What Makes a Relationship Healthy?

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Chapter 1
What Makes a
Relationship
Healthy?

In This Chapter
➤ What’s a healthy relationship?
➤ Ways to assess if your relationship is healthy
➤ The 12 signs of an unhealthy relationship
➤ A “healthy relationship” quiz
➤ Preview of the eight dimensions of a healthy relationship
“We’re captains of our ship: partnership, friendship, lovership.”
That’s a saying I once heard passed along that describes the very topic of this book—
a healthy relationship.
Is it possible to be happy, in love, and have a relationship that lasts in today’s elec-
tronic, e-mail, voice-mail culture? Absolutely, yes! But like everything else that is
worthwhile to achieve, you have to work at it. Of course, every relationship goes
through changes. Surviving the ups and downs becomes the glue that keeps you to-
gether. Even wife Camille forgave TV celebrity Bill Cosby for his affair when he went
public about it, saying that they had been through so much together that she was not
willing to give up their love and partnership.

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Part 1 The Signs of a Healthy Relationship in the New Millennium
I’m sure you’re as tired as I am of hearing families or relationships referred to as
“dysfunctional.” A popular New York radio station even named their day-long music
concert the “dysfunctional family picnic.” Dysfunctional has become the buzzword
of the 1990s. Fortunately, there are causes for dysfunctionality that we can point to:
dissolution of the family, lack of corporate security or loyalty, disconnection from
communities and religion, desire for instant gratification precipitated by flashing im-
ages of MTV, and the desire to escape into the anonymity of the Internet.
“Toxic” is another buzzword of the 1990s. Once the environment was recognized
as toxic, everything else became subject to being labeled as bad for your health—
employers, families, children, and even lovers were called toxic, especially when they
were out of control or hurtful.
A New Buzzword for the New Millennium
Everywhere you look, there are dangers to our emotional and physical well-being.
That’s where this book comes in. Since our entrance into the new millennium, de-
clare with me that the new buzzword is healthy. Commit to that new attitude toward
life in general and relationships in particular. Let’s face it, designing a health plan for
all Americans was the major challenge of the previous political administration—
fraught with major roadblocks. At least these efforts have reflected how much
Americans today care about health. Let’s strive for—and remove the roadblocks on—
a successful and loving healthy relationship. This book is not about dwelling on dys-
functional relationships, but about how you can achieve a healthy love.
A healthy relationship can come naturally to some people—they fall in love and
everything else seems to fall into place. They always seem to get along and rarely
argue. But if this doesn’t happen for you, don’t despair. You can learn (and relearn,
and relearn) to get past the rough spots. A healthy relationship takes time and work.
However, it also takes trust—that is, trust in your own feelings, and trusting your
partner with your feelings. This is critical—and my wish for you—since an unhealthy
relationship can make you feel literally ill! This book will inspire you to not get
caught up in dead-end, unhappy, and unhealthy relationships, but to aspire to a
growing one—one that makes you feel strong, invigorated, and renewed. That’s
healthy.
When It’s Not Healthy
Let’s face it. You just don’t wake up one morning in a bad relationship. The un-
healthy symptoms have been there all along—you just weren’t paying attention to
them … or you chose to ignore them.
For instance, you and your mate may have explosive sexual encounters, but how does
he treat you outside the bedroom? Remember how you felt when she stared at and
flirted with other guys in front of you, after you said how that made you feel?
Remember when he didn’t give you the support you needed when you had to make
that important life decision?
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Chapter 1 What Makes a Relationship Healthy?
Throughout the coming chapters, I’ll address when a relationship is healthy and
working, and when it’s not healthy and needs to be reevaluated. For now, let’s take a
quick look at how an unhealthy relationship may make you feel.
Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
❏ You feel insecure and weak around each other.
❏ You suffer from low self-esteem as a result of what happens between you.
❏ You are dishonest with each other.
❏ You spend more time feeling hurt than feeling good about how you treat
each other.
❏ You find yourself complaining to others about your relationship.
❏ You are unable to talk about your feelings or problems with your mate, much
less solve them.
❏ You are unable to resolve your differences together.
❏ You become unenthusiastic about life because of what goes on between you.
❏ Your trust is irrevocably broken.
❏ Seemingly small things erode your relationship, like trickling water that wears
away at a rock over time.
❏ Priorities other than each other constantly present themselves.
❏ What goes on between you interferes with other aspects of your life.
Think about what you would never put up with over the long-term. What
would make you end the relationship? For most men and women, dishonesty is
intolerable—just as honesty is the most desirable quality. For Alex, “She has to be
into personal growth all the time. And I couldn’t stay if we couldn’t be physically
active together.” George couldn’t put up with his girlfriend’s constant criticisms.
Sherry had to break up with her boyfriend when he wouldn’t stop flirting with her
friends. Ladonna left when her boyfriend cheated on her, and Christine broke her
engagement when her fiancé admitted, “I love you but I’m not in love with you.”
Kelly said, “I know this sounds silly, but smell is important to me. He has to smell
good.” Other irritants men and women have told me about over the years include
complaining or nagging, forgetting important events, criticizing, and being ignored.
What keeps bothering you?
Priorities
For your relationship to last, the two of you must have similar priorities. For example,
if hot sex matters to one of you but not to the other, there will inevitably be argu-
ments, strife, and disappointments in your love life.
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Part 1 The Signs of a Healthy Relationship in the New Millennium
Who Is Number One?
In a healthy relationship, there are three “people” involved—each of you, and the re-
lationship itself. All three have to be number one at appropriate times. You and your
mate each need to have enough self-esteem so you matter, so you respect yourself (so
others will respect you) and so you are not desperate (meaning you wouldn’t fall
apart if you separated).
Healthy or Unhealthy?
Making the other person number one all the time—being too much of a giver or people
pleaser—is unhealthy. People who do this subvert their own needs and often drive others
away by being too suffocating. By the opposite token, those who always demand to be
number one are narcissistic and feel that others are only extensions of themselves. This is
equally unhealthy, as they can never truly love, because the only one they love is them-
selves.
When It’s Healthy
So far, I’ve outlined what makes a relationship unhealthy and how you may feel if
you’re stuck in one. Now, what makes a relationship healthy? Good judgment about
this requires a three-part analysis: using your mind, heart, and intuition. Use your
mind, analyze the qualities of your relationship and determine whether it is healthy.
(Take the quizzes in this book to help.) Use your heart and the emotions you have for
your mate. And follow your intuition, that gut sense that tells you whether pairing
the two of you is “right.”
Signs of a Healthy Relationship
❏ You feel secure and happy when you’re together and alone—not sad,
suspicious, angry, or deprived.
❏ You are inspired by each other to fulfill your dreams and become the best
you can be.
❏ You are generous and giving—you want to give all you can to your partner,
and are so fulfilled that you also want to give to everyone else around you.
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Chapter 1 What Makes a Relationship Healthy?
That’s Healthy with a Capital “H”!
Since we are always learning about life and love, I enjoy referring to different con-
cepts that are important in this book in terms of the alphabet, like in school. For ex-
ample, in my book Generation Sex (Harper, 1995), I summarized the three R’s of good
sex: Respect, Responsibility, and the Right to say “yes” and “no” to sex. Here, let’s
look at the six H’s to a healthy relationship:
1. Honesty. I have asked thousands of men and
women in surveys over the years, “What is
the most important quality of a lasting rela-
tionship?” The number one quality men-
tioned was honesty. Finances can be shaky,
sex imperfect, stress overwhelming, but all
those things can be overcome. Trust is essen-
Love Bytes
tial. If trust is broken, your heart is broken.
Opposites can be harmonious
Everything else seems to tumble down, prob-
when they blend together to
lems become less tolerable, and compromises
create a whole, as feminine and
less appealing.
masculine, light and dark, posi-
2. Harmony. The sweetest sounds in music are
tive and negative. For example,
created when two voices harmonize with one
all colors blend together to cre-
another—one hits a note that is not exactly
ate white. Men have feminine
the same as the other, but blends in perfectly.
energy and women have mascu-
Better yet, it enriches the first note, filling
line energy. The goal is to
out the sound. Two people in love similarly
achieve a state of balance in
which energies complement each
make beautiful music together. They don’t
other.
need to be the same; in fact, they are more
well-rounded when they have differences,
like the harmonized musical notes. Their in-
dividual choices of notes fit. You make a har-
monious duet together.
3. Heart. The heart is the major organ of the
body. It pumps the blood supply throughout
the body, bringing nourishment. Having
“heart” for one another means nourishing
Dr. Judy’s Rx
each other. Opening your heart to one
another exposes your deepest feelings. And
To get to the soul, close your
connecting your hearts binds you deeply and
eyes and sense the other person,
inextricably.
feeling what’s in his or her heart
and inner being.
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Part 1 The Signs of a Healthy Relationship in the New Millennium
4. Honor. It’s a word used in marriage vows for a
reason. Honoring each other means holding
each other in high esteem, considering each
other’s needs, and respecting each other—and
an even more revered consideration of each
other, worshipping each other. This means
Dr. Judy’s Rx
knowing each other to the core, believing in
each other’s soul, and appreciating each other
In intimate times, couples can
beyond the physical body.
ask each other, “How can I help
you heal?” The answer may be,
5. Healing. In ancient India men came to a spe-
“Tell me you love me.” “Never
cially trained female, called a Dakini, to be
betray me.” “Help me trust
healed after war. The Dakini helped him clear
again.”
his mind from the traumas he had been
through, so he could reopen his heart and love
again.
You may have to similarly suffer through love wars before you find your one
true love. The rejections and hurts along this path require healing in order to
open up your heart again. I’m not suggesting that you become each other’s ther-
apists—it would be unhealthy to expect a partner to repair all your past hurts or
to project onto your partner all the ghosts of your past. But there is some aspect
of healing in every healthy relationship. A true love partner becomes a haven
from the hurts of the past, while providing a new positive example of how nur-
turing love can be.
6. Hot. Satisfying, sensuous, and erotic sex can certainly be a part of the healthy
relationship equation. Having such a healthy sexual connection can increase
your intimacy and bind you closer together.
Spelling a Healthy Relationship
Consider these other crucial elements of a healthy relationship.
The Five E’s:
Empathy. Being able to feel what each other feels, walking a mile in the other
person’s shoes, being able to put yourself in his place. This goes beyond sympa-
thy where you can feel for the other person (you’re sad if something sad hap-
pens to them) to the point where you feel what it feels like to be in his skin
(feeling sadness as he does).
Equality. Respecting the fact that you both count.
Energetics. The exchange of vibrations between you, experienced like an electri-
cal force, drawing you to each other and allowing your interactions to feel like
well-oiled and perfectly fitting gears.
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Chapter 1 What Makes a Relationship Healthy?
Enthusiasm. Excitement about being together.
Empowerment. Supporting each other to feel effective.
The Five A’s:
Acceptance. Knowing that you approve of each other.
Accommodation. Making adjustments for each other’s needs.
Appreciation. Being responsive to and grateful for each other.
Adaptability. Being able to make changes when necessary.
Agreements. Making and keeping agreements is essential for trust in a relation-
ship. When agreements are broken, trust is shattered and must be carefully re-
built with new agreements that are kept.
The Five L’s:
Love. Cherishing each other and holding one another dear. Love should be un-
conditional, meaning it does not waver depending on what you look like, earn,
do, or say.
Loyalty. Being devoted to each other unquestionably, knowing you would not
betray each other.
Listening. Paying attention to what each other says.
Laughter. Humor is the most appealing char-
acteristic that men and women find attrac-
tive. Laughter is both physically and psycho-
logically healthy. Having fun is a great way to
make you feel good about each other.
Lust. Longing and desire draw you magneti-
cally to someone. For a relationship to survive
Love Bytes
the stresses and grind of daily life, flashes of
lust are necessary to spark the union and keep
More than three quarters of the
1,500 men and women surveyed
you together.
in a recent Harlequin Romance
Report found great security in
The Five T’s:
being part of a couple. Ninety-
Trust. Feeling you can rely on one another
eight percent of the men said
without question, and that you will not hurt
their lover is their best friend.
each other. Having confidence and faith in
Half of the respondents said the
each other that you can depend and count
best reason to marry is “because
on each other without reservation. Feeling
they love each other” and “want
to share their lives together.”
safe with each other.
Talking. Communication is key.
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Part 1 The Signs of a Healthy Relationship in the New Millennium
Time together. Making time to be together without distractions.
Tenderness. Treating each other with kindness.
Thoughtfulness. Being understanding, showing consideration in thoughts and
deeds.
And “Y” for “Yes”:
Wipe the negative out of your life, mind, and love! Affirm, that “yes,” you both care;
“yes,” you can make it work; and “yes,” you will try to give each other what you
need.
What Else Is Important?
Enjoy this exercise: Go over the following list of relationship traits. Circle the ones
that are important to you. Then go back and rank your top 10, with number one
being the most important. Have your partner do the same using a different-colored
pen. Compare your answers. Discuss the importance of each quality to you individu-
ally and as a couple.
What’s Important to Me in a Healthy Relationship
Acceptance
Gentleness
Responsibility
Admiration
Gratitude
Security
Appreciation
Honesty
Sensitivity
Balance
Individuality
Sensuality
Caring
Integrity
Sex
Commitment
Liveliness
Shared values
Common interests
Love
Shared experiences
Communication
Maturity
Sincerity
Compromise
Nonpossessiveness
Stability
Compatibility
Openness
Supportiveness
Fairness
Passion
Tact
Family
Patience
Tolerance
Flexibility
Playfulness
Trust
Forgiveness
Politeness
Virtue
Friendship
Practicality
Warmth
Fun
Reassurance
Other: ___________
Generosity
Respect
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Chapter 1 What Makes a Relationship Healthy?
From all the surveys I have done over many years of thousands of men and women,
here are the most often mentioned qualities: trust, honesty, communication, love,
commitment, respect, good sex, and shared values. Other qualities often mentioned
include: appreciation, friendship, forgiveness, compromise, passion, fun, not taking
each other for granted, not letting stress interfere, learning new things together, and
enjoying each other’s company.
Sexual energy and compatibility often play a big role in the first phase of a relation-
ship, but as time goes on, other factors become increasingly more important, such as
honesty and mutual respect. Some qualities sneak up on you. For example, without
being consciously aware of it, your mutual needs for closeness or separateness will af-
fect how satisfied you are with the amount of time you spend together. While many
factors affect your happiness together, studies show that the most important factor
that determines a lasting relationship is a shared view of life that includes similar
lifestyle preferences, career and family priorities, ideas about child-rearing, and shared
values.
A recent Arizona State University study showed men are less selective than women
when choosing a casual sex partner, while women select mates who better match
their self-ratings of attractiveness and social status. When it comes to a longer-term,
serious relationship, the gap narrows, whereby both sexes prefer partners close to
their own emotional stability, agreeableness, attractiveness, and likelihood of having
healthier, more attractive offspring. Additionally, women consider finances more than
men.
The Importance of Agreements
“Cross your heart and hope to die!” It’s an old-
time pledge that kids used to say to each other
when they made promises. We learn from child-
hood that making agreements and keeping them
makes us feel secure. It’s a sign of friendship.
Notice I said agreements, not agreeing. Each stage
of a relationship requires making agreements.
Dr. Judy’s Rx
Keeping those agreements gives you a sense of in-
tegrity within yourself, is a sign of dedication to
Instead of panicking over dis-
the relationship, and instills trust in you by your
agreements, agree to disagree.
mate. On the other hand, breaking agreements de-
Feeling you have reached some
stroys trust, breaks down communication, and
consensus, even on differing,
erodes your intimacy. When agreements are bro-
gives you a feeling of working
ken, it is crucial to acknowledge that and make
together.
new ones.
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Part 1 The Signs of a Healthy Relationship in the New Millennium
Healthy or Unhealthy?
Disagreements are not automatically unhealthy in a relationship. They can be a way of
considering your opinions, creating new options, expanding your individual and collective
vision, and testing your ability to compromise. Healthy disagreements can lead to resolu-
tions that make you more resolved about staying together.
Agreements are often implied instead of stated, with one person assuming the other
will behave in a certain way, consistent with his own view. The perceived betrayal is
then based on one person’s expectations that are not met, and leads to disappoint-
ment and distrust. This is common in the case of one person having a so-called “af-
fair” when you may not have made a fair and clear agreement to be sexually exclu-
sive even though one of you assumed it.
I so often heard about that situation during my years of answering people’s questions
on the radio. One person calls upset about a mate having an affair, and I ask, “Did
you agree that you would not see other people?” And the answer is, “We didn’t talk
about it, but we have been seeing each other for two months and neither of us has
gone out with anyone else.” I know it’s nice to feel committed but you really have to
spell out the terms so there are no misunderstandings and one-sided expectations.
Being a Team Player
Healthy love partners become more of who they are with the other person. They real-
ize their potential. Notice I didn’t say through the other person—that would be de-
pendence or codependency. In a healthy relationship, you each preserve a separate
sense of self, while still feeling and acting like a team.
Relationships work when you both have the same
goal: to be a happy, healthy family and be in love
forever. Few celebrity couples make it. Superstar
songstress Gloria Estefan is considered the most fam-
ily minded singer in the music world. She has been
married to her first and only boyfriend for 18 years
and often brings her family on the road. Goldie Hawn
Love Bytes
insists her love of 14 years, Kurt Russell, check with
her before taking roles, and even fly home if he’s film-
A long, healthy relationship is
ing on location—to attend family dinners, Little
possible when you share the
League baseball games, and dance and piano recitals.
same values and have similar
ideas about money, kids, and
sex (the three most commonly
argued-about topics).
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