By Shelia Rivers
With the new year upon us, our attention often turns to making improvements in our lives. If you find your most significant relationships are fraught with dysfunction, miscommunication and turmoil, now is the time to act.
To develop healthier relationships in 2019, keep the following in mind:
DETERMINE WHAT YOU WANT IN THE RELATIONSHIP
Being in a relationship that is not emotionally and psychologically supportive is like going into Walmart without a list. You will end up with anything in your basket and paying the price to have it. Many of us have visited our local Walmart and have some idea what we need, but the list is not written down nor saved on our phone. We keep rehearsing the list in our head – bread, milk, eggs, yogurt, granola bars and salad mix. It seems simple enough that we could remember those six items, but then something catches our eye in the electronics section. We now have strayed from the list.
Although we have something in the basket that could be useful, it was not among the needs for which we entered the store. Consider our lives the shopping basket, and our relationships with others the essential characteristic that govern the interactions. Determining what you want in a relationship should consist of realistic, functional characteristics. Be sure that your thought process is rational and consider the core values on which your own integrity, morals, values and beliefs are built on.
These factors may take a little time. It requires you to get to know who you are as a person and not the roles you play such as mother, aunt, father, friend, brother, etc. Although the roles you play may contribute to who you are, it should not define your being.
Communication is the key piece to healthy relationships, and the communication style is a fundamental building block. Assertive communication is a style in which a person voices his or her own wants and needs while respecting the rights of others and without behaving in a passive or aggressive way. Being able to effectively communicate consists of displaying interpersonal skills, such as verbal communication, nonverbal communication, listening, negotiation, problem solving and decision making. Consistent, open and honest communication allows the opportunity to have a deeper, more personal connection with the other individual.
IS THIS RELATIONSHIP HEALTHY FOR ME?
Healthy relationships support your emotional, psychological, and spiritual health. Emotional support helps us to encourage and empower each other. Emotional support not only is given when times are difficult, but it becomes part of your daily routine within the relationship. Psychological support provides adaptive ways of coping with stressors and decreases the probability of serious mental health issues developing. Spiritual support promotes wellness in areas that define who you are — your morals, your values and your beliefs as an individual.
EVERY RELATIONSHIP IS DIFFERENT
Being able to develop mutual, respectful and healthy relationships based on commonalities, integrity, morals, values and beliefs are a few factors that build a foundation for a resilient relationship. Fixing relationships may not always be defined as remaining in the relationship. If the relationship is not healthy, deciding to disconnect from the dysfunction and set healthy boundaries is another step toward making healthy lifestyle choices. Having the power to say, “No, this relationship is not for me at this time,” is the best way to protect your own peace, self worth and sanity. If at any point you find yourself torn in making the decision to fix the relationship or disconnect, developing maladaptive coping skills, uncertain of what you want from the relationship, struggling with ineffective communication or exhibiting and receiving non-support, seek professional help. This may give you a clearer understanding regarding the characteristics of a healthy relationship.
Shelia Rivers is owner and chief therapist at Rivers Psychotherapy Services, PLLC, located at 2218 18th St., Suite B, in Gulfport. She can be reached at (707) 728-5131.