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The Three C's In A Healthy Relationship

Three components are critical in building a solid foundation and sustaining just about any healthy relationship.

Love & Relationships

When we think about healthy relationships, immediately I think about what it takes to have a healthy body. Ask any doctor or take any blood test, and you will be given clear indicators of your health, or lack thereof. While all of us have different body shapes and blood types, there are specific universal factors (i.e., heart rate, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.) that contribute to our overall health.

Similarly, no relationship is exactly the same because everyone has different personalities, needs, and love languages. However, beyond some of the obvious things like attraction, intimacy, and love, the following three characteristics are critical in building a solid foundation and sustaining just about any healthy relationship.

The Three C's Of A Healthy & Happy Relationship

Communication (Civil)

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As one of the three most important relationship characteristics, communication may sound obvious, but you may be surprised to know how many people aren't able to adequately articulate their thoughts, opinions, and emotions. Communication isn't just the key, in fact, how you communicate is just as critical. Additionally, you have to be willing to listen as much as, or more than, you talk.

When my husband and I first got married, we were communicating for sure, but we were not doing so in a way that was healthy or helpful for either of us. From hitting below the belt and yelling at each other to ignoring each other and walking out or running away from the conversation, you would've thought we were on an episode of Love & Hip Hop.

Not only was the way we communicated unhealthy, it was also unproductive.

That's not to say that you won't have heated discussions or arguments in a relationship, because everyone has their issues. However, it's critical to find better ways to communicate effectively if you want to make it through the ups and downs.

Commitment

Commitment is yet another healthy relationship characteristic. And I'm not just talking about going from dating to being in an exclusive relationship, or getting engaged, or even getting married. I'm also not implying that you should stay through any and everything merely for the sake of being in a relationship.

Rather, when I say commitment, what I am referring to is being committed to staying together even:

  • On the days when it doesn't feel like the fairytale you imagined,
  • When people can't see the petty arguments behind the pretty pictures posted on the 'gram,
  • When the so-called 'newlywed season' wears off,
  • When the "worst" comes before the "better" after you get married, or
  • When you experience growing pains or difficult seasons.

It's choosing to fight more for each other than against each other. Basically, the same fervor and fortitude that went into making it down the aisle, should be multiplied when it comes to making the marriage last. Anybody can be in a relationship, but it takes that much more to stay in a relationship.

Candor

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Candor is simply another word for honesty and sincerity. It unlocks the doors to vulnerability, intimacy, and trust...the major components that separate dating and courting from genuine, exclusive love. It's the place where you can be you without judgment, and you can be your most vulnerable self. I've never felt more comfortable to be me than until I met and married my husband.

Candor also allows couples to have the tough, yet necessary, conversations regardless of how difficult they may be. When people say, "Oh, we don't have disagreements or we never argue," that usually means to me that someone isn't being honest with themselves and/or they're not being honest with their significant other. Yes, you have to choose your battles because it's important not to "major in the minor" to prevent from turning molehills into mountains. However, toxic things like bitterness and resentment often reside where frustration and unresolved issues linger.

There have been times when, unfortunately, I've witnessed situations where people were more honest and upfront about their marital issues with other people than their spouses; which usually and unfortunately led to bigger issues including infidelity. But that's where candor comes…it helps eliminate the need for anyone to feel as if they can't be completely honest with their partner.

Furthermore, openness and vulnerability often initiate the journey towards healing whether it's for the individual or to help resolve an issue within the relationship. As with most things in our lives, healing usually begins when we first admit that there's an issue. When that doesn't happen, how, then, can the healing begin or how can you rectify a situation if you're not willing to be 100% open with each other? Not to mention, if I'm not aware of something, then how can I begin to work on it or help you work through it?

At the end of the day, if you can't be vulnerable with the person you spend the most time with, then who can you be open with? Although it takes time because many of us build emotional walls and being vulnerable can feel uncomfortable, nobody should know you better than your partner knows you.

Although this list isn't exhaustive, rest assured that these three healthy relationship characteristics––communication, commitment, and candor––will definitely set you up for success for a happy, healthy and loving relationship.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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