How to be a Healthy Individual in a Relationship
Strengthen yourself, strengthen your relationships
A relationship involves two people, two individuals.
Individuals crave both connection and freedom. And a healthy relationship must facilitate both.
Connection builds through increasing vulnerability with another person over time. Vulnerability is about letting down our natural walls of defence. It is about letting people see more of us. Vulnerability is dependent on building trust over time. It is about taking risks at the right times, while giving and receiving compassion and care.
We build freedom by communicating and respecting agreed upon boundaries. Boundaries are about dignity and respect. They communicate belief in each person's capacity. They affirm each person's responsibility for their own life. Boundaries protect and encourage both freedom and responsibility.
It can be difficult to know when to be vulnerable or to hold a boundary. This skill requires awareness and practice. So, give yourself and others grace, and keep trying. Especially if no-one has role-modelled those skills as you were growing up. Think about the relationships around you now. Who models both vulnerability and boundaries well? Even as an adult role-models are a great way to learn. They represent embodied learning. Role-models communicate subtle postures that would be tricky to understand any other way.
Both vulnerability and boundaries are important in relationships. Knowing this, how might you take a step forward in both of those areas?
Here are three suggestions to do so:
Understand your emotions and take responsibility for them Realise that your internal world is your own, to look after and understand. Do you take time to process your emotions by yourself or with a therapist? This is a huge part of both vulnerability and boundaries. Knowing your internal world reduces fear around vulnerability and helps with authenticity. Knowing your internal world means understanding why you react in certain situations. This means that you are better able to uphold your boundaries and set healthy ones.
Celebrate differences, rather than judging the other You have heard it before, “opposites attract and then react”. Are you into the react stage? I would encourage you to begin bringing more awareness to your reactions. What is going on for you when you react or judge? What is the fear that underlies that reaction or judgement? What is the train of thought? What is the “truth” that you are holding on to, and how might that differ from reality? Once you know why you are reacting, then you are in a better position to be able to respond in a more helpful way. Compromise and willingness to change are part of all relationships. But sometimes we need to celebrate difference instead.
Plan time for yourself that includes self-care and building your unique identity Set aside enough time to engage in self-care and in activities that rejuvenate you. "Enough" is dependent on current responsibilities, and the season of life you are in. Time spent in self-care and rejuvenation should refresh you. It should align you with your unique identity and cultivate excitement and curiosity. I would encourage you to cultivate this time alone. However, it can be a good source of conversation with the other person. It is a part of your life that they can enter only by your permission and sharing.
Vulnerability and boundaries are difficult. But behind them are connection and freedom. Give yourself time to think about and talk about these ideas. Particularly with your close relationships. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a message. If you would like to book a session for yourself, or as a couple, head to the services page.
By strengthening yourself as an individual you are strengthening your relationships. You are heading in the right direction!