There are four types of relationships: business, family, friendship, and romantic. The poem, A Reason, A Season, A Lifetime, by Brian Chalker explains why relationships aren’t forever. But regardless of the reasons or duration, the purpose of all relationships is to grow. A Course in Miracles tells us there are no chance encounters, they all have growth potential, and lifetime relationships have unlimited learning potential.
As we grow and mature, we learn how to have healthy relationships. Some people have stayed fixated on childhood patterns and don’t understand why they don’t have lasting relationships. The longer a person waits to mature, the harder it is. But it’s never too late to change and have the essentials for a long-term relationship.
#1 Honesty – There’s no foundation to build a solid relationship without honesty. Any form of deception is corrosive to a trusting relationship. Years ago, Freud pointed out that whether you face it or not, your unconscious knows when someone is lying to you. Others say their gut tells them when something is wrong. In any case, no one is ever fooling anyone.
Some people ignore lying because they don’t trust their instincts, while others fear an altercation, so they avoid the confrontation. Some people decide to collude, and these relationships operate under mutual lies and dishonesty. Others might give up on a dishonest relationship and live a separate life. In all cases, the trust is slowly but surely chipped away. Eventually, nothing is left but disrespect. Then the relationship is like Swiss cheese, full of holes without a wall of protection from all outside intrusions.
#2 Mutual Contributions – Sharing and receiving is the weave that builds a strong bond between two people. No one keeps score on who’s giving the most, but there’s a sense of balance. A one-sided relationship is like someone being towed on the back of a bicycle. No matter how strong the rider is, there is a constant drain of energy.
Lasting relationships are balanced on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. One person might excel in making money, the other in creative ideas. One might be good at housework, the other at repairs. Someone might have transportation; the other has money for gas. It doesn’t matter who’s doing what so much, as both people are contributing. They are investing in a common goal and building something in unison with shared rewards.
#3 Feeling Appreciated – Once people feel comfortable in relationships, taking the other for granted is easy. No one should ever take anyone for granted. When people feel appreciated, they are getting reinforced for their efforts. Ignoring someone’s value or worth in a relationship comes across as entitled or oblivious to the effort put forth on their behalf.
It’s important to notice what someone is doing for you and to thank them, even if they don’t expect it. Being grateful makes a transaction complete. Many people have suffered a fait accompli of a failed relationship because they made the faulty assumption that it wasn’t necessary to continue to show appreciation. Producers are always in demand, and if you don’t notice what they’re doing, someone else will.
#4 Forgiveness – Everyone makes mistakes, and no one expects the other to be perfect. When someone acknowledges their mistakes, it’s an open door to forgiveness. Without forgiveness, a relationship is destined to fade. Every resentment is a block that ultimately becomes a wall. Eventually, the wall becomes too high to climb over.
Hanging on to old pain serves no purpose other than weighing yourself down. We all disappoint each other sometimes. We usually don’t even realize we’ve hurt someone. If you’ve been hurt, lovingly address it and then let it go. If you’ve hurt someone else, create the space for them to tell you how they feel. Once things are out in the open, wounds can heal, and a stronger bond can be built.
Honesty, contribution, appreciation, and forgiveness build trust in relationships. Love without trust isn’t love; it’s an illusion. The most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself, and every other relationship reflects that. If you have someone with whom to grow, hold them dear and never stop appreciating what you have.
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Dr. Donna Marks has been an author, consultant, public speaker, and psychotherapist for over thirty years. She was licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987 and then certified in Addiction, Gestalt Therapy, Hypnosis, Sex Therapy, and Psychoanalysis. She currently has a concierge psychotherapy practice in Palm Beach, Florida.
She has appeared on numerous podcasts and local television. She is the author of two books, Learn Grow Forgive – A Path to Spiritual Success, and Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Solution (revised), and winner of multiple book awards. Her next book, The Healing Moment: Seven Keys to Turn Messes into Miracles, will be released in 2023.
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