Reframing Healthy Relationship Expectations

Reframing Healthy Relationship Expectations

So often, relationships are talked about in terms of “red flags”. Looking for a life partner (or any companion) is judged based on what negatives are not present, the bad things that should not be part of any relationship situation.

I saw this graphic and it made me wonder – what would happen if we reframed the conversation about what makes a healthy relationship? What if we made the decision to date or marry someone based on what they bring to a relationship, rather than what they don’t?

Relationship Green Flags

  • Self-responsibility
  • Supports your personal growth
  • Practices self-care
  • Self-reflective
  • Long-standing friendships
  • Empathy
  • Vulnerability
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Healthy hobbies
  • Communicates openly
  • Honors boundaries

Of course, there is always a portion of this (at least I hope!) in any decent relationship. We look for someone who makes us laugh, who we enjoy being around, who we could see having a family with. Yet so much of the conversation is taken up with ‘red flags’.

I think sometimes we get so caught in looking for toxic behaviors that will ruin relationships that we don’t look for the opposite – the healthy behaviors that will benefit and grow a relationship.

Not Being a Toxic or Abusive Person Doesn’t Equal a Good Person

I’m starting with this because I think it’s arguably the most important element here. Too often, the bar is set WAY too low on relationships. Not being abusive or toxic to other people is not an achievement. That is the baseline expectation for humanity.

This is really evident in the “nice guy” culture. The mentality there is that by being a “nice guy”, they are inherently head and shoulders above ‘average’ guys (who are, I guess, all assumed to be jerks). What it boils down to is pretty basic nice behaviors being classified as above and beyond… when they are actually just baseline expectations.

“I don’t hit women”
I care about your personhood”
“I’m faithful in relationships”
“I will provide for you and a family if we have one”

Of course, all of these are good and necessary things. But they aren’t, in and of themselves, things that should compel a person to want a relationship with you. It is entirely possible to be a baseline nice person, but in name only. Acting civilized does not mean one’s heart and intentions are actually good.

Being a Good Person Doesn’t Equal Good for You

Then, of course, there are lots and lots of actually good, kind, and considerate people. Those qualities alone does not mean that person is going to be compatible with any and everybody. There is nothing wrong with not being attracted to someone, even if they are by your estimation, a good and kind person.

Sometimes you just won’t connect. Sometimes there will be other dealbreakers – they don’t want kids and you do. They work a job you can’t be a spouse for. You aren’t in the same place emotionally. All of these are important parts of your ‘green flags’ list as well.

Ask Yourself These Questions, Too

This is not just about looking for the perfect person to fill a relationship hole in our lives. It’s also about becoming the best person you can be, for yourself and for the relationship you may eventually get into (or are already in!). Self-reflective is on the initial list, and I really think that’s one of the most important things as a human, in general. Being able to look inward and determine your best and worst qualities, and be able to improve yourself is one of the greatest challenges any of us will face. It’s also one of the greatest achievements.

  • Do I have self-responsibility?
  • Do I support others’ personal growth?
  • Do I practice self-care?
  • Am I self-reflective?
  • Do I have long-standing friendships?
  • Do I have empathy?
  • Am I vulnerable?
  • Am I self-sufficient?
  • Do I have healthy hobbies?
  • Do I communicate openly?
  • Do I honor other people’s boundaries?

As with anything we do, these kind of self-improvement items are a lifelong journey. However, it’s never too soon or too often to take stock of where you are at personally and what you need from a relationship.

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