Relationship Check-Up: Healthy vs. Unhealthy
A fundamental, basic human need is to be in a relationship with a loved one. We are biologically wired to desire relationships with other humans, and it is part of our survival. A loving healthy relationship makes us happier, healthier and more resilient. It also boosts self esteem and it increases life expectancy. For example, physical contact with a loved one calms one’s heart, reduces anxiety, and creates a sense of safety within. Although it may feel vulnerable to rely on others, it is important to be aware that a relationship is a basic human need, so that one will reach out to others for necessary support and connection.
In contrast, when relationships are not going well, people become emotionally isolated and feel unsafe. When couples fight, it is because each partner does not feel acknowledged, heard or understood. The disconnection leaves individuals feeling alone and longing for a bond. Their disagreements lead to conflicts because of the underlying emotional disconnection. If couples were to really hear one another, their various issues could be approached as differences of opinion that will hopefully reach a compromise.
The following questionnaire is designed to assess the quality of your relationship. Take your time while answering each question. These questions can help you be mindful about the quality of past and current relationships. Also, these questions are a key that can be used before entering a new relationship. Try to be as honest with your self as possible. Remember, the process of creating a heathy and loving relationship can be challenging at times. Differences are inevitable and life’s stresses can take its toll. Yet, these struggles are opportunities to gain self awareness and learn about your spouse so that the relationship develops more trust, love and intimacy. Keep in mind that at times, even healthy relationships may need adjustments and support. After reviewing this questionnaire, take time to self reflect. Remember, continuous growth is beneficial in all relationships.
When answering the question, think of your relationship as a whole. The answer needs to reflect both spouses in the relationship.
- Do you and your spouse:
- make time for one another and spend quality time together?
- give one another gifts?
- appreciate one another?
- try to understand each of your experiences?
- give each other the benefit of the doubt?
- choose to be trusting of one another?
- use reflective listening (letting the partner know what he\she has heard) when talking to one another?
- support each other and encourage each other to be better?
- take responsibility to make yourselves happy versus waiting for your partner to make you happy?
- respect each other’s need for privacy?
- allow each other to take breaks when discussions get too heated?
- feel safe to be open and honest with each other?
- compromise with one another to make things feel balanced within the relationship?
- respect each other when one of you are uncomfortable doing something?
- back off when one of you says no?
- express fondness and kind words to one another?
- Can you and your spouse:
- take responsibility for your mistakes?
- apologize to one another when you have hurt each other?
- maintain relationships with friends and family?
- continue pursuing hobbies and interests that are separate from each other?
- Are you and your spouse:
- playful with one another?
- physically affectionate?
- happy with the quality and frequency of intimacy within your relationship?
- good at soothing and supporting one another when one of you feel upset?
- good at resolving differences?
- careful not criticize each other?
- careful not to put down each other’s thoughts and feelings?
- careful not to conform to the other partner’s identity?
- careful about not using physical force such as hitting, slapping, shoving, or grabbing?
- careful about not using verbal insults, mean language or nasty put downs?
Take a moment to reflect on your answers. Notice what is working well in your relationship. Feel good about the strengths of your relationship. If you answered “yes” to most of the questions, this means that your relationships is healthy. There is mutual respect, trust and honesty in your relationship. The communication between you and your spouse feels safe, and you are able to be open and honest with one another. You listen to one another and you compromise, which allows you and your spouse to feel seen, heard and understood. Your relationship allows you to maintain separate identities, and encourages you to pursue individual hobbies, interests, and separate friendships. Finally, you are playful with one another and you express fondness to each other. This boosts self esteem! Studies show that couples who display daily acts of friendship will have the best chance of staying together for the long term.
Reflect on the questionnaire. Notice the challenges in your relationship. Did you answer “no” to many of the questions? This indicates that your relationship needs guidance. In unhealthy relationships, spouses are disrespectful towards one another and dishonest with each other. There may be control and intimidation impacting your relationship, leaving one or both of you feeling afraid, trapped, and “walking on eggshells.” Physical, emotional or sexual abuse traumatizes and impacts physical and psychological wellbeing. If any of this feels familiar, know that there is help and support in order to steer your relationship in the right direction. It takes commitment, honest self reflection and the willingness to change, but it can be done. It’s worth the effort so that you will receive the love you want, need and deserve.
One last note….
In all relationships, it is your responsibility to take care of yourself and to take steps to make yourself happy. It is unhealthy to expect that your spouse will be the one to make you happy. Healthy relationships happen when each person is happy with themselves and his\her life and wants to share that experience with a loved one.
Wishing you happiness and love….
(Sources include the work of Dr. Sue Johnson and Drs. John and Julie Gottman)
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