By Callie Albaugh, MA, LAMFT
Relationships come in all shapes and sizes. That’s what makes relationships exciting, right? I believe relationships anchor us in life and influence how we participate in the world around us and the journeys we take in life. In a time of a global pandemic, relationships are the one stable aspect we all have in life. Relationships now have shifted and look different in this era than they have before. The following are 5 key elements to healthy relationships I have learned through working with families and couples as a LAMFT and experiencing relationships in my own life. It is my belief that these are relational elements that will stand the test of time, even amidst a pandemic.
- Safety – This is always number one in my book. Healthy relationships require two people to interact and intertwine their inner selves. This means that we have to place boundaries around what makes us feel physically and emotionally safe. These boundaries may look different in the various relationships you participate in. In order to relationships to flourish, there needs to be an established foundation of safety.
- Communication – In relationships, we have this tendency to expect people to know exactly everything about us; what we are thinking, what we like, how something made us feel. Quick newsflash – They don’t know these things; we have to actually tell them. This is where you get to be selfish; to communicate your needs and thoughts openly and honestly. Healthy communication is more easily accessible when #1 is in place. Communicating requires us to be vulnerable at times, and is more easily accessible when #1 is in place. Communicating is effortful, exhausting, and the most significant verb correlated to relationships.
- Perspectives – Safe relationships acknowledge and accept the different perspectives we all have. The beauty of us all being unique individuals are the different perspectives we each bring to the table; yet this same beauty can also appear treacherous at times. We may believe different perspectives are a threat to ourselves, a betrayal or disloyalty from our relational counterpart. When this happens, we are met with extreme conflict. We do not have to agree or like another person’s perspective. We do, however, need to accept their differing viewpoint and understand it.
- Self-Care – It seems counterintuitive on the surface, caring for ourselves before others. I like to talk about the Oxygen Mask Rule; we must place our own oxygen masks on before assisting others. When we show up to relationships as our best selves, we are better able to nourish the soil our relationships grow from. This may appear in your life as prioritizing the ‘you time’ before the ‘us time’ — going on a walk by yourself, taking a long bath, or taking a nap.
- Grace – Give yourself (and everyone else around you) a break. Life is hard. Life in a pandemic is even harder. Tensions are high and patience is low. Operating within a place of flexibility and peace gives way for our relationships to grow and sustain the impact of stress.
Bonus #6: Relationships do not come easy. Building and nourishing meaningful relationships takes hard work and requires an immense amount of effort day in and day out. Ever heard the phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day?” Well, neither are relationships. Purposeful relationships are built brick by brick; at times we make mistakes and need to take a step back to repair, in all we put in the effort each and every day to design something with significance.