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Relationships can make us or break us in many ways. Human relationships are built upon communication: a look, a laugh, physical contact or talk. No relationship can begin without communication. Communication is the glue that holds a relationship together, and communication is what makes a relationship grow stronger or break down.
The health of our relationships affect every area of our lives. Relationships can cause tremendous stress. Continuous stress breaks down the body and causes illness. Conversely, good relationships make a long and healthy life much more likely.
Relationship Is Built On Communication
This article is about long-term relationships. These are the most crucial relationships in our lives that can affect our wellness.
What are the basics of communication? The golden rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Communication is a two-way street. It’s about giving, love and teamwork. The more mutually understanding the bond of communication, the better the relationship. There needs to be a basis or protocol, a set of rules or principles that both people agree upon. Therefore a relationship must also have accountability.
There are certain things that degrade and block communication and damage or destroy a relationship: hurt, anger, selfishness, intolerance, lack of trust and unforgiveness. If one person unilaterally cuts off certain communication because it is not pleasing to them, then the relationship breaks down. A relationship is not about one individual getting their own way, it’s about working together to understand each other and also to sharpen each other.
Psychologists and counselors can make relationships seem very complex. However, the solutions to most relational problems are usually rather simple. Both people simply need to agree to ask themselves a simple question about each interaction or communication: “would I want to be treated the way I am treating the other person?”.
As mentioned above, one of the important requirements for good communication is tolerance. Both people need to tolerate and accept each other’s differences just the way they are. This does not mean that everything is acceptable and that there are no boundaries. There are two different kinds of tolerance.
One is a spiritual or emotional tolerance of the heart that enables you to maintain or recover to a feeling of compassion and forgiveness of the other person no matter what they do, even if there is violence. This does not mean that there are no protective measures taken if one is abused. Spiritual tolerance is internal, it enables one to be independent of what any other person does.
You are internally free and strong and not co-dependant. The best example is Christ who forgave and felt compassion and understanding for the soldiers that beat and mocked him and nailed him to a cross. Incredibly, Christ said: “forgive them for they know not what they do”.
Tolerance Has Its Limits
The other type of tolerance has limits. It is an outward or functional jurisdictional tolerance regarding right and wrong. This is where accountability and boundaries come into play. It means that one cannot honestly allow a relationship to continue with the same kind of closeness if there is a total disregard for the mutually agreed upon rules of the relationship.
As was discussed earlier, spiritual tolerance is important to a relationship because no matter what the other person does, there will always be forgiveness, understanding and compassion. However, even though there will be compassion it does not mean being a ‘doormat’.
At times there also must be consequences… a backing away from the relationship in a physical or functional way. Balancing the two forms of tolerance can take time and practice. If trust is broken then there needs to be an acknowledgement that the relationship has changed and that the depth of relationship and closeness cannot continue as it was until the friendship bond has been mutually healed.
Criticism And Correction
A successful relationship means that each person is open and actually inviting of criticism and correction. If one person is not living by the rules, then the other person has the right to point that issue out in a loving but firm manner. It’s very important that both people have agreed on the basis or rules of the relationship. If there is trust, then the relationship can quickly get back on track.
Nagging or trying to push the other person into changing a personality trait or bad habit does not build a healthy relationship. Claming up, giving the silent treatment or saying “I don’t want to talk about it” is called “passive aggressive” behavior and is just another way of trying to force the other person to do things your way. Selfishness does not build a healthy relationship. Each person needs to say to themselves “Do I like to be given the silent treatment or be treated this way? Then I will try not to treat the other person this way.”.
The best way to hold each other accountable and to correct each other is by thinking of it as influencing the other person. It’s an attitude of ‘coaching’ the other person, not forcing. The only time more serious action needs to be taken is if one person habitually tries to control or cut off communication without any effort to change and has no desire to be accountable.
This is an unrepentant, divisive attitude that makes no sense to tolerate in a healthy relationship. If this is the case, then there really is not a mutual relationship. It is a sham and the relationship needs to be brought to a crisis point where a decision is made either to mutually work together and try to abide by the agreed upon rules or further separate the relationship.
Relationships take a lot of patience and tolerance. However, you can’t just gloss over and tolerate divisiveness or total intolerance, etc., in the other person unless you want the relationship to blow up in your face somewhere down the road.
If one person puts on a false sense of humility and acts like a ‘doormat’, then the intolerant, divisive person will eventually come to the point where they totally despise the ‘doormat’ person and end up dumping the relationship. There always needs to be at least some spirit of humility and working together in order to make a relationship work.
Crises Can Make Your Relationship Stronger
Sometimes it takes a few crises early on before a relationship can be established that can stand the test of time. These kinds of relationships turn out to be productive and fun. Don’t allow a relationship to fester in a broken down state for a long period of time.
This just causes stress and breakdown in your body, mind and spirit. Bring the relationship to a crisis early-on by taking your friend or spouse to a good pastor or qualified counselor who understands the principles of successful relationships so that the relationship will bring both of you long-term joy and fulfillment. Good relationships are the best way to provide a future of wellness.