Relationships are tricky. What may seem like perfectly healthy behavior to one couple may seem ill-adjusted and toxic to another. However, to my mind there is key characteristic that underlies all healthy relationships: respect.
Directed towards your partner, respect promotes open communication, honesty, trust, and sacrifice, all key qualities to lasting happiness. But more importantly, self-respect enables us to enter relationships with those who respect us.
Far too many people enter into relationships for the wrong reasons. For some, a relationship is a way to define, measure, and advance their social status and, by extension, their self-worth. Others desperately yearn for the acceptance of a romantic partner to fill deep-seated fears of rejection or abandonment. It’s no surprise that relationships built on such unstable foundations inevitable come tumbling down like a deck of cards.
Why is self-respect so crucial? Self-respect allows us to enter into relationships on our own terms without sacrificing our identities or values. Often times, a lack of self-worth keeps us tied to partners who do not meet our needs. In the short term they may satisfy some of the anxieties we have about ourselves. But deep down we know something just isn’t right.
The rush of endorphins inevitably fades, and what we find ourselves stranded in unhealthy relationships . As we look around, we find ourselves far from any recognizable landscape of what we wanted for our life. Sadly, many people simply lean into this loss of self, shedding all sense of individuality and defining themselves solely in terms of their relationship.
None of this is to say that inter-dependence, cooperation, or unity are undesirable. In fact, in their purest form these qualities are precisely what makes life matter. However, like many things in life, intention is key.