8 ways to build healthy relationships

Building healthy relationships begins with being kind to yourself. Having a level of self-awareness and insights into your own past, as well as present thoughts and feelings, enables you to represent yourself in the world with dignity and respect. This is the first step to creating healthy relationships with others.

Self-awareness means the ability to identify and recognise, in the moment, the things, people and places that trigger automatic unhelpful reactions. Noticing these reactions means you are able to identify your default patterns which may be:

  • An automatic negative inner critic that puts you down.
  • The reaction of justifying your own thoughts, feelings, or behaviours, and blaming others.
  • Noticing habitual ways of reacting by withdrawing, going silent or becoming angry, or stubbornly digging your heels in.
  • The need to get out of your skin by using externals – substances, additions, perfectionism, self-harm, risky behaviours including promiscuity or stealing etc.

Being kind to yourself is the first step towards change. Having self-compassion for your reactions, rather than beating yourself up, opens up the possibility of noticing how you are actually feeling, what you are really thinking, and defining what your needs are in the here and now. What can you do for yourself to feel better? How might you be kind to yourself?

Self-care, self-compassion, and empathy leads to a lowering of self-condemnation, as well as helping you to stop condemning others. Being able to accept love for yourself, giving yourself personal space and time for your own needs, attending to personal health, well-being and the building of trusting friendships leads to being able to handle the stresses of everyday life with more ease. Strengthening good friendships will lead to looking forward to social events and having fun. Finding the courage to know how you feel, and bravely expressing that to others, will help in feeling connected to others who care for you. All this strengthens the motivation for making future plans filled with hope and possibility.

So, what are the qualities needed to maintain self-care and build healthy relationships?

8 ways to build healthy relationships

1. Be your own good listener. Really listen to yourself, how you are feeling and what you are thinking, and discovering what it is you need. Then, be a good listener for others, letting them know you have heard them and empathise.
2. Trusting in yourself, and respecting your thoughts, feelings, personal boundaries, and privacy, and doing the same for others.
3. Offering yourself and others emotional security by being dependable and having the expectation that others will be dependable in return.
4. Providing yourself physical securit. Expect to live in a non-threatening environment and maintain a healthy family routine.
5. Provide consistent discipline with children, providing appropriate age-related boundaries, clear limits, and expectations. Use discipline for instruction only and not for punishment.
6. Participate in the lives of others. Give them time and expect time in return.
7. Have an affirming, encouraging attitude. Allow others to disagree with you and notice the differences between you, whilst respecting their opinions.
8. Show affection and expect affection in return.
Building healthy relationships is a matter of intention, of planning how to put in place the above ‘ways of being’. It takes practice. Keep at it and you will find that you have built the healthy relationships you have been longing for.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Putney SW15 & Witney OX29
Written by Fran Jeffes, BA (Hons) Integrative Counsellor MBACP
Putney SW15 & Witney OX29

Are you experiencing a feeling you no longer want, or is there a situation you would like to change?    I can help you to find better ways of living.  People see me for support with a range of issues affecting the way they think and feel about things in life, from stress, anxiety and...

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