People who come out of relationships that have ended badly often ask me how they can know if the next person with who they start a relationship will be healthy enough and will not have the same baggage brought into their last relationship.
Trying to understand what went wrong and how they can avoid future relationship pitfalls, they ask this to gather information about how to go about re-entering the dating scene without finding another potentially unhealthy person, or placing themselves in unnecessary risk.
I share with them my list of commitments that can essentially be applied to all relationships and partnerships. It is a short list because it does not need to be long.
Five basic commitments encompass all aspects of character and can easily help to differentiate healthy from unhealthy people.
As you will see, all are inter-related and all build upon the other.
5 Essential Commitments for Healthy Relationships:
Integrity is most important in relationships because it is the cornerstone upon which emotional safety within a relationship is built. If one party in the relationship lacks integrity, then you basically end up with an "anything goes" relationship climate. Integrity, in its most basic form, defines how a person engages with those around him or her in relation to the ability to act upon and commit to a certain set of rules or standards. People with integrity seem to radiate a sense of honor for the self in relation to others and vice versa.
People with integrity know that when they make a promise, the person to what they have made the promise has made himself or herself vulnerable by believing that the promise will be kept.
Essentially, a person of integrity does not seek his or her own way because they know that it is dishonors the relationship, the other person, and extremely, the self.
They hold themselves to the highest standard of conduct and socially accepted morals because they know it is right to do so for the whole system.
If integrity is missing in a relationship, then emotional safety will be missing as well since none party will be able to trust the other. They will hold each other at arm's distance, always waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak, with the assumption that malicious intent is part of the relationship equation.
While honesty looks like it would be similar to integrity, it actually hones in on the issue of truthfulness. While you can not have integrity without honesty, you can have honesty without integrity.
Let me explain.
A person can be brutally honest about everything, but still not keep their word. If they lack integrity, they will justify their actions as necessary for their own good.
Coupled with integrity, honesty is important in relationships because trust is based on the ability to believe that what your partner is saying is honest, without an ulterior motive or hidden agenda.
Honest people do not try to twist or bend the truth to benefit themselves. They are not afraid of consequences that may come about from telling the truth. Again, if integrity is coupled with honesty, there is no other option but to be honest. The soul will not sit well when there is one without the other.
Authenticity is important because it lets the other person know that what is seen externally is what is true on a deep and inner level. In its basic form, it is when one's outer self, what we present to the world, is in line with the inner self. The inner self is constantly monitoring what is occurring on the external landscape to ensure there is alignment. When there is not, the outer self is attuned enough to the inner landscape to make proper adjustments.
4) Awareness or Being Conscious in the Relationship
Awareness is important for one to be Authentic. If we are unaware of what drives us or what triggers us, then we put ourselves and others at risk because unconscious motives and triggers can leak out in various and destructive ways.
A person who makes awareness a priority will commit to being conscious of what's stored in the unconscious part of the self. As a result, this person is able to identify quickly when they have acted in an unconscious way or what is driving them to have in ways that can be hurtful to their partner or to the relationship. They take extra measures to understand why certain things, situations, and people trigger emotionally charged reactions and behaviors in themselves so that they can consciously choose to respond.
5) Respect for Self and Others
Obviously, respect for self and others is an important value in relationships. But do you know what truly laws respect for self and others?
People who have a high level of respect for themselves and others do not allow situations or others to dictate their behaviors. They take responsibility for their own actions and respectfully decline taking responsibility for others' actions, decisions, and behaviors.
When we treat others with respect, we accept who they are and do not try to change them to fit our needs. We respect their right to own their own stuff … time, things, ideas, choices, behaviors, and consequences. While we may not accept their behaviors if those behaviors are destructive to the relationship, we respect the person as a human who can change their behavior if they choose to do so.
We acknowledge the fact that behavior does not equal who the person is, only what they are doing, and we can always change what we do if we are conscious about what internally drives us to do this behavior, if we realize that the behavior is out of alignment with our inner self.