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All About Love: What IS A Healthy Relationship?
By Stephania Munson-Bishop

How do you know whether the current romantic relationship, love affair, or even marriage is the 'right' one for you? For starters, ask yourself how you feel about 75% of the time. Be brutally honest. Would you describe your mood as predominantly happy or sad, your basic outlook as mostly positive or negative?

A healthy relationship doesn't make you feel miserable. You don't need to endlessly obsess about issues over which you have no control, such as "Will he ever leave his wife so that we can be married, even after his children graduate from college, like he promised?"

Why do so many people settle for being unhappy as a way of life? Often it's because they don't feel they deserve to be happy. But love doesn't, or shouldn't, make you feel bad. Can love actually be bad for you? Well, toxic love can -- and may result in relentless anxiety about the one who holds your life, hopes, and well-being in the palm of his (or her) hand.

Desperate, worried people tend to be possessive, jealous, clinging, whiny, and/or unreasonable. So is it any wonder that this type of obsessive love can actually alienate the object of such an overwhelming, all-consuming love? Everyone needs some psychic space, and having such anxious demands placed on you can be suffocating. Who among us feels capable of living up to such high standards as making someone else deliriously happy?

Extremely needy people tend to be 'high maintenance' in a love relationship, sometimes even in a simple friendship. It's not much fun to realize the person you care about (and once even thought you might want to marry) is constantly keeping score. It begins to feel as though you'll never "pass Go" but will usually land "in Jail." But love shouldn't be a Monopoly game. There needs to be plenty of room for each partner to stretch, and grow. Gluing two separate people together is not just symbiotic but potentially dysfunctional.

So, how do you view your own relationship, to measure just how healthy it is? After evaluating whether you're mostly happy and content, or mostly sad and worried, you might want to consider the basic ingredients or characteristics -- all right, call them Strengths -- of a healthy relationship, as follows:

(1) What each of us expects from the other is fair and realistic. 

(2) We are happy with one another, as we are. 

(3) Each of us listens to the other, and cares. 

(4) There is ample room for each of us to have a separate life/self. We know we are two separate people who choose to be together and grow/nurture a wonderful, loving relationship. 

(5) We can argue or disagree, and remain friends. 

(6) Each of us has come to rely on the other, because we value our relationship as a top priority. 

(7) Mutual communication and sharing is valued by each of us. 

(8) Neither of us must be something or someone other than what we are, to please the other. 

(9) Total honesty is a shared value, as well as kindness and sensitivity toward one another's feelings. 

(10) Our relationship works well now, not as an unfulfilled goal to be hoped for in the future. 

(11) We are both committed to the relationship, and to one another. Neither of us threatens to leave. 

(12) We love and care for one another, unconditionally.

How many of those strengths does your relationship have? Remember, if yours seems to be lacking, it's not necessarily time to end it all -- because every relationship or marriage can be improved, if both parties are willing to work together to achieve that goal. Don't settle for mediocre, when you can shoot for and really have Miraculous!

Stephania is a human service professional with nearly 40 years in the field. She publishes a monthly content-rich ezine, "Tidbits from the Pantry," about life, growth, and relationships to over 11,000 subscribers, and offers a free evaluation of life's problems to any subscriber. Visit her site at http://www.humansrv.net

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