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 components are critical in building a solid foundation and sustaining just about any healthy relationship:
This 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.
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, 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 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 components––communication, commitment, and candor––will definitely set you up for success for a sustainable and loving relationship.
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