say there are four seasons to a relationship, while once again others will say there are 5 stages to a relationship. Each season or stage change in the relationship involves a process of growth and acceptance. Challenges often arise when one partner fails to realize that each partner will grow and develop at different paces. Occasionally, the partner who grows forward more quickly than the other partner will incorrectly interpret their partner’s slower growth as complacency or lack of interest in the relationship, when nothing could be further from the truth.
I hold to the belief that there are 7 stages to a normal relationship, and those stages are:
- The Infatuation/Romantic stage.
- The commitment stage.
- The learning how to work through conflict and compromise stage.
- The return of the romantic stage.
- The season of doubt and questioning of the relationship stage.
- The deepened romantic stage.
- Termination through death of a partner, or break up.
In each of the above-mentioned stages, as a couple progresses, their relationship will mature and deepen. In each of these stages, a relationship requires work.
Is Your Relationship Healthy, Or Simply Not Working Out?
There comes a time, when a person comes face to face with the tough question…is my relationship healthy or simply not working out?
The decision-making process can seem simple for some, but for others the thought of breaking up can entail many messy details (children can be involved, bank accounts, assets, furniture, reputations, etc.).
Every relationship requires two contributing partners for it to exist.
Your love is not defined by what your partner gives to you, how much he or she earns, what they do for a living, or what their interests are, it is defined by what you give to your partner relationally speaking.
The fastest way to destroy a relationship is to begin to place a greater focus on yourself than the relationship. When you begin to focus on what you need your partner to give you, or what you are not getting from the relationship, then your focus is completely on you, and once locked into that mindset, a relationship dies a quick death.
It takes two to tango, and it takes two to keep a relationship together. When one relational partner has made the decision to end the relationship or withdraw from it even while remaining under the same roof, then the relationship is over, and it’s important for each other’s health to make a clean break.
If you are in a destructive relationship, then it’s time to seek advice from those who can hear you, and challenge your thinking processes to ensure you are assessing the situation clearly, void of the relational confusion that often clouds our perspective in an abusive setting.
During difficult moments, it’s easy to be reactive. It’s important to understand that you are entitled to your feelings, and your partner is entitled to his or her feelings. What they, or anyone else thinks of you is none of your business, but you are still responsible for your actions.
Some years ago, I sat in a divorce support group listening to the new divorcees share the stories of their break up. The smallest lady in the room took her turn telling how her ex came back to the home to collect his stereo. He pulled into the driveway and up to the garage door as he had done so for years. Above the garage door was a small balcony leading into the master bedroom. Five minutes later he had his stereo in his car – she had dropped it off the balcony sending it right through the windshield.
What you think of yourself matters.
- Allow yourself time to emotionally heal.
- Healthy people always take time after a break up to assess and identify what they did to contribute to the break up, turning it into a personal growth process.
- Take time to separate the failure of the relationship from your self-worth. The relationship was a failure… you are not a failure.
- Find one to three key positive lessons to take with you from the relationship (learn to remember the relationship did have value even though it did not last).
- Silence your inner psycho, by not gossiping destructively about your ex, burning out your friends with all your former relational woes, and continually trying to hang onto your ex just enough to get “your digs” into his or her side.
- Your side of the story will never match his or her side of the story, and no one really cares about which side is accurate…they just love hot gossip. Learn to protect your reputation, as well as your ex’s by keeping your mouth shut. Empty wagons rattle a lot more than a full one. Let your ex be the empty wagon, be the one who is full of integrity and self-respect.
- Take time to re-discover yourself.
- Re-define your relational boundaries.
- Get your “self-talk” in order. Don’t rehearse thoughts such as, I’ll never find another, I am not attractive, no one will want me.
- Get back into the world of single adults. You will never get hit by “the love bus”, unless you step out into the traffic.
At some point in time, when the grieving process is done, and you have allowed enough time to heal emotionally, mentally make the decision to extinguish the torch and close the emotional door on your ex forever. Many relational experts believe it takes one year for every four years you were in a relationship to be ready to move on into a new relationship.
Part Three — Addiction in Relationships
“Is Your Relationship Healthy, Going Through Growing Pains, or Simply Not Working Out?” Written by – James C. Tanner