As she continued in her teaching we brainstormed together as a group. We came up with a variety of ingredients normally included in a healthy relationship. Our list included the following:
(This list is good but is not comprehensive.)
Choice and Individuality
Behavior NOT Included in a Healthy Relationship
Magi then moved us on to evaluating what behaviors do NOT belong in a healthy relationship and we brainstormed an entirely different list:
Controlling all -Money
Again I encourage you to create your own list, this one is not at all comprehensive. These behaviors come from a faulty belief system. Behavior changes when beliefs change. One is not entitled to behave like the above list when they want to, feel like it, are angry, hurt, etc. The underlying belief for behaving this way in relationships is a belief that ‘I’ am “Central, Superior, and Deserving”*. The key to change is addressing this core belief.
All teams must practice to become good then to excel in their area of play or work. The same is true of the relationship team WE. How often do we actually purposely practice the ingredients of healthy relationships?
Action Point: Find someone to hold you accountable; not your partner. Practice each week and check in with accountability to answer two questions. If you don’t have someone for accountability don’t let that stop you, use a journal. (While you get started with a journal continue to look for and pray for a person to be accountable to. Human interaction is powerful.)
What did I do well this week?
What do I wish I had done differently?
Establishing Healthy Goal Posts
Often people in unhealthy relationships want to be healthy, they want to score one for Team We, but don’t know how or where to begin. “How do we start?” Brainstorming these two lists is a great beginning and helps establish important goal posts. It gives clear boundaries in what to aim for and what to stay away from. This knowledge along with practice can be a great combination to improve a relationship.
Finally, another key aspect of a healthy relationship is to abandon the idea relationships are a 50/50 partnership. This way of thinking becomes a platform for score keeping, which is not healthy. Score keeping works well in the world of sports teams, but not relationship teams. As people we are imperfect, we have good days and bad days which sometimes become a season. On a good day we can compensate for the other, on a bad day we need that compensation extended. 50/50 mentality does not allow for grace, compassion, and mercy – ongoing gifts that need to be given in healthy relationships. If both partners have a “do what needs to be done” mentality along with gracious giving, the relationship will be much better off. No relationship is perfect because we as people are not perfect, so don’t except perfection, just strive to be your best and forgive as needed.
Note for Parents
One final note, as a parent of teenagers I did the above brainstorming session with my children. Together we created two lists; ingredients to include and ingredients to avoid. Then we discussed it as a family. As a parent my desire with this exercise was to give them clear guidelines of what to expect in a healthy relationship BEFORE they start dating and eventually find a spouse. I wanted to help them clarify the goal posts ahead of time, so when the time comes, they will know how to participate well in Team We. It will also act (hopefully) as a protective measure for them to recognize relational red flags, what to avoid, and how to interact healthy themselves.
More Healthy Relationship Resources:
Content Source: Magi Cooper from her workshop during Understanding Abuse in Relationships sponsored by Abuse Response and Prevention Program Mennonite Central Committee