I often talk about how we are in relationships with others and that’s really a generic term to refer to all connections with other people but today I’m talking about romantic relationships and partnerships and the importance of modelling healthy ones.
Certainly for our own happiness we need to learn about healthy relationships and seek to be in them for ourselves but the focus of this talk is really more on where we learn how to be in relationships in the first place and why it’s so important as parents (or anyone who will one day be a parent) to model healthy romantic relationships.
We learn how to be in romantic relationships from witnessing our parents relationship (or one parent with their significant other) as well as with the bonding and attachment with have primarily with our opposite sex parent. This is where the early formations for attachment and health begin in our brain development around age 5 or 6. From there we start experimenting with those attachments and patterns in adolescence when we start to date ourselves.
What we learn from our family of origin and whatever dynamics make that up are important concepts like healthy affection, healthy communications, how to set boundaries, how to fight fair, repair and forgive.
If we don’t have healthy examples of this we tend to repeat what we’ve witnessed and that can be anywhere in a range from what’s mildly unhealthy to pure dysfunction or toxic abuse.
We generally are attracted to what’s familiar on an unconscious level. If we aren’t having discussions with our parents pre-dating about what to look for and how to be in healthy relationships, and many of us didn’t get those, we tend to “fall” into relationships based on whomever we are attracted to or whoever presents us with an offer.
We can enter into adolescence and dating with a less than optimal vision of what relationships should be and then have to figure it out as we go. This is painful and all of us know it. This is where patterns start to get repeated and tendencies show up.
If there has been a neglectful of absent parent then we can easily go into adolescence with an unconscious starving for that kind of connection and seek it from a substitute. These are not going to be good choices.
Void fillers are often absent and neglectful in their interest in us and so we end up recapitulating those patterns and depending those early wounds in our system. It’s a set up for failure and heartache.
What’s the solution:
1. Bring awareness to what was modelled for you early on and what you like and don’t like about it.
Start actively rejecting your past that no longer serves you in a healthy way.
Look at what your own dating experiences and patterns have been like. What are similarities or differences? Again… what serves you in a healthy way and what doesn’t?
2. Educate yourself on what healthy relationships look like. Know what you want in a partner and of yourself.
Stop compromising or bending – true, no one is perfect and neither are you, but we often set the bar too low for the sake of affection, attention, and connection particularly if we didn’t have that in our development.
Healthy relationships are
- reciprocal in their giving
- warm, accepting, safe, and open
- trusting and honest
- you don’t hold back, you get benefit of the doubt
- they are passionate – and emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically and in healthy ranges
- There is an absence of manipulation, passive aggressive behaviour, projection, name calling, violence of any kind, jealousy and possessiveness
- they make you more of what is great about you and accept what is not – they allow you to be as big and bold as you want to be and as vulnerable as you need to be without guilt, shame, or power
- both people are works in progress to be better people individually without expecting a partner to fix them or create happiness on their behalf
Start looking at healthy and unhealthy dynamics so you know what to be drawn to or veer away from and make this conscious.
3. Know your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Work on them and be aware of them. Don’t hide or ignore them. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel ashamed of them. Don’t overcompensate for them.
You get to be human and still have the right to a loving partner who doesn’t play games and doesn’t use your weaknesses against you.
4. Act the part. Treat another person you want to be in relationship with or are in relationship with as you would want your son or daughter treated. Accept treatment that you would only want for them.
You would want the best for them, start holding out for the best for you – that’s where they will learn how to seek it, wait for it, appreciate it.
If your kids were watching your relationship would you want the same for them? In and out of the bedroom? In front of them and away from them?
Are you treating people in ways you would never want for your own child? Are you accepting the same? Would they be proud of the example that you are showing in this moment?
They are watching. This is making an impression. Set your standards accordingly because we often set them higher for our kids or because of our kids than we do for ourselves.
This is the best example for success in their whole life that you can give them. Yes it’s lots of pressure and you will fail sometimes and you will feel horribly guilty. Get over it and get better. Because they will do what you do including watching how you recover from disappointment and heartache.
Start with awareness, get educated and then choose to move in, out, and through your relationships with conscious intention. This will ripple down through generations if you can model health in this department.
Start new healthy patterns now because it’s never too late to show strength and model good examples.
You might want some help in this area – if you feel like you need support, talk to me [email protected]