When a relationship is shiny-new, you’re often wearing rose-colored glasses and everything seems perfect. You may be a little nervous and anxious, but you get butterflies just thinking about your special someone. And you wonder about building a healthy relationship together.
You’re almost giddy with happiness and excitement. But then, the glow fades a little, the rose-colored glasses come off, and you begin to see things you didn’t see before. You wonder, how can this relationship possibly last? Is building a healthy relationship possible?
You may find yourself experiencing some or all of the following:
- you feel restless, resentful, or taken advantage of
- you’re having strong feelings of guilt and anxiety
- fears of abandonment and rejection are taking over your thoughts
- you’re saying “yes” when you really want to say “no”
If you are committed to building a healthy relationship but you’re feeling and experiencing what I’ve described, you may be lacking something that can take your relationship to the next level – and the levels beyond, too.
Boundaries Are Key
What’s one essential key to a healthy relationship? Boundaries. Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and a healthy life. The feelings described indicate that you lack boundaries, have weak boundaries, or have trouble maintaining your boundaries.
Just what is a boundary? Simply, it’s the emotional and physical separation or distance between you and another person.
Boundaries are tools that allow you to do three important things:
- define yourself
- define your responsibilities
- define (and set) your limits
A Learned Skill
We’re not born knowing these. Setting boundaries is learned, and it’s an important skill to develop if we want to build happy, healthy relationships.
Without them, you can be taken advantage of, manipulated and abused. You can suffer from feelings of low self-esteem and low self-worth. By not valuing yourself, you can be undervalued and underappreciated by others. You can become resentful, angry and feel like a victim.
Fear of rejection, abandonment and disappointing others can turn us into people-pleasers. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to help or please others, to do so without any regard for your own feelings, needs and wants leads to burnout, overwhelm, anxiety and even depression.
In healthy relationships, valuing the other person’s needs, wants and opinions equally with our own is a sign of emotional intelligence and maturity.
However, consistently and regularly undervaluing and ignoring our own is damaging. It’s a sign of toxicity and codependence. Learn to value and respect yourself at least as much as you do other important people in your life.
(In some cases and with some people – value and respect yourself more than you do them.)
Practice Makes it Easier
The learning curve for developing healthy boundaries is easier to practice right from the beginning of the relationship. Even if your rose-colored glasses are still in place, consider this:
- could you be manipulated by a your new love into stealing something?
- Harming someone?
- Could he convince you to go against your own better judgment, ethics and standards?
And if he could, or would try – is he really a good relationship prospect for you? If it’s easier for you to imagine saying “no” to major issues like this if they were to arise right away in your brand-new relationship, then you’re off to a great start!
Your Deal Makers
There are things we like and want in our daily lives and in our healthiest, happiest relationship with ourselves. These standards we set for ourselves serve as our do’s or deal makers in our romantic relationships. We may ignore or minimize shady behavior while we’re in the first rosy glow of a budding romance, but we know when something is off if we’re willing to listen to that inner voice or that uncomfortable pit in our stomach.
It’s true that men and women communicate differently, but we’re all human and there are some basics that facilitate healthy human interaction. They apply no matter our gender and no matter what stage we are in developing a relationship.
Think about the things that make your best (non-romantic) relationships work. What makes them enjoyable, desirable, fun, and worthwhile? You can write these down in a short list. Be specific. Your list might include:
- Mutual honesty – you two may not share everything, but what you do share with each other is truthful.
- Consistency – doing what you say you will do, others doing what they say they will do.
- Consideration – you take both your own feelings and those of the other person into account, and they do the same with you.
When both people in a relationship – any relationship, including a romantic one – bring these qualities and behaviors to the table, a healthy relationship is usually the result. Also, in this healthy relationship:
- You can say “no” without the other person guilt-tripping you, wheedling or manipulating you to change your mind.
- You are not the only one doing the heavy lifting – there is mutual give-and-take.
- You are not the only one calling or making plans – the other person makes time for you and the relationship.
You are not the only one doing favors or being asked to contribute – the other person is available to you.
When these are the qualities you seek in your relationships with others, you’ve defined your standards, and the basis for setting boundaries for building a healthy relationship.
These apply to all relationships. Of course, you’ll want to feel attraction, desire and chemistry and you’ll want the other person to feel them for you. These are feelings that typically separate platonic relationships from romantic ones. But, if they’re the only basis for the relationship, you could be headed for heartache once the newness wears off.
Your Deal Breakers
Now think about the things you aren’t comfortable with, aren’t prepared to accept, that you dislike or that bother you when considering your potential romantic relationship – even in its earliest stages. This list is for you alone, so be honest and specific. Your list may look like this:
- No abusers (of any kind)
- No married/attached men
- No players, liars, criminals, substance abusers
- No users – financial or emotional
Once you are clear for yourself on these, combine the two lists. You’ll know your own standards and know whether the qualities and behaviors of a man you’re interested in are what you really want – before you become emotionally invested and involved.
As your relationship develops from the very early stage of infatuation with each other, you may see some behaviors that make you uncomfortable. Maybe your guy is taking you for granted.
He asks you for lots of favors and seems to need a lot from you – financially or emotionally, a lot of the time. He gets upset if he can’t control you and everything that goes on in the relationship – there is no way but his way in all things. Can you contain the damage before it’s too late?
Your Action Plan
Let’s say you’ve been seeing each other for a while and don’t like some of the red flags that have replaced the rose-colored glasses. Here’s a way for you to get things on track if both you and your guy are truly interested in building a healthy relationship. These tips will also help you establish a healthy romantic relationship right from the start:
- Communicate and interact with him without assumptions or expectations, but with a clear idea of your standards
- Use the same standards that work for you in non-romantic relationships with friends, family, co-workers and colleagues (even the clerk at supermarket)
- Feel confident that your standards really reflect who you are as a person – how you treat people and how you like to be treated
If the guy doesn’t meet the basic standards at the get-go, or if you find he has repeatedly stepped over the line or tested the boundaries you’ve identified as unacceptable to you, you need to take action.
Real action is not a long discussion or an explanation/justification of yourself or your feelings. Run away, walk away or at the very least take one giant step backwards and stop. Your boundaries only mean as much to others as they do to you. If you won’t honor them, it’s very unlikely that he will either.
Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words
His actions will show you if you need to seriously reconsider or step back from him as a potential romantic partner. Your boundaries are your own “line in the sand,” and knowing them before you become involved with someone can save you wasted time, tears, and heartache.
Notice I didn’t say, “Before you become attracted”? Attraction can happen in an instant, without knowing a single thing about a person. Involvement however, is a choice.
The behaviors you accept, rationalize, accommodate or excuse from the man in your life (or the one you’re hoping to have a relationship with), can quickly become the relationship standard or status quo. It’s much harder to reject a behavior once you’ve quietly accepted it.
By rejecting the behavior when it first occurs, you give a man a choice – to respect you or to let you alone. If your man can’t respect you, what else can’t he do? Be emotionally, physically and spiritually available to you? Be kind, considerate, honest and trustworthy?
Healthy boundaries work! They affirm that you respect yourself, love yourself and want those things in return from the person with whom you are in relationship.
A man’s behavior will show you whether there’s real potential for a relationship that meets your own personal standards and honors your healthy, positive boundaries. If not, don’t waste your time trying to explain, rationalize or excuse his actions. Swipe left and move on to find a person with whom a relationship can be a source of happiness for you and enrich your life.
Relationship coaching, combined with Tarot or not, can help you focus on yourself in a positive way and give you guidance for growth. You’ll be supported in developing your own standards, setting boundaries and building a healthy relationship. I can help you take practical steps for learning how to find a great partner and create the relationship of your dreams.