Bill White, MA
Love Relationship Coach for Singles and Couples
DEFINING A HEALTHY COUPLE
AND ASSESSING THE HEALTH OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP
There are certain specific arenas I assess at every session with couples to identify the level of health of the relationship. I’ll list what these are. You can use this list to self-assess the health of your relationship, to acknowledge the progress you’ve made based on where you started, to answer questions as to what might be slowing your progress, and to note what to focus on next.
[For clients I’m working with who aren’t making quick progress, there are essentially 3 corrections that usually have not been put into place with rigor: 1) Treating one another with kindness and respect at all times, or putting corrections in place ASAP, 2) Resolving every emotional upset that has you feel dislike or distance with your partner, 3) Noticing if you’re avoiding putting issues on the table, finding out why, and putting in the correction.]
Until ALL of these important arenas are in place, the relationship has not yet gotten on solid ground. With some of these arenas, if you haven’t put them in place, our work together will tend to be challenging and not fully rewarding. However, once all these are in place, the sessions become much easier, shorter in length, and less frequent. And your relationship will begin to feel harmonious and you will feel you are clearly on solid ground.
All of these can be measured on a scale from 0 to 10. You can measure 1) where you are for each question, 2) where you think your partner is, and if you like, 3) where you think your relationship is as a whole. Your partner can do the same.
1) What is the level of affinity you have for the other? Said another way, do you feel good about the other person? (This question can be considered in light of the present moment, or as an overall assessment).
2) Do you look at one another with softness? Are you playful? Does touch come naturally and easily?
3) Are each of you feeling safe with the other?
[NOTE: Affinity, warmth, playfulness and safety increase as the pieces below are put in place.]
4) Has each person committed to not ever ending the relationship based on reactions from emotional upset? That is, have you committed to resolving all emotional upset before making a decision about being in the relationship?
5) When one is upset, is each person willing to look at him or herself to find healing and solutions? (i.e., looking at feelings, needs, influence of childhood, and habitual and unworkable strategies from childhood.) Said another way, do you recognize right away that an upset is a cue to look within?
7) Is each person willing to acknowledge any part he or she played in the present challenge, apologize, as well as forgive oneself? Or are you intent on blaming the other and focusing on what your partner should change?
8) Are each of you able to recognize and acknowledge the emotional pain in your childhood relationships, or are you minimizing the pain and/or keeping family members in an unrealistically good light?
9) What’s the level of willingness to figure out how to shift into being vulnerable when one finds oneself in an automatic protection mode (i.e., anger, etc.)?
A) Are all of your significant emotional upsets being addressed and resolved? (Critical attitudes, judgments of the other, and feeling resentment are subtle forms of upsets.)
B) On the flip side, are upsets going unacknowledged, and are sensitive topics being avoided? Are you afraid of your partner’s reactions? Are you afraid of your reactions?
10) Are you treating one another with kindness and respect at all times and/or are you putting in corrections as soon as you notice you aren’t being kind and respectful? (Treating the other unkindly deeply triggers the other into painful feelings from difficult childhood experiences. Withholding love and other forms of withdrawing are essentially unkind acts, even if they’re done to reduce the emotional distress in the relationship. It’s perfectly healthy to withdraw when you need a time out. The time out is for you to recover by processing and dissolving your upset)
11) Are you capable of calling a time out when you can tell the interaction is not going to be fruitful and will only continue to create more emotional distress?
12) Are you doing things behind the other’s back, or have done in the past that you have to keep secret?
13) Are you both willing and committed to using a skilled third party when you can’t resolve things by yourself?
14) Are you making the health of the relationship one of your main priorities, or are the tasks of daily living and forms of entertainment more of a priority?
15) Is each person willing and able to cry?
16) Is either person compulsively using behaviors or substances to avoid feeling one’s emotional pain AND not being up front about it? This could be anything from alcohol to shopping to eating. To assess whether or not you’re using behaviors or substances to avoid feeling pain, ask yourself, “If I stopped or reduced using the substances (or doing these behaviors), would I feel anxious and distressed? Would my body feel achy and uncomfortable?
17) Are you able to listen compassionately to your partner’s concerns and emotional pain A) without feeling driven to express your concerns and pain, and B) without attempting to fix/suggest solutions?
18) Are you tolerating being treated unkindly and disrespectfully? Do you allow yourself to be mistreated? Are you capable of separating from your partner or ending the partnership, if your partner cannot or will not take corrective actions to ensure that you are treated with kindness and respect?
A couple who has reached a level of mastery still will have emotional upsets to address, but the couple:
- Uses conflict and emotional upsets as an opportunity to heal, grow, and deepen the level of intimacy,
- Is quicker to apply the above approaches,
- Is aware of most of their own childhood influences, as well as their partner’s,
- Has more compassion and understanding for oneself and one’s partner,
- Enjoys each other’s company,
- Enjoys talking and sharing with one another,
- Finds more fun, play, and humor in their relating,
- Looks into each other’s eyes,
- Naturally want to touch and be physically close,
- Is often emotionally moved by oneself and by the other,
- Easily and frequently expresses gratitude and appreciation for one another,
- Each person gives freely to the other because it always seems to each of you that the other is outgiving you.
End note: It can be easier to face the challenges inherent in a love relationship when the relationship is primarily about contributing to something greater than yourself. Have you considered organizing the relationship around contributing to the health, healing, and well-being of the other, as well as having the relationship be a contribution to others through your example and through your actions? Those ‘others’ might include children, extended family, friends, community—such as, work, church or spiritual group, etc., and humanity as a whole.
Your work towards creating healthy love relationships puts you on the front lines of creating a new world—a world of people who actually get along and love being with one another.
Copyright Bill White
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