And how to recognise if you’re in one when you grew up in a dysfunctional family
Relationships are complicated, even more so when you grow up in a family environment that is anything but healthy.
Dysfunctional families leave us with some extra layers of trauma to untangle, and that impacts us in many ways, especially in our interpersonal sphere.
This doesn’t deter us from looking for a partner, but it makes it harder to know when someone is good for us and, therefore, to determine whether or not we are in a healthy relationship.
Let me help you understand some of the building blocks that make a healthy relationship:
- Effective Communication
If you can have an open conversation when the other person is not feeling attacked, doesn’t judge you, and overall welcomes this discussion and maintains an open, honest, and respectful space for mutual understanding. It’s a good sign that you might be in a healthy relationship, or at least your partner shows one healthy trait!
Both partners actively listen and express themselves without fear of criticism or aggression.
Conflict is handled constructively, emphasising problem-solving and compromise rather than blame or shouting. This may feel very different, even scary, for people who come from a dysfunctional family, where conflict was either avoided or blown out of proportion.
- Boundaries and Mutual Respect (of Said Boundaries)
Personal boundaries are necessary to maintain healthy relationships (even with families and friends). Sometimes, it’s hard for people who have been through dysfunctional relationships to implement them and have them respected by the other person.
This is why, when partners respect each other’s physical and emotional boundaries, it makes for a safe space and a sign of a healthy relationship.
- Trust and Safety
Trust is a fundamental element of any relationship. In romantic relationships, partners can rely on each other without constant fear of betrayal or abandonment. Trust also provides and nurtures emotional security.
- Emotional Support
Trust and safety are built through emotional support (and consistency). In a healthy relationship, emotional support is readily available. Partners are there for each other during difficult times and offer encouragement, empathy, and validation.
Suppose you pair this with boundaries and respect. In that case, you have a perfect recipe for a healthy, mature relationship, where two individuals know that support is there when needed but are also communicative enough to check in with their partner and see if they can manage the added emotional task.
- Independence and Individual Growth
One thing that might happen in dysfunctional relationships is that we might get engulfed into our partner’s life, forgetting about our own. This, in the long run can make the other person feel suffocated and if our relationship had to end, we’d feel as if our whole universe comes crumbling down.
Spending time together is fantastic and we do need a lot of it to get to know our partner and to grow the relationship, but…we also need to maintain a life outside of our love life.
Partners who support each other’s personal growth and autonomy often have a more loving and deeper connection. They know the other person is whole without the relationship and choose to be in one because they want to, not because they need to.
Each person can pursue their interests and dreams, developing a solid sense of self and bringing the joys of personal growth into the relationship, keeping it alive and thriving.
A Final Word On Healthy Relationships
A healthy relationship is one where you can be yourself and feel safe expressing your needs, knowing that the other person will support and care for you.
Relationships take time, especially if you grew up in a dysfunctional home. You might find these types of relationships scary initially because they feel unfamiliar. I hope you’ll be brave and curious enough to see these traits and, instead of walking away, explore these sensations and replace unhealthy partners with caring, communicative and loving ones.
You deserve to know what love is; you deserve to be in a healthy relationship, and if you can’t find one yet, you can always begin working on yourself and embodying these traits so you can be the healthy partner you’re seeking.