What you tend to and nurture in life will grow and flourish. Whether that is your tomato garden, video-game skills or your friends and family, is up to you. Relationships, like gardens, take some work and care to make sure they are a positive and healthy part of your life.
When things in life get challenging, stressors can build and conflicts can escalate, sometimes leading to abuse. To avoid the risk of abuse entering any of your relationships, it's best to follow Benjamin Franklin's advice, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Preventing domestic abuse is basic relationship maintenance. Couples with healthy relationships didn't just hit the relationship lottery. Partners in healthy relationships work together every day, taking care to prevent any trouble and tending to issues when they occur.
What do healthy relationships look like? Relationships should be safe, respectful and positive.
Relationships should be safe
Feeling safe in a relationship, both physically and emotionally, is essential. Build a safe environment with your partner.
- Commit to your relationship completely. It takes two people working together to make a relationship work well.
- Trust your partner. Give each other the benefit of the doubt and accept your partner's word as true.
- Be kind to one another. When you talk to one another, watch your tone of voice and body language. Always speak positively about your spouse to others.
- Fight fair. Use nonviolent conflict resolution. It's OK to feel angry and to share those feelings with your partner. Emotional and physical abuse is never OK. Listen to each other and really hear what your partner is feeling. Find common ground and work together for a solution you both find acceptable.
- Forgive, own your mistakes and apologize. Forgive your partner when he or she owns a mistake and apologize in the same way you would want your partner to treat you. Every couple faces relationship problems at some point. Working through problems in a healthy way can strengthen the relationship.
Relationships should be respectful
Respecting your partner is one of the fundamental ways to show love.
- Respect each other's physical and emotional boundaries. Your partner is an individual and has the right to decide how to be touched and how to feel. No one has the right to dismiss or disregard another person's boundaries and feelings.
- Ask, don't expect. Sometimes we take our partners for granted. Remember, your partner doesn't owe you servitude. Use those magic words, please and thank you. Common courtesy goes a long way to making another person feel respected.
- Be honest, don't manipulate. Respect your partner enough to tell him or her how you feel. Learn to accept how your partner feels and reacts.
- Compromise and make joint decisions. When big decisions arise in life, work through them and decide on them together. Considering each other's concerns, feelings and opinions will make the outcome better for you as a couple.
- Hear your partner. Listen to your partner with your full attention, even if you disagree with what he or she is saying. Everyone wants to feel that they have been heard and this is a great way to build understanding between you.
Relationships should be positive
Put effort into your relationships. Make sure you are adding enjoyment to your partner's life and let your partner know what you need to be happy and fulfilled.
- Support your partner. Help each other toward life goals or dreams. Work as a team, just the two of you against the world. Relationships grow stronger when teamwork toward a common goal is involved.
- Encourage each other. You are your partner's cheerleader. When you were children, your parents had that role. As an adult, your partner takes on that role.
- Be a good example for your children. Children learn about relationships by watching the people they know best. Set an example for your children by practicing healthy relationship skills with your spouse or partner.
- Enjoy life together. That's what this is all about, enjoying life with your favorite person. Continue to enjoy or rediscover the spark that brought you together. Keep that in the forefront of your mind. Find things to do together that bring out the fun in life.
Talk with your spouse and decide to work together to create and maintain a healthy relationship. Remember that you don't have to navigate this alone. The Family Advocacy Program helps individuals, couples and families develop healthy relationship skills and address common relationship and parenting challenges during every stage of life. Learn more about healthy relationships at Military OneSource, 800-342-9647 or your installation Family Advocacy Program.