For the past two weeks, I have been writing about codependency, which can be a triggering and depressing topic, especially if you recognize codependent behaviors in yourself and/or your loved ones. (You can read those texts here.)
I had received a request to write a newsletter from a more positive point of view: how to recognize that we are not codependent or are “healed” from it? I like that request. What came to me is to look at healthy relationships and what are some common features in them. And how to strive and take steps towards healthy relationships.
In a recent coaching session with a couple, I heard one partner say they have never witnessed a happy and healthy romantic relationship. Actually, I have heard that sentiment many times. And, sadly, I didn’t witness many healthy romantic relationships in my youth.
I just asked Pete if he had witnessed a healthy romantic relationship and he named two couples. He said he never witnessed the partners in those relationships be nasty or mean to each other. To him, they seemed to enjoy each other’s company, enjoy physical activities together (hiking, camping, etc.), enjoyed holidays together and enjoyed being engaged in doing projects together (both work or non-work). Pete described them as “people who I consistently, for decades, enjoyed being in their company as a couple.”
I also asked Pete about his parents. He said he suspected his dad suffered PTSD from his (untreated as it was those days) traumas from his five years in the military during WWII, which probably greatly affected each of them and their relationship. And that his mother seemed to speak up when she wasn’t happy with his father, like when she put her foot down to his dad travelling abroad to watch football matches while she was home alone with five small children. Yet, they genuinely seemed to have genuinely enjoyed spending time together. I have liked hearing how Pete’s parents seemed to have a good relationship.
On the other hand, I judged my family was dysfunctional. My parents more or less stopped talking to each other when I was a teenager. My dad often spent his time working long days, or busying himself outside alone in the garden or alone at our summer cabin. Ten years later, my parents finally divorced.
My grandparents, though, seemed to have enjoyed each other’s company and shared common interests such as art, languages and travel and showed some respect towards each other—all despite unspoken infidelity from both parties and my grandad’s bouts of alcoholic drinking.
So, what about me? I judge I was very much a codependent helper in my first two long-term relationships. Both of those partners suffered from depression and I eagerly jumped into the role of the helper. I focused a lot of my thoughts and based a lot of my emotions on them and what I thought they might want or need.
Since then, in my last two relationships (including my current one), I believe I’ve behaved in far less codependent ways. I even consider myself to be a recovering codependent (and I make myself happy thinking that).
I judge Pete and I have a healthy relationship. I like stating that. At the same time, I don’t want to come across as someone who is trying to act as if she “always had her shit together” and has never struggled. For his part, Pete also behaved in very codependent ways in his previous relationships (e.g. unconsciously picking partners who struggled with things like alcoholism whom he could save).
I think Pete and I have learned and developed a lot together and the key to the health of our relationship has been our willingness to look at our desires, fears, triggers, dreams, anger and “darkest” parts—and share all that with each other. We take time to share and listen, and to get loud and unreasonable, and to get over all that together.
I made a video recently where I talk about the key elements of a healthy and happy relationship!
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I think sharing, honesty and listening are some major elements in building a healthy relationship.
When I talk about honest sharing, I mean talking about all the important thoughts, emotions, wishes and decisions. Inviting others into your world and allowing your partner to know who you really are rather than who you think they want you to be. And talking about the shit we make difficult to discuss: what we don’t like about our partner, how we make ourselves feel unwanted or scared, how we create jealousy, our attractions towards other people, our wishes and dreams, our deepest sexual fantasies and desires, and so on.
This is such a juicy and important topic! Stay tuned, I plan to write more about it!
What else do you want to read about? Tell me!
What is key to you for a healthy and happy relationship?
Tuulia (& Pete)
PS—Talking about relationships… If you are in a romantic relationship, how about taking a day just for you and your loved one?
Join us at the One-Day Online Couples Workshop on 21 March!
In the Couples Workshop, you will do exercises with your partner in the comfort of your own home (or in a breakout room if you happen to be physically apart) and share with other couples and receive coaching from me and Pete. We will also give you tips and exercises to continue the practice at home.
PPS—If you are searching for someone to be in your life, check out our Honest Date Night (Friday 2 April)
We will lead this event with Anna Haas, our lovely friend and fellow Radical Honesty trainer from Berlin.