If you’ve ever been in an unhealthy relationship, you were likely able to recognize it as unhealthy either while you were in the relationship or looking back on it now. You aren’t alone if you’ve ever been in a toxic relationship - in fact, 60% of people report staying in a toxic/unhealthy relationship longer than they should have. Unhealthy relationships are characterized by a lack of respect for each other, dishonesty, dependence, divided control, and even violence. The consequences of staying in an unhealthy relationship are physical complications such as cardiac problems, increased risk of mental health disorders, a lack of safety or feeling of safety, and trouble finding or maintaining your identity.
Luckily, many others are in healthy relationships. In fact, one study reports 64% of Americans are happy in their relationship - this number is much higher than in prior years! Some signs of a healthy relationship are open communication, commitment, kindness, and teamwork. Some benefits of staying in a healthy relationship are decreased stress, improved healing ability, a more health-sustaining lifestyle, more meaning in your life, and a longer life.
It’s clear healthy relationships are preferable to unhealthy ones. But - how do you build a healthy relationship? Take these tips from Dr. Holder’s new book, “Six Key Steps to Unlocking a Healthy and Productive Relationship”!
Know Thyself First
This one may surprise you! Our first tip to building a healthy relationship is to get to know yourself first. Knowing yourself means knowing your values; what is important to you? It also means knowing your communication patterns; how do you get your point across? Finally, it could mean knowing what emotional baggage you bring to the table; what past wounds are you carrying?
Think of it this way: how many times have you had a fight in a relationship about one thing, but it’s really about another? You may be fighting literally about your partner leaving socks next to the hamper, but really, you’re upset because you feel taken for granite and like you’re doing more than your partner to keep the house in order. If you know yourself, you’re more likely to recognize that division of chores is something you find important. After knowing your value and boundaries, you can communicate them more effectively - sparking a conversation about your feelings and solutions instead of socks.
Avoid Marriage Breakers
Marriage breakers are anything that works to tear down your marriage. These can be personal qualities - are one or both of you emotionally immature? Envious? Hostile? Breakers can be actions, like violence, violating trust, or infidelity. Breakers can even be the environment - are you both walking on eggshells around each other? Can you cut the tension in the air with a knife?
Avoiding marriage breakers means incorporating marriage builders - we’ll talk about this next!
Incorporate Marriage Builders
Opposite to marriage breakers, marriage builders are anything that will help to elevate your marriage. These can also be personal attributes - are you both communicative? Supportive? Kind? Builders can be actions, like listening, helping, or holding. Builders can also be the environment - do you both feel safe with each other? Does home feel like a good place to be?
Incorporating marriage builders is work. It involves consciously making the choice to act in an uplifting way. Sometimes, it can be hard to receive our spouse (and hard for our spouse to receive us!) in an open, loving, supportive way. Builders start with an intention: a choice to try our best to show up for each other.
Want to learn more about self-awareness, marriage breakers, and marriage builders? Purchase Dr. Holder’s new book, “Six Key Steps to Unlocking a Healthy and Productive Relationship”, off Amazon today!
Not looking for relationship builders, but instead business builders? Dr. Holder also has an online course - “The ABCs of Starting a Counseling Business”. If you’re a counselor trying to navigate the field of opening a private practice, this course is for you.