How to Have the Perfect Relationship

You can't.

I realize that's a blunt answer but it's the truth!

There's no such thing as a perfect relationship, but I'll tell you what you can have: an amazingly imperfect relationship, built on a foundation of love, kindness, and mutual respect.

If you don't have these three things in a relationship, then you don't have a healthy, meaningful relationship, period.

Throughout my years, I have experienced countless women of all ages who have wound up "broken" by some type of toxic relationship. Speaking of which, I'd like to share my definition of a toxic relationship. In my eyes, it is any relationship where your partner:

  • Manipulates you

  • Does not support your personal goals

  • Speaks to you as if you are inferior rather than an equal

  • Does not support you or help you to be better

  • Does not let you have choices

  • Convinces you that you are wrong, no matter what the circumstances are

  • Belittles you so that you feel less self-worth

  • Shows you any form of abuse (verbal, mental, emotional, physical)

Now, this is not a formal definition but they are the common issues that I have witnessed through the relationships of clients I have tried to help, friends of mine, and yours truly. Yes, I have certainly been in a toxic relationship.

It's surprisingly hard to write about my personal experience being in a toxic relationship, despite it being over 10 years ago. The old feelings of insecurity and no self-worth flood back.

It's a tale as old as time. Girl meets boy. Boy tells girl he loves her. He also tells her that her legs are too big and that she needs to work out more. When she does go to the gym, he tells her that she's lying and that she's actually cheating on him. She spends most of her relationship trying to make him feel better and trying to convince him that she cares about him. He calls her a 'slut' because she wore an almost knee-length denim skirt to a public event that he did not attend with her. He tells her that she must have been looking for different guys. She feels bad and wants to convince him that he has no competition so she gets rid of her favourite skirt. He doesn't help her with absolutely anything and sabotages her study time in school, telling her that he is more important than her school work. He puts her in dangerous situations and tells her that it's her fault. He cheats on her but lies about it, and she believes him. She does everything in her power to keep the relationship going, and always defends his actions to her friends and family who know that he isn't worthy of her. In contrast, she doesn't feel worthy of him. She has been brainwashed to believe that nobody else could love her. She spends most of the relationship crying and apologizing to him for reasons she doesn't even know. When the end of the relationship is coming, he makes the call, crushing her. She will be alone for the rest of her life. What did she do wrong? She can't eat, she can't sleep, and getting out of bed in the morning seems impossible. She feels like she has gone crazy and feels that the relationship didn't work because she didn't try hard enough.

Doesn't that seem like a sad story? It was. It was awful to live through and it is awful to think about. But you know what? It's so common. If I were to read that story and it was about another girl, I would have been the one shouting "get out now, you're worth so much more"! But it wasn't another girl's story. It was my own and in my mind, it was love.

I took my time after that relationship ended and I swore that I would stay single. I wanted to concentrate on my schooling and get my grades back up. I wanted to return to being physically healthy. Most importantly, I needed to learn to love myself again. The first few months were an emotional struggle, trying to find my self-esteem. As a young girl, my mom always taught me that I didn't need a man, that I needed to be proud of my intelligence, and always be strong. My toxic relationship left me feeling weak and worthless, the girl my mom raised being tucked away, but only temporarily. Through endless support from my girlfriends and family, I eventually found my groove, slowly regaining my confidence. I was loving being single and was developing a beautiful relationship with myself.

Then I met Peter.

I had no interest in meeting this guy that my best friend told me I needed to meet. I told her that I didn't want to date anyone, that I wasn't ready, but she is nothing if not persistent. I agreed to one double date. Now, we have been together for 10 years, married for almost 4 years, and we have two children. How the hell did that happen?

I'll tell you how.

I got into the car, and he was wearing a bracelet that said "I love boobies". I thought it was so ridiculously funny. I went into that evening with zero expectations and felt relaxed. We had such great conversations and I didn't want it to end. I didn't need it to turn into a relationship, but it was nice. I did want to see him again though, and apparently, he felt the same. So we did. Now here we are!

Relationships are not a cakewalk. Each partner needs to be all in. Peter and I owe the success of our relationship to:

Communication. Our journey has not been perfect. We have hit bumps in the road, particularly in the first few years. Looking back, we were both to blame. For one, we were young. The second something would go wrong in our relationship I became insecure and defensive. I would break down, and then we would talk to each other like really talk. We would solve our problems and not pretend as if nothing happened. The same is true for today. If either of us has a concern or is feeling like something is off, we bring it to the table and hash it out, always coming to a reasonable conclusion. Now more than ever we need healthy communication, especially so that we can teach our children what a healthy relationship looks like. Remember though, communication between partners takes practice. If you don't actively engage in healthy communication, it's not just going to develop out of nowhere.

Respect. We respect the hell out of each other and put the other's needs before our own. I never purposely degrade him in any way and it's mutual. He has never once called me a name. He always makes sure that I am making decisions for the right reasons and he respects that I am a big girl who can make my own choices. He trusts that I know what's best for me. Do we take sarcastic verbal jabs at each other every now and then? Absolutely. You can't be serious 100% of the time.

Love. We love each other. This isn't like "I love pizza" kind of love. This is "I would literally jump in front of a bullet and sacrifice myself for you" kind of love. We put each other above all else, our children being the only exceptions. When we made our vows on our wedding day, we both cried because we meant every word. And then I wiped his tears. Sorry Pete, I had to throw that in there.

Trust. You cannot be in a relationship if you do not trust your partner. We trust each other. We trust that our decisions are for the good of our family. We trust that we are faithful to one another. Trust is a really difficult thing, something that can only come with time. We have had time to master it.

Support. We support each other, and I don't mean financially, though that is a small part of it. We have gone through hell together and have leaned on each other during hard times. He has given me the space I need to grieve, and I have given him space to be himself, whether that means him seeing his friends for football Sunday, or taking time to play his guitar. He supports my crazy endeavors whether it is me reading Tarot cards and putting crystals all over our house, or writing a book. His words to me are always, "I just need you to be happy, no matter what". If that isn't showing support, I don't know what is.

Patience. As I said at the beginning, there isn't a perfect relationship. We have to be patient with one another, especially as I learn more about how Men truly are from Mars and Women are from Venus. Patience is mandatory in any relationship dynamic though, not just heterosexual relationships. If you are a human being in a relationship with another human being, patience is non-negotiable. We are each on individual paths that don't always jive with one another. Patience means understanding a person even if you can't quite relate.

If you are currently in a relationship exhibiting these traits, amazing! Good for you. I'm so happy that you are being treated the way you should be treated. If you read this and at any point thought "I don't think we have this", then I encourage you to sit down and assess where you are at with your partner. What can you work on? What is strong and what is lacking? Healthy relationships require work, but should not be work.

Lastly, if you are in a relationship and you feel like you are being abused in any way, please get out or find help. I realize that it is not always easy. Head to my resources page to find possible support. You are deserving of love, respect, kindness, and all the good things. Nobody has the right to harm you. Not ever.

Stay well. Be kind. Love yourself first. The rest will follow.

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