This is what a healthy relationship looks like.
Stare at this photo for a few seconds and upload it into your memory folder titled “never again," as a reminder of what a healthy relationship really looks like: Two people in their own separate containers (life space). Deciding to do life together. Facing in the same direction. Looking out at the world and how far they’ve come. Fire in between them.
My old definition of love would be these two people sitting in a bubbling jacuzzi. Jets blasting. Sitting on each other’s laps and facing each other. Drinking champagne and losing track of time. Yes, that sounds amazing. I’ve experienced it. But it’s not sustainable. The water gets hot. You get claustrophobic. You forget who you are.
Healthy love requires separate containers.
A healthy relationship is two whole people with separate lives coming together to share their lives. Not to blend into one life. That is called co-dependency. Meshment. And it stunts growth. Many mistake this feeling for intensity or how much they love someone. But it’s not love. It’s the sticky of two people without boundaries and a sense of self. It’s the product of filling holes that we haven’t filled ourselves due to our story.
This happens because we are making decisions based only on how we feel instead of what we can build. Of course there needs to be attraction and draw but sometimes that stems from what feels familiar when we were younger, and since no one enters adulthood unscarred, that attraction can be dysfunction. That sticky doesn’t just connect us, it pulls us into each other. And the stronger the dysfunction, the stronger the pull. That’s why so many confuse codependency with love. I get it. I was one of them. I thought love meant we are one. We do everything together. There is no you and I. There is only us. This is teenage love. This is a poem. This is a romance novel. A Korean drama. Telemundo. It is not healthy love.
Healthy love requires facing in the same direction. Not at each other.
This means doing life with each other. Not for each other. I think when we get into a relationship, we can subtly start to control the other person without even knowing it. We care about them so much and only want the best for them. Of course. But “the best” for them is usually what we believe is the best. Not always what they believe or want for themselves.
We all have our own definitions on what a good healthy life should look like, and it’s easy to put them on others when we’re in a relationship. It comes from care and concern but suddenly love is now lined with control. Facing in the same direction means to support, care, listen, communicate, but allow people to be themselves and make their own choices. Of course you can have opinions, but once you start grabbing, you are now pulling them out of their tub and into yours. You guys are now facing each other and when we face each other, there’s a lot of shoulds. Defensiveness. And sometimes, ultimatums. This stunts the relationship and creates drift.
Facing in the same direction also means having similar values, virtues, general life beliefs, bigger than self-goals. Cloud stuff. Big picture. North stars in the same universe. When your big important life stuff overlaps with their big life important stuff, there is a being on the same team feeling that makes people work hard for their relationship. Makes people put their egos and wants aside sometimes and invest in something bigger. Us.
Healthy love requires fire in between.
What does fire mean? Yes, attraction and chemistry and great banter and hot sex. Sure. But at the end of the day, fire means trust. Without trust, none of the above is possible. Trust is what keeps you guys warm. It’s what creates glue and produces connection. And like a fire, trust needs to be fanned and fueled to keep it going. This means consistency and trust being earned. Once you stop earning trust, the fire between you guys will slowly die.
Many believe trust is built in because it’s been a certain amount of time. Or because you guys live together. Or you exchanged vows. Trust is not a constant. Trust is not a light switch. Trust is like a fire.
A healthy relationship means separate containers (life space), facing in the same direction (common outlook on life), and fanning the fire in between (earning trust).
Without these three, your relationship will not have legs. It may feel powerful and sweep you off your feet. But healthy relationships are about more than moments and powerful feelings. Healthy relationships are built. They require time, work, patience, and a deep look inward. Often. But nothing starts without a vision.