Love is respect. Love is communication. Love is feeling safe. What is your definition of love? This year, Catalyst is increasing our focus on healthy relationships and will be sharing information, inspiration and tools about how to have them.
We know that relationships exist on a spectrum.
On one side of the spectrum, we have abusive relationships. Abusive relationships look many different ways but they are always about Power and Control. Catalyst will always provide free services to victims of abusive relationships.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have healthy relationships which can also look a lot of different ways but the main theme of the relationship is Equality.
In the middle of the spectrum, we have unhealthy relationships where there is perhaps jealousy or a lack of communication. Many of us sometimes fall into the unhealthy side of the spectrum. If we take responsibility for ourselves in a relationship and work on our unhealthy habits, we will start to move towards having healthy relationships. Remember, love is a two way street, so you are only ever responsible for yourself in a relationship. Click here to read more about the Relationship Spectrum.
Lastly, know that the most important tool for having a healthy relationship with someone is to first have a healthy relationship with yourself. Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Listen to your emotions and get comfortable with setting boundaries. Love is RESPECT!Click here to see the Relationship Equality Wheel
Looking for love
When you are looking for a partner or evaluating your current relationship, it is important to have an idea of what qualities and values you desire in a mate.
If we value trust, respect, and ambition, but then are dating or in a relationship with someone who does not have those qualities, it would be good to ask yourself questions such as:
Why am I attracted to that person? What will the relationship look like? Is the relationship healthy? Why am I letting go of my values? Am I settling because I want a relationship or is this partner teaching me about new values?
There is no right or wrong answer. This process is all about self-reflection and defining for yourself what you want your relationships to look like.
Having healthy boundaries means knowing and understanding what your limits are and valuing yourself enough to enforce those limits.Here are some Tips for Setting Boundaries.
Name your limits.
You can't set good boundaries if you're unsure of where you stand. So identify your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits what you can tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed. Those feelings help us identify what our limits are.
Tune into your feelings.
Two common feelings come up when we let go of our boundaries: discomfort and resentment.
Resentment usually comes from being taken advantage of or not appreciated. When someone acts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, that's a cue to us they may be violating or crossing a boundary.
There are other times you might need to be direct. For instance, in a romantic relationship, time can become a boundary issue. Partners might need to talk about how much time they need to maintain their sense of self and how much time to spend together.
Give yourself permission.
Fear, guilt and self-doubt are big potential pitfalls. We might fear the other person's response if we set and enforce our boundaries. We might feel guilty by speaking up or saying no to a family member. Remember, boundaries aren't just a sign of a healthy relationship; they're a sign of self-respect. So give yourself the permission to set boundaries and work to preserve them.
Again, boundaries are all about listening to your feelings and honoring them. If you notice yourself slipping and not sustaining your boundaries, ask yourself,
"What's changed? Consider "What I am doing or [what is] the other person doing?" or "What is the situation eliciting that's making me resentful or stressed?" Then, mull over your options: "What am I going to do about the situation? What do I have control over?"
Consider your past and present.
How you were raised along with your role in your family can become additional obstacles in setting and preserving boundaries. If you held the role of caretaker, you learned to focus on others, letting yourself be drained emotionally or physically. Ignoring your own needs might have become the norm for you.
Also, think about the people you surround yourself with. "Are the relationships reciprocal?" Is there a healthy give and take?
Make self-care a priority.
Give yourself permission to put yourself first. When we do this, our need and motivation to set boundaries become stronger. Self-care also means recognizing the importance of your feelings and honoring them.
If you're having a hard time with boundaries, seek some support. Call Catalyst at 1-800-895-5476 to get more information.
Of course, we know that it's not enough to create boundaries; we actually have to follow through. It's important to assertively communicate with the other person when they've crossed a boundary. Being assertive and respectful is part of healthy relationships.
Like any new skill, assertively communicating your boundaries takes practice. Start with something small that is less threatening such as saying no to a friend. Setting boundaries can be uncomfortable, scary, and very challenging at first. Maintain healthy relationships that will respect your boundaries and support you setting them. Let go of the relationships that do not support you and trust in yourself that you are doing the right thing for YOU!
- Name your limits.
Healthy Relationship Cycle
All relationships go through cycles and different phases. There are times where everything feels perfect, times of tension, and then there are times where the tension breaks and the partners need to work out their issues through an argument. In a healthy relationship cycle, there is never any violence or feelings of fear. You should always feel safe physically, sexually, and emotionally meaning you don't fear your partner is going to tear you down. The overall theme of a healthy relationship cycle is EQUALITY. Sometimes relationships are "give and take" but both partners' needs and feelings are considered equally as important.Click here to see the Healthy Relationship Cycle
Healthy communication comes in a lot of different forms. The way that we communicate is influenced by our peers, family members, culture, etc.
No matter what our style of communication is, our intention should always be respect. When we do have arguments it is helpful to have some communication tools to help us maintain respect and equality. Arguments are about compromise, being assertive, and working toward a solution. Fights on the other hand, are aggressive, about power and control, and won't solve problems in the long run.
Of course, our emotions are real so sometimes anger and aggression comes up. We should be able to step back and communicate after these emotions have passed which is a part of setting healthy boundaries.
There are a lot of suggested rules below so start by picking two and work with them for a while and then add more. Remember, changing our communication is behavior modification so it can take time but if you are consistent you will see real happiness and peace in your relationships. Another good rule is to practice with smaller arguments so that when the big ones come you will be better equipped to use the tools. Lastly, you are only ever responsible for yourself in relationships. If your partner refuses to argue fair and be respectful, seek some support and you may need to let the relationship go.Click here for the Fair Argument Rules
A healthy sense of self-esteem is integral to having healthy relationships! When we consistently have high self-esteem we can practice self- respect and healthy relationships behaviors such as,
- Setting boundaries
- Letting go of toxic relationships and behaviors
- Communicating our feelings
- Trusting your partner
- Being honest
- Giving and receiving love and affection
Building and maintaining healthy self-esteem is a lifelong practice that we should make a daily commitment too. Sure, we all have days when we don't feel great about ourselves but we should aim to reduce those days and place them in the context of strong self-love.
Here are some tips to get you started on how to build healthy self-esteem but the list is endless. Remember to listen to your feelings. Healthy activities, thoughts, and people that make you feel happier and more energized will probably help your self- esteem. Also, use these positive affirmations and our fun activity, Recipe for Self-Esteem, to remind yourself why you are AWESOME!
Click here for Recipe for Self-Esteem