Relationships For Dummies
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Nothing’s better than a good relationship (although some people might make an argument for chocolate). When you’re in a good relationship, the birds sing and the sun shines — even in the dead of winter. You have love in your heart and a certain bounce in your step. Everything seems more alive and interesting, and you feel hopeful and full of life. Aaah, this is what life is all about.

So what exactly is a good relationship? A good relationship has two major components — it’s healthy for you, and it’s fun. The fun part is usually easy to figure out. But what about the healthy? How do you recognize a healthy relationship when you see one?

Respect and emotional support in good relationships

In a good relationship, both partners respect, esteem, and approve of one another. They feel like their mate is special — and they act like it. They don’t demand that their partner change to be more like them. Rather, they appreciate one another as individuals and respect each other for their differences. They show their support by acting in an emotionally supportive way.

What does that mean? Well, when you’re emotionally supportive, you say things like, “I hope the meeting goes well for you, Honey,” or, “I’m so happy for you that you got that new job!” or, “Don’t pick on your love handles, Sweetie. I like a man who’s bigger than me — you sexy man of substance, you!”

When you show your emotional support for your partner, he feels encouraged, reassured, and appreciated — and you’ll also feel similarly when he acts emotionally supportive toward you. You each validate the other’s feelings, and that feels grreaaaatt!

You can support your partner and his or her right to feel a certain way, even if you wouldn’t feel that way in the same situation. Just like respect, when you’re emotionally supportive to your partner, you allow him or her to be separate and distinct, yet very valued and special.

Honesty, loyalty, intimacy, trust, and friendship

Question: “How can you have a relationship if you don’t have these?” Answer: “You can’t.”

Intimacy — being really close to someone — develops when you and your partner share thoughts, feelings, and experiences only with each other — not with every Tom, Dick, and Harry (or every Tina, Jane, or Mary!). The more you share only with each other, the closer, more bonded, and more intimate the two of you will become.

Of course, none of it is worth a rat’s nest if you don’t share those thoughts and feelings honestly. Honesty is implicit in any good relationship. If you’re telling tales, then your alter ego or fairy tale self is having the relationship, not the real you. In contrast, if you share your real thoughts and feelings, you’ll just naturally become closer and more bonded with your partner.

As the two of you feel closer, you also feel like protecting each other. And when you go out of your way to look out for one another’s best interest, that loyalty brings you even closer together. Of course, in order to feel free to reveal your innermost thoughts and feelings — “your soul” — and to share such personal experiences, you’ve got to trust each other.

In a good relationship, both partners trust each other implicitly and look out for one another without being asked to do so. They are basically “best friends.” Friends respect, admire, trust, support, and care about each other, and they act in ways that show it. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Giving and taking in good relationships

Whether you’re Superman and Wonder Woman, or Mr. and Ms. Normal Earthling, you and your partner need to be approximately equal in power in your relationship for your union to be healthy. It’s OK if he’s Superman-in-the-Boardroom and you’re Normal-Earthling-in-the-Workplace, or vice versa — provided you each respect one another as equals in your relationship — and act that way.

When you value each other as equals, positive qualities — respect, emotional support, honesty, loyalty, intimacy, trust, and friendship — flow back and forth between you in a fairly even way. You both share things with one another that you wouldn’t share with other people, and you both interact with each other in a very positive way.

You’re both attracted physically, mentally, and emotionally in some way that seems about even, and you both recognize the relationship as equally important and valuable. That reciprocity — that give and take of feelings, behaviors, and goals — is important to keep your relationship happy, healthy, and balanced.

And let’s not forget one of the main ways your relationship needs to be reciprocal: In a healthy relationship, you both share a similar goal for the relationship. If you’d like to marry your mate someday, he or she needs to feel similarly — now or in the near future — to make the relationship prosper.

About This Article

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Dr. Kate Wachs is America's only Psychologist-Matchmaker. She runs The Relationship Center™ in Chicago, the only full-service introduction and counseling center of its kind. She has helped millions of people through matchmaking, counseling, and her media appearances.

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