Do you have a healthy relationship? Sometimes, after being together for a while, and falling into patterns, you may not realize what healthy relationships and unhealthy relationships look like.
That’s why it’s important to ask yourself and your partner some deep questions to get to the bottom of it.
It’s also important to take a look at the things your partner asks of you.
If you’ve spent years in a relationship, you’ve probably experienced the discomfort of hearing demands beyond the basic “honey to-do” lists.
Typically, your partner may want more “love”, which may mean kindness, peace, joy, generosity, affection, and passion. Perhaps, your spouse has dared to request more or better sex!
When you hear these words, the biggest challenge is that they interrupt your false sense of security. When you live with someone for many years, you expect to be loved, unconditionally.
And you may believe that you are … but is that true?
You may have heard about black mold that lives inside of walls and poisons the air. Long-term resentments are endemic in most long-term relationships and lies of omission are the first step to a disaster that can make the entire “structure” unsafe, leading to unhealthy relationships.
So, learn how to have a healthy relationship by asking these 7 deep relationship questions:
1. When you are asked to “change”, is there a benefit?
Heart-centered listening is the most crucial skill you need in healthy relationships. Learning how to listen in a loving and cooperative way can literally save your marriage and both of your lives.
When your partner complains and makes demands, do you see the benefits of providing more of what is requested? When you learn to demonstrate more intimacy, grow, and expand your heart for your own reasons, your own life, your love, and your family benefits.
2. How do you learn to hear complaints, differently?
Your partner feels safe enough to complain and is hopeful that these complaints would be heard with love.
But, if your partner feels hopeless that your relationship could never improve, you would not hear complaints. Instead, you hear that everything is “fine” and then you would have the additional task of encouraging honesty.
Until there is honesty, there is no possibility of unconditional love flowing to and from each of you and honesty requires listening skills.
This can be one of the more difficult questions for couples to consider, but it’s important for creating a healthy relationship.
3. What happens if you are angry or hurt by the complaints?
Too often, people withdraw even further and provide less of the kindness, peace, joy, generosity, affection, passion, and sex that is being requested.
This withdrawal will eventually rob you of the level of intimacy that did exist between you. And, it’s one of the quickest routes to an unhealthy relationship.
4. Can you listen to requests and demands for “more” in a way that meets your partner’s needs?
The solution is to listen objectively, without taking it personally as if we were under attack.
Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D., founder of Nonviolent Communication® and one of my mentors said this in his book Being Me, Loving You:
“Love is not just something we feel, but it is something we manifest, something we do, something we have. And love is something we give: we give of ourselves in particular ways. It’s a gift when you reveal yourself nakedly and honestly, at any given moment, for no other purpose than to reveal what’s alive in you. Not to blame, criticize, or push. Just ‘Here I am, and here is what I would like, this is my vulnerability at this moment.’ to me, that giving is a manifestation of love.”
5. How do you use the honeymoon phase to build an honest and stable future?
Do you remember when you were falling in love? Can you recall that all you wanted to do was connect with each other? And when that wasn’t possible, the second-best option was to think about and talk about your beloved?
Like Christopher Columbus, you were discovering a precious new continent — full of what a dear friend calls “the treasures/pleasures” of love. This is the time to discover everything you possibly can because later fear will creep in — fear of potential loss of this unique world that is your partner and you.
It is this fear that creeps in before indifference and indifference is the death knell of love. When people are reluctant to tell you their truth, it is because it no longer seems worth it to them. They feel hopeless that deeply intimate love is possible between you.
In the early days, you can ask lots of relationship questions to motivate someone to explain their romantic and sexual preferences, their financial situation, and their vision of the future. Learn about their fantasies and remember that a shared fantasy is envisioned by two or more over time has a high probability of becoming a shared reality.
6. How do you avoid arguing with your partner and shutting down?
Many peaceful and loving couples have confusion about arguments. You want to avoid fights and yet you find that numbness has crept over the intimacy you once shared. You look at your partner and they either have the enthusiasm or adoring face that was your first indication of love.
This is caused by “good manners”. Couples who are extremely civilized with one another are unwilling to say what is really on their minds. They usually lack the skills to speak their truth in a peaceful yet honest, open manner that allows deep levels of connection and passion to emerge. Healthy relationships are not built out of these habits.
When one of you learns to speak with a “Needs Vocabulary” without sounding like a victim, you can enter into a new phase of honesty which is essential to passion. Be careful if this is new to you — harsh words aren’t honest words and vice versa.
The ability to speak about needs rather than accusations is the key to reconnection and this takes training and practice.
7. How do you and your partner shift from making demands to making requests?
Once you hear a complaint without feeling resentful or sad, the next step is to be willing to hear “no” from your partner. If you can’t hear a “no” without feeling triggered, then your request wasn’t actually a request; it was a demand.
When you make what you believe is a request and are unable to hear anything but “yes”, then your partner will feel pressure and a lack of autonomy. For many partners who want peace, they will pretend.
And after years and years, that dam will break and there will be a drastic disconnect, and an unhealthy relationship to show for it.
When you learn to encourage your partner to say “no”, you shift your relationship away from lies and omissions that burrow into long-term relationships and destroy them from within, just like black mold.
Susan Allen is a certified Mediator and communication expert. For a complimentary session, please email her.