With all the talk about giving and receiving empathy and understanding on the podcast this week, it got me thinking about healthy connections in general, because without the safety of a healthy relationship, empathy can’t happen. At least not genuinely and without an agenda – but that’s a blog for another day. I think the following are necessary building blocks for a healthy relationship, and when present create a rich experience that feeds us as we grow it.
There are healthy boundaries. Individually and together. Each of you is knowledgeable about, and practices healthy boundary setting with others and yourself via self-discipline. Therefore, it is more emotionally safe because no one is rescuing, controlling or manipulating. There is little drama since agreements can be made and honored, there is mutual detachment and respect, and therefore a high degree of trust.
You Share A Lot of the Same Values. Each of you took time in the beginning of the relationship to ask questions and to discern if their values were similar to yours. Since our values influence what we believe, think and feel, there is less unnecessary conflict in the relationship because you don’t need to fight over the difference in values being played out in situations.
You Share Openly and Vulnerably. Since there are boundaries and thus emotional safety and trust, you have together set the tone for deeper, more vulnerable sharing from your authentic selves. You can tell each other the truth in a loving way, and not avoiding or protecting the other from reality. You have built this connection slowly over time, gathering moments of sharing and attentive listening with empathy. This creates a lasting bond that fosters self-confidence and growth.
You Make Time for One Another. This means each of you, on average, makes time for the relationship and makes time for each other when needed, such as during a crisis or an important milestone. This connects back to each of you having boundaries and knowing how to manage self and plan ahead so you can show up. It also entails considering what the other needs and not just your own.
There is much, much more to a healthier relationship, yet I think these are basic and non-negotiable if we want a great connection that becomes greater than the sum of its parts. I argue even during Covid, we can reach out and connect via phone, online or outdoor greetings. It’s not optimal or the same as an in-person hug, but just as if they were stuck in the hospital or deployed, we can get creative and find ways to let them know they matter, and that the connection matters, because it does.