Getting love right

If you don’t want to get emotionally hurt, you don’t want to be in love. Why? Because you’re going to love another fallible human being who is going to make mistakes, who is going to have faults, and who is going to inadvertently hurt you. You, too, are a fallible human being and you’re going to make mistakes. You are going to do things that hurt your partner, even if you don’t want or mean to.

In a healthy relationship, there is no need for one partner to force the other to do what he or she doesn’t want to do. When conflict arises, healthy partners know how to work together to resolve the conflict, how to compromise and still get what they need. It is a matter of voluntary shared power. Power struggles don’t exist for long because both partners participate in making decisions. Neither partner is trying to prove that he or she is better than, or smarter than, or stronger than the other. They don’t need to do that because they respect each other’s skills, fears, and vulnerabilities. They support each other’s strengths. They are able to give up their need to control because they trust their partner. They know that when a conflict occurs, it will be resolved according to the needs and wishes of both partners. They feel safe in the knowledge that their partner would never do anything to deliberately and intentionally hurt them.

It is easy to exist in an unhealthy relationship for years. Sometimes we may not even recognize the relationship as unhealthy or realize how hurtful it is. Other times we do, but may not know what to do about it. Unfortunately, in unhealthy relationships our needs don’t get met. We’re not honest with ourselves and we can’t feel good about who we are. We can’t feel good about who our partner is. We stop learning and growing as people. We may have glimpses of happiness, but they are the exception. In the end, we pay a high price for dysfunctional relationships, and each of us deserves much more than that in life.

Healthy relationships are not an unattainable ideal. It is possible to have a rewarding and fulfilling relationship. It is possible to have rational expectations of our partners; to have a relationship based upon rigorously honest communication and shared power and influence without either controlling or abandoning our partners. It is possible rationally to trust our partner to be who and what he/she is, to have flexible boundaries so that we can relate to our partner without losing ourselves or seeking to change who our partner is. We can develop a balanced and integrated social life. And we can create a growing cycle of contentment and satisfaction.

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