Relationships are hard work. Navigating relationships can oftentimes feel confusing because you need to balance another person’s thoughts and feelings, while maintaining your own, through every decision or step the relationship progresses through. However, sometimes when at least one of the members of the relationship starts acting as though they are the spokesperson for the relationship, or that they have power over the others, or enacts a “my way or the highway” approach, everyone within the relationship can be negatively affected.
Whether the partnership is professional, romantic, or friendly, if it is healthy, there are positive components that hold the weight of the bond. Some of these include respect, compassion, security, and understanding.
Respect is the sense of worth for someone or their abilities or qualities. In a relationship, it’s all three. Respect is sometimes acceptance without compromise. Respect is healthy boundaries. Respect is having an even playing field. Sometimes it’s seeing your partner do something without you, and recognizing they are just as much an individual as they are your partner. Sometimes it’s relinquishing control for equality to flourish. It’s putting their needs before your wants.
Compassion is deep sympathy and a wish to help. It’s listening before speaking and thinking before doing. Compassion is putting others first, but in a good relationship, it’s trusting they will return the favor. It’s forgiveness of one’s past, and understanding that it led them to their place today. Compassion is also mutually beneficial. Research has found that several weeks of compassion training has positively affected participants’ everyday well-being. Whether for love or leadership, kindness is key.
Security is freedom. It’s freedom from danger, ridicule, doubt or anxiety. It’s safety, and knowledge of progression without aggression or harm. It’s confidence and trust, in intimate or personal affairs. Security is also respect in consent and beliefs. It’s the roof above the partnership, protecting it from harm without denying the existence of what is harmful. It gives sanctuary to those in and around the partnership. Specifically in romantic relationships, attachment security—deep trust or dependency on those whom one is close to—is crucial to keeping a relationship successful and builds the framework for a family to grow on. Security is so important that emotional intimacy has even been shown to cure stress.
Understanding is a state of mutual interdependence, meaning each person in the relationship can live and be in harmony with the other(s). It’s communication and collaboration—where the best solution is found—instead of compromise—where neither gets exactly what they want. It’s finding where your life fits in with your partner’s life, and how you can both add to each other’s lives while maintaining autonomy. Relationships Motivation Theory explains how the need for relatedness, nor the satisfaction of that need are quite enough to create successful relationships. Instead, only understanding relationships in which either experience and provide autonomy are deemed successful.
When these pillars break or are absent, the weight of the bond between those in the relationship can come crashing down. Sometimes, that can just lead to an unhappy relationship that ends with both parties upset with the other. However, sometimes it can lead to more serious issues like manipulative tactics.
Manipulation is sort of a blanket term for many toxic, truth-altering behaviors in relationships. It can leave the victim feeling depressed, anxious, and paranoid. Some ways to tell if you may be being manipulated are…
Gaslighting is the term used to describe the manipulative tactic where the victim is blamed by their partner and made to think that the reason for their own unhappiness or concern toward the relationship is their own doing, even though their partner is the one being manipulative. It can make the one being manipulated question their own sanity. In many cases, the gaslighter will make the victim believe that they are being the manipulative one, or that they are the reason for all the relationship’s problems. It can be hard to determine if gaslighting is truly happening especially by yourself, so it’s always a good idea to talk to a therapist if possible. However some signs of gaslighting include…
Stonewalling is another manipulative tactic where someone cuts off contact (partially or completely) to avoid accountability or responsibility for their actions. Similar to gaslighting, it can leave the victim feeling uneasy, powerless, and stuck.
If you think you are in any danger (mentally or physically), it’s important to immediately get help. Find a friend you trust, talk to a professional, or call the National Dating Abuse Hotline.
There are many different kinds of abuse including emotional abuse, physical, verbal, sexual, financial, and cultural. It’s important to learn what distinguishes normal, healthy arguments with abuse, and to identify the warning signs of abuse. It’s crucial to understand that relationships that show one or even a few of these signs may not really be abusive. In some cases, those familiar with abusive relationships may have a hard time identifying their own abusive behaviors, or ending abusive relationships. Talking to a professional is the most official way to diagnose your relationship.
Trying to hold power over someone in a relationship, no matter how much, whether it be through restricting their autonomy, enforcing a “my way or the highway” approach, or undermining their goals and progress, never ends well for either in the relationship. Marriages in which both partners allow and accept the influence of their counterparts tend to be more successful, healthier, and happier.
Understand that the relationship is between all those in it, none with more power than the others. Maybe, in a professional setting, one has more authority to make professional decisions, but that shouldn’t translate to more power in the relationship itself. Healthy relationships display equity and equality, and the combined power to resolve any problems they face.
Want to learn more about how to handle relationships? Download the LIFE Intelligence app, a low touch type of couples counseling app that comprehensively covers your personal mental health and self awareness, your career productivity, and your communication and conflict resolution skills. This all-in-one approach makes it one of the best relationship apps for couples and singles alike. With such apps for relationship building, you can learn to manage your emotions, gain self-awareness, make good relationship decisions, and attract and attach to a secure partner.