For those of us who have been emotionally abused/neglected, we may not know what a healthy relationship looks or feels like. It was our parents’ job to model healthy relationships, but if they did not treat us (or each other) well, our concept of relationships becomes what we have seen or experienced. We end up in a pattern of getting into relationships that remind us or are a mirror to what we’ve experienced in the past–with its pain and toxicity. It’ll take us time to really know healthy relationships as they should be, but here is a good place to start: address your current relationships to see if they are meeting the below criteria. Address and re-assess.
(Note: this is by no means an exhausted list, but instead, a starting point for you to explore your relationships. Also, ask yourself specifically, what do I need in a relationship? There may be some things others don’t value as strongly, but are very important to you. Acknowledge that you have every right to need what you need in a relationship).
1. Mutual Respect :- Does the person accept you for who you are? Does the person appreciate your individuality and the right to make your own choices? Does the person acknowledge the right to your own thoughts and feelings? Are you able to do the same?
2. Trust :- Do you feel safe with the person, physically and psychologically? Is the person someone who you can depend on?
3. Honesty :- Does the person keep to their word? Does the person show consistency with their words and actions? Does the person communicate their thoughts and feelings openly with you? Conversely, are you able to communicate openly with them?
4. Interdependence :- Do both the person and you have your own lives, as well as take individual responsibility for yourselves? Do you mutually communicate your own needs to one another, while maintaining respect for the other person’s limits and boundaries? Is there a sense in your relationship that you are sharing your lives with one another, as opposed to overly depending on the other person to fill your every desire and need?
5. Communication :- Do you and the person communicate your thoughts and feelings with one another? Does the person strive to actively listen to you, both in good times and in bad? Is the person able to acknowledge your perspective, even if there is disagreement? Is there a mutual agreement to work through conflicts openly and respectfully? Do you do the same for the other person? Remember, communication takes two–speaking AND listening. It is helpful to look at yourself and ask if you are struggling to do some of these things, so you know what you can work on.
6. Realistic Expectations :- Does the person realize it is not your job to meet all of their needs and expectations? Does the person understand you are human and thus prone to occasional mistakes, and that is okay? Does the person love and accept you as you are, everything that you are… knowing that you are not perfect? Are you able to do the same?
If the person you have in mind is showing potential red flags, you have every right to adjust the person’s level of involvement in your life (i.e., close friend vs. an acquaintance), or to even cut them out completely. This is your life. It is completely up to you who to have in your inner circle.