A relationship is a commitment to yourself and to another individual to adapt, grow, change and prosper together. The investment that you make into a personal relationship can take much time and effort, but the end result can be very rewarding in terms of happiness, gratification and emotional fulfillment.
Relationships are important in addiction recovery. Overcoming an addiction is hard work, and along the way it is helpful – if not essential – to have the support of healthy relationships. During active addiction, however, many people inadvertently harm their relationships. Treatment helps you build them back up, and make new ones.
The meaningful connection that you build with another individual can make your life happier and easier. Many of the skills necessary for a happy and healthy relationship can be learned and repeated in other areas of life and with other relationships. According to the Office of Adolescent Health, as you grow with another individual, you learn greater communication skills and you become better at recognizing and showing feelings for various emotions on both sides.
Building a Romantic Relationship
Romance is a part of life that can bring lasting happiness. In fact, a good, romantic relationship can lead to improvements in every aspect of your life including your health, your emotional well-being and your spirit.
The following tips can help you to build a romantic relationship that will be emotionally fulfilling:
- Open communication channels. Being honest, direct and open with one another will lead to a very rewarding feeling. There’s nothing better than knowing that you have someone to talk to, a best friend who will listen and who will not get mad at you. When both people in a relationship are comfortable with taking to one another, openly and about anything, a romantic bond can really begin to form and to strengthen over time. When you are communicating openly with one another, it’s important to keep in mind that you can’t let your emotions cause you to say the wrong thing, you must pay attention to body language and make eye contact and you should make sure that your significant other knows that you are interested in hearing what they have to say. You can show interest by sharing your thoughts on what they have said, touching them or looking directly into their eyes as you are listening actively.
- Having fun with each other. Healthy relationships involve couples that go out and have fun together. It’s so easy to get caught up with others and to spend time apart and this pushes many couples even further from one another over time. Healthy, romantic relationships involve connecting with one another and having fun. Sometimes, this will mean making a compromise with one another. For instance, you may like to do one thing and your significant other may like something completely opposite. To compromise, make a commitment to take part in activities that you like sometimes and those that the other person likes at other times.
- Equality is the key. Relationships are built upon the grounds of equality. It’s important to make the other person feel like your equal and not to look down or frown upon them. Many relationships suffer simply because the couple does not take part in equality. You can participate in equality by helping each other out with responsibilities, helping each other out with the kids or with paying the bills and by always splitting the credit for the healthy relationship.
- Healthy arguments—yes, there are healthy ways to argue! Conflict is a healthy part of building a relationship but only if the conflict is kept to a minimum and if there are healthy outcomes from the conflict. Strong relationships will not focus on yelling and screaming at one another, holding grudges or keeping information from the other party in an effort to prevent retaliation. Healthy couples are responsible and when they do have a disagreement, they resolve it quickly, agree to disagree or find a way to compromise and move on.
Have fun together by taking part in these actions:
- make jokes that are funny and not destructive to the other party
- surprise each other by bringing home flowers or tickets to a favorite sports game
- write notes for one another and place them in inconspicuous places
- take tips from the kids on what’s fun – and then play with your spouse
- remember those days when the relationship was still new
It’s very easy for couples to fall into this humdrum way of life that leads to boredom, plainness and an inability to have fun. Healthy relationships will keep track of the early days and incorporate those early actions that led the couple to starting a relationship into their long term commitments. For instance, you may realize that the one you love used to always call you in the middle of the day just to say I love you—and now that doesn’t happen so much anymore. A healthy relationship is contingent upon you voicing your desire for such a call and on the other party listening to your concern and following up with an action that shows that they care.
Relationships are a Give / Take Pattern
Healthy relationships are a give and take process. There can’t be more giving than there is taking nor can there be more taking than there is giving. What this means is that you will have to learn how to make compromises, how to be accepting of flaws and how to work together. A relationship is a team effort and when both parties of the team are not equally involved in making strides to make things work, there can be mishaps. If you think that you are always going to be happy—think again! If you think that you are always going to get what you want – think again! Don’t set yourself up for failure by having unrealistic goals or desires within the relationship.
You can’t always win
If you think that you will always be right, your relationship will likely fail. Nobody is always right and part of the equality of a healthy relationship is to accept that you are not always right. You can’t always win or else there will be little desire on the other side to do better or to try. The “my way or the highway” attitude is not attractive to most people and even to those who do find it attractive, the attraction is usually short-lived.
Conflict should be resolved with respect
If you and your partner do have a fight, there are ways of resolving the conflict without making matters worse. By taking action to resolve conflict with respect you can keep your relationship strong and healthy without placing undue stress on one another. Some of the ways that you can resolve conflict in a respectful manner include:
- making sure that you are correct in your plight and if you are not, admitting your wrongdoing
- be willing to admit when you are wrong or when the other party is right
- do not place blame on the other part such as by saying “you always…” or “you never…”
- accept your feelings and emotions and communicate your emotions by saying things like, “I feel…”
- past arguments are all part of the past and should not be incorporated into new conflicts as this will only escalate matters and create more shame
- don’t drag other issues into the conflict if they are not related, instead focus on the issue that is at hand and resolve one conflict at a time
Myths and Facts about Relationships
Myth: A bad relationship is better than not having a relationship at all
Fact: It is not necessarily good to be in a relationship. If you are not in a healthy relationship and you are in a relationship that includes physical, emotional or verbal abuse than it would be better to not be in a relationship at all.
Myth: Men don’t have emotions the way that women do
Fact: If you think that men don’t feel many of the same emotions as women, you are wrong! Just because many men like to hide their feelings or their emotions, this does not mean that they do not feel and have many of the same emotions that women do. Men and women simply tend to voice their feelings or show their emotions in a different manner.
Myth: Love is easy and does not take work
Fact: When you love someone, you are willing to do whatever it takes to make it work and this can actually take work. True love is not everlasting happiness that never includes arguing, conflict or sadness. If you are mistakenly thinking that love is easy or that you will not have to work to keep a relationship healthy—you are wrong!
Myth: You can change a person to make them the perfect mate
Fact: If you go into a relationship with the intention of changing a persons behaviors or qualities to those which are more suited or likeable to you then you will be disappointed. You can’t change people—only the person can make the decision to make change.
Myth: Conflict is always a problem in a relationship
Fact: A relationship that does not have conflict, in a healthy manner, is not necessarily a strong relationship. This is because, if there is no conflict, there is a good chance that there are things that are not being addressed in the relationship and that a lack of openness is leading to the reduced conflict. Healthy relationships will include healthy conflict that will foster growth in communication and bonding.
Red Flag Warnings in Relationships
Sometimes, a relationship just won’t work and in many cases, the red flag warning signs are present very early on. For instance, if there is unhealthy conflict early on in a relationship such as fighting that includes verbal, emotional or physical abuse, there is a good chance that this relationship will never lead to a long lasting, healthy and romantic relationship. It’s important to recognize red flags early on to prevent lost time or wasted time as well as to help you steer clear of instances that could lead to greater consequences.
Watch out for the following red flags early on in a relationship:
- Drug or alcohol dependence: If you realize that the only way you really like being around someone or have fun with the individual is when you are using drugs or alcohol, then the relationship is not healthy and should be avoided.
- Trust issues and problems with making a commitment: If you are with someone for a prolonged period of time but the insist on staying separate or not making any major commitments, there could be a problem. Some people take more time to make major commitments than others but if there are trust issues involved, accusations are being made or there is similar conflict this could be a warning sign.
- Lack of interest: If you realize that you have a lack of interest in the other person or that the other person has interests elsewhere such as in watching television or playing on the computer rather than spending time with you than this a definite warning sign that should be recognized early on in a relationship.
- It’s all about the sex: If you realize that your bonding with an individual is only taking place in the bedroom, and your interest in the other person is merely sexual or physical in nature, this will not lead to a healthy relationship.
- Abusive actions: Many early relationships can be ended with less stress, less hassle and fewer long term consequences if abusive actions were noticed early on. If your partner is controlling, verbally abusive, physically abusive or emotionally abusive, you should consider moving on right away.
Coping with the Relationship Roller Coaster
As previously stated, a relationship that is not marked by periods of ups and downs may not necessarily be a healthy relationship. The relationship roller coaster is a fact of life and every healthy relationship will have periods of happiness and periods of sadness, feelings of contentment and feelings of conflict. You have to be able to effectively cope with all of these feelings and periods of ups and downs in a healthy way in order to build and foster a strong and healthy relationship.
Keep in mind that everyone is different and that we all cope with stress in different ways. Early on, relationships are contingent upon learning the ways and actions of one another, the behaviors of one another and how we make things work. Some behaviors will impact us in different ways and misunderstandings can quickly turn into major conflicts if we are not careful to make sure that we take the other individual’s feelings into our consideration.
Here are some tips for overcoming hurdles in a relationship:
- Don’t let life’s stress get the best of you. You may feel compelled to take a bad day at work out on your partner or to vent your feelings but this can be detrimental to your relationship. Life is a stressful event and you will likely face many different stressful situations each day. Do not take these problems out on your significant other. You can talk to your partner about the things that cause you stress but be sure not to point fingers or to allow your stress to turn into anger against your significant other.
- Focus on synergy. A relationship is a team effort and two people are always better than one when they work together as a team. Sometimes, a problem will be more than you can handle even with your partner and you will require help. Don’t be afraid, when working with your partner, to ask for outside help too—you can’t conquer the world.
- Change is a fact of life—embrace it! Realizing that change is a common part of life that both you and your partner will go through as you age and grow together will help you to be more understanding. As your relationship grows, there will be many instances of adaptation, change and growth that you should be open and willing to embrace.
- Problems won’t go away on their own. If you think that you can just brush problems off and they will eventually go away—you are mistakenly wrong. Don’t think that a problem, which needs addressing, can be simply ignored and that it will go away. Out of sight, out of mind does not work for problems in relationships. Instead, accept that if there is a problem in a relationship, you must work it out with your partner as a team and find a mutually acceptable and rewarding solution that works for you both.