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What is a healthy relationship?
It seems like an easy question to answer, but there are thousands of people who would be stumped by it. Many have never seen a healthy relationship, don’t know anyone who has one, and certainly never experienced one for themselves.
Are you one of those people?
A healthy relationship is one where two healthy and whole human beings are attracted to one another and choose one another as companions on life’s journey.
This is a simple, boiled-down definition, but it has a few important implications:
1. A relationship, by definition, can only be as healthy as the individuals in it. Two broken, needy, insecure, and/or immature individuals cannot “complete” one another. When they form a relationship, they will both end up with twice the brokenness, neediness, insecurity, and/or immaturity they had before.
2. The individuals in a healthy relationship do not need each other. Each of them is a whole person by themselves. They come together not out of need, but simply because they enjoy each other’s company and want to spend life together. This is why I use the word “choose” in my definition of a healthy relationship. Only healthy people are truly free to choose one another. Broken people always think they are choosing, but they are driven by their emptiness and deep need for the other person. “I need you,” as romantic as it sounds, actually means, “I am not free to choose not to be with you.”
3. When one person in a relationship believes they are healthy and whole, but that the person they are with is broken, it is almost certainly the case that the first person is not healthy and whole. Healthy and whole people rarely choose unhealthy and broken people as partners. Brokenness is obvious to them, and is a turnoff.
4. Broken people, however, will be deeply attracted to other broken people. To a broken person, brokenness in others feels like love. They will mistake their partner’s jealousy, neediness, dominance, sometimes even aggression and violence, for love. And they will mistake their own craving and neediness to be with the other person as love. These are all signs of brokenness.
5. The work of saving a broken relationship is always the work of the broken individuals becoming healthy and whole. As that happens, the relationship will naturally begin to heal. It is next to impossible for broken people to be in a healthy relationship, and it is just as unlikely that whole people will be in a broken relationship. The only exception to this is when a broken person in a broken relationship finally sees their brokenness clearly and does what must be done to become whole.
6. Very young people can be healthy, but are rarely whole. To be whole is to have a full sense of one’s self as an individual. When very young people marry, they essentially end up raising each other, and their process of becoming whole individuals is seriously complicated. This is why marriages between partners who married young often end in divorce.
Question: How have you seen these ideas in action in your own life, both for better and for worse? Leave a thought or two in the comment section!